Florida 5 Must-Have Estate Planning Documents

According to the Bank of America, Americans over the age of 43 are particularly likely to struggle with legal documents when planning their estates. Preparing legal documents of any kind can be challenging without legal expertise, and estate planning documents are no different. However, it’s more than doable with the right guidance. 

This article will provide an overview of the five must-have estate planning documents that should be on your estate planning checklist. When properly prepared, these important documents provide a detailed roadmap of your final wishes, including asset division. 

Here’s the best part: Most of these documents can be created in a matter of days—without spending a fortune on legal fees. Keep reading to learn about the best tools for securing your family’s financial future and safeguarding your legacy.

Remember: Every family, regardless of their estate size, can benefit from the estate planning process. If you’re unsure how to get started, don’t worry—the William C. Roof Law Group can provide legal advice. Contact us online to schedule a consultation today.

1. Last Will and Testament

Every Florida resident should have a last will and testament, regardless of their age, wealth, or any other factor. It is never too early or too late to draft a will, and contrary to popular belief, this document can be just as effective for low-income families as it is for high-net-worth individuals. 

Simply put, a last will and testament is a legally enforceable document that goes into effect when you pass away. When you draft your will, you’ll have the opportunity to identify people for various roles, including your executor (the person who carries out your wishes) and your beneficiaries (people who will receive various assets from your estate).

If you die without a will in place, your estate will enter intestacy and be subject to the intestate laws that govern the probate process. Using a pre-set formula, a Florida probate court will decide how your assets should be divided and distributed, which, in addition to being time-consuming and expensive, rarely results in a happy family. You can help your beneficiaries avoid that fate by writing a will. 

Ultimately, a last will and testament offers you a chance to voice your wishes in a way that probate proceedings do not. With a variety of functions and numerous benefits, it is the ideal tool for creating a vision for your estate. 

2. Living Will

While a last will and testament goes into effect when you pass, a living will can become legally enforceable while you are still alive. The primary purpose of these estate planning documents is to help you make tough decisions about medical treatments ahead of time. If you ever become incapacitated and unable to express these decisions, your family and healthcare providers can simply refer to your living will for instructions. 

For example, you might get into a car accident and fall into a coma, suffer a traumatic brain injury, or develop dementia. You may even be on life support. Each of these situations would inhibit your ability to make important end-of-life decisions, and a living will could help your family make critical medical decisions with confidence. In addition to denying treatment, your living will can express your willingness to accept treatments including life-saving medical care and experimental operations that could save your life. 

3. Designation of Pre-Need Guardian

While a last will and testament allows you to identify guardians for your children, it doesn’t address what should happen if you need a guardian before you pass away. This type of situation is more common than many people realize, and it can happen at virtually any age. If you ever become incapacitated and unable to care for yourself, a designation of pre-need guardian goes into effect. 

With this document, you can designate someone to act as your guardian (or your children’s guardian) in the event of your incapacity. This individual will be responsible for your well-being in virtually every way imaginable. They can prevent certain individuals from coming into contact with you if they identify them as potentially dangerous and can help you regain your former health by selecting various medical and rehabilitative care options. 

Remember, a last will and testament only goes into effect when you pass away, and it has no power to designate guardians until you die. If you become incapacitated without this document in place, the court will designate other guardians for your minor children that you may not have chosen yourself. 

4. Designation of Power of Attorney

If you would like to select an agent to handle your financial affairs in the event that you become incapacitated, you can use a designation of power of attorney. This may be a particularly attractive option to high-net-worth individuals or those with complex investment portfolios. Florida residents who play an active role in running their businesses might also benefit from this estate planning document, as an agent can help make critical financial decisions until you recover.

If you do not create a designation of power of attorney, a judge may select one for you. While the court will do its best to choose the most capable individual, its decision could be drastically different from what you would have wanted. Guardianship court is also an expensive and time-consuming process, and may cost your family members an excess in legal fees. By creating a designation of power of attorney, you allow your family to skip the added stress and expense associated with guardianship proceedings. 

Even if you do not have a business or a complex investment portfolio, a designation of power of attorney can help your family complete basic financial transactions without needless legal hurdles. One of the most common examples is buying or selling real estate. For example, your medical bills could become quite extensive, and your family may need to access the equity in your home to provide you with life-saving treatment. Your power of attorney can help them accomplish this. 

5. Joint Tenancy

Joint tenancy is one of the simplest estate planning tools available. Also known as the “right of survivorship,” this strategy allows you to pass on real estate to your loved ones with virtually no legal issues or complicated documents. The only requirement is that you put your beneficiary on the title of your home. They will subsequently become your joint tenant, and the property will automatically pass to them when you die. For example, if you add your grandson to the title of your home he will become the new owner of your residence when you die, without having to go through the probate process first.

In some cases, you might want to prevent this from happening by removing parties from the title or amending your will. The implications of joint tenancy can be quite complex, and this is something you may wish to discuss with your estate planning attorney. A last will and testament can help specify exactly who should inherit your real estate.

How to Prepare Your Estate Planning Documents

The manner in which you prepare your estate planning documents is just as important as the documents themselves. Poorly drafted wills or powers of attorney will not stand up to scrutiny in court, and they may prove to be invalid.

For example, a will that lacks proper witnesses or a written record is not typically considered valid in Florida. Even if you verbally tell your family your last dying wishes on your deathbed in front of numerous witnesses, there is no guarantee that any of these wishes will be respected. 

Fortunately, preparing your estate planning documents alongside a qualified estate planning attorney in Florida is both affordable and expedient. More importantly, these legal documents are less likely to be challenged in court, leaving you with unparalleled peace of mind and legal protection. 

Contact an Experienced Estate Planning Lawyer in Florida

Drafting these five essential documents can be easier than most people realize. That being said, no amount of online research can provide you with the type of top-tier estate planning documents produced by an experienced attorney. 

When you’re ready to create a comprehensive, high-quality estate plan, the William C. Roof Law Group is here to help. With assistance from our law firm, you can approach the estate planning process with accuracy, confidence, and affordability. Book your consultation today to begin drafting your Florida estate planning documents and experience the peace of mind you deserve.

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