Florida Trusts and Estates Attorneys Helping You Plan
Preserving your family’s wealth for future generations
Whether you’re planning the parameters of your future medical care or establishing support for loved ones upon your death, The Boutty Law Firm, P.A. can help with all aspects of trusts and estates issues, including:
Securing your legacy
You work hard for your family, so knowing that you have planned for their long-term well-being and financial security can bring you comfort. A will is essential at every stage of your life; we thoroughly analyze your estate and strategize the best means of transferring your assets, minimizing taxes, establishing guardianship for your children, caring for your pets, supporting personal philanthropic causes and protecting your loved ones.
Draft your living will and last will and testament
Although the terms sound almost the same, living wills and a last will and testament are meant to serve totally different purposes.
Your living will set parameters for medical intervention should you become incapacitated and cannot communicate effectively. This assures that when you are most vulnerable, your wishes will be honored. If your wishes are two terminate care if you are in a coma or are developing Alzheimer’s for example, or if you want, or don’t want medical instruments such as breathing and feeding tubes or other life support or life sustaining interventions.
In Florida the law states that only your primary care physician can determine if you are incapacitated. According to Florida law: To ensure an incapacitated person’s decisions about health care will be respected, the Florida legislature enacted legislation pertaining to health care advance directives (Chapter 765, Florida Statutes). The law recognizes the right of a competent adult to make an advance directive instructing his or her physician to provide, withhold, or withdraw life-prolonging procedures; to designate another individual to make treatment decisions if the person becomes unable to make his or her own decisions; and/or to indicate the desire to make an anatomical donation after death. The law also states that you do not have to be incapacitated to elect a health care surrogate to make your decisions.
It is crucial that you draft a living will while you are healthy; make those important decisions before an accident, or a health issue takes away your ability to make rational decisions about your care and ensure that your wishes are honored.
While a living will is only in effect while you are legally alive, your last will only comes into effect after you have passed away. A Last Will and Testament provides the opportunity to distribute your property, establish care for your children and otherwise express your wishes upon your death. A will is necessary if you intend to leave property to a person or entity other than a blood relative, such as a domestic partner, a friend or a charity. If you die without a will, the court determines how your property is distributed, who cares for your children and even what happens to your pet — making decisions that might not reflect your desires.
In Florida if you pass away without a will (intestate), your property will be distributed according to “intestacy” laws by a probate court. In Florida the intestacy law states that your property will go to your nearest living relatives. This chain starts with your spouse and children. If you are not married, and/or have no children, any grandchildren or your parents get the property. The chain continues with relatives who are increasingly distant such as siblings, grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins and relatives of your spouse. If the court can find no living relatives your property will become the states.
Not having a will can lead to a complex process, especially if you have no spouse or children. In Florida, if you have spouse but no children the spouse receives all your property; if you and that spouse had children together, the spouse receives half, and the children divide the rest. There are exceptions to these rules for property that may be owned with someone outside the family, or someone who is the beneficiary on a life insurance policy. The general rule of thumb is that any property that will go to probate is property in your name only.
Some examples of assets that aren’t affected by intestate laws include:
- property you transferred to a living trust
- proceeds from life insurance
- retirement account funds such as an IRA, or 401(k)
- securities held in a transfer-on-death account
- payable-on-death bank accounts
- property you own with someone else in joint tenancy or tenancy by the entirety
The bottom line is that having a properly executed will ensures that your wishes will be respected; that those persons you want to have your property will indeed get that property.
We can draft valid wills that ensure your intentions are honored.
Changing your will
As your life changes, so may your estate plan. You may want to update your will throughout your life. We draft valid codicils that address changes in your financial situation, marital status, number of children, philanthropic interests and general lifestyle decisions. This is crucial to ensuring your family has no surprises after you pass away. Make sure you keep your will up to date; life changes such as a divorce or remarriage, a new child, or a new charity you have just start supporting are all examples of reasons to update your will.
Appointment of guardianship
If you have minor children, your will allows you to make decisions about their future care. This is especially crucial if you are a single parent or if both parents die in a common incident. If you do not name a guardian, the court will appoint a guardian for your children and can make decisions adverse to your ultimate parenting goals. You can also make arrangements for your pets’ care in your will, including naming a guardian to take responsibility for your pets.
Contact an estate planning law firm you can trust.
For estate planning services in Winter Park and throughout Orange County, call The Boutty Law Firm, P.A. at 407-883-1024 or contact us online to schedule a consultation.