Personalized and Honest Legal Service to Help You Plan for the Future
Estate planning is an important tool that can help you avoid a lengthy and costly probate court proceeding. Keep in mind that it’s a common misconception that estate planning is only for the wealthy; estate planning is a good tool for anyone who wants to preserve their wealth and property for their heirs. At Benjamin Law, we aim to provide clients with personalized and honest legal service to navigate their concerns. Each case is unique, and we will provide you the personalized feedback that you need to address your and your family’s best interests in the future.
From wills to powers of attorney to living trusts, Benjamin Law can help you. Call us at (407) 410-3850 or reach out to us online today.
One of the most vital estate planning tools is the will. An individual can use a will to protect their surviving family and property, such as by:
- designating certain property to specific people or organizations;
- naming a personal guardian to care for any minor children;
- naming a trusted person to manage property they leave to minor children; and
- naming a personal representation to make sure that all the terms of the will are addressed.
Any adult 18 years or older and of sound mind may make a will. Note that a valid will is one that was signed or acknowledged in front of two witnesses, and those witnesses also signed the will in front of the testator and each other. Florida allows electronic wills if they meet the following requirements, according to Fla. Stat. § 732.521:
- the testator and the witnesses sign the will (electronic signatures are valid);
- a notary supervises the process;
- the testator states the document they are signing is their will, and the witnesses hear this;
- the notary verifies the witnesses' identities.
A testator may revoke or make changes to their will at any time. In particular, they can revoke their will by:
- burning, tearing, canceling, defacing, obliterating, or destroying the will themselves with the intent to revoke it;
- instructing someone else to do any of the acts listed above in front of them; or
- making a new will or amendment that says it revokes the prior one or includes contradictory terms.
The simplest way to change a will is to simply revoke and rewrite it. However, adding an amendment (codicil) may be sufficient if the testator only seeks simply changes. Note that a divorce will revoke any language in the will that leaves property to the divorced spouse unless otherwise stated that divorce should not affect the will.
Powers of Attorney
Another important estate planning matter is the power of attorney (POA) that allows a person (the principal) to designate an “agent” to make certain decisions on their behalf. POAs are mainly used to make financial decisions and are effective immediately after signing.
There are several different types of POAs, including:
- General Power of Attorney – gives the agent broad authority to make financial transactions like banking or buying or selling real estate.
- Limited or Special Power of Attorney – used when the principal seeks to give the agent authority only for a specific purpose and for a limited time period.
- Durable Power of Attorney – allows the authority given to the agent to stay effective even after the principal’s incapacity.
Note that Florida also has healthcare directives that grant individuals the authority to make reasonable healthcare decisions.
Anyone who has the mental capacity (that is, they understand what they are executing and its effects) may create a power of attorney. Like a will, a valid POA must be signed in front of two witnesses, who must in turn sign in front of the principal.
Living trusts are also an important tool to plan for the future. Recall that a trust is an arrangement under which a trustee holds legal title to property for another person, the beneficiary. A "living trust," then, is simply a trust created while alive, rather than one that is created at death under the terms of the person’s will. The beneficiaries named in the living trust will receive the trust property when the trustee dies.
Living trusts may save the surviving family the time and money by helping to avoid probate court proceedings. While anyone can pursue a living trust, it is particularly important for individuals with larger assets or estates, because this could warrant a lengthy probate process.
If you have questions about an estate planning matter, from creating a will to implementing a power of attorney to understanding the living trust, contact Benjamin Law for guidance. Call us at (407) 410-3850 or reach out to us online today.
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