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March 17, 2016 | General |

5 Documents that should be in your Florida Estate Plan

Creating an estate plan can be overwhelming. Where do you start? What should you include? How will you know if you’re missing anything?

These are common questions that can easily be answered with the help of an experienced Florida estate planning attorney who will be able to guide you through the process.  A qualified attorney can make suggestions for you and your estate based on your unique needs and can ensure you have the right documents prepared according to Florida law.

The top 5 documents that should be included in any Florida estate plan are:

  1. Basic Will. A will allows you to name beneficiaries – those who will receive your assets upon your death. If you don’t decide who will receive your assets, the state of Florida will do it for you.  If you have been divorced, have children from prior marriages or are single with no children at all, you may be surprised who will inherit based upon Florida law. A properly drafted and executed will ensures that you make these decisions, not the legislature.  You can also specify who will administer your estate after your death and name a guardian for minor children .
  2. Power of Attorney. A power of attorney is a document that allows a person you choose to make financial, legal, and administrative decisions on your behalf if you cannot. You can grant your agent broad or limited power depending on what you are hoping the power of attorney will accomplish. If you so choose, a power of attorney can have access to your bank accounts, handle financial transactions, file taxes, pay bills, buy and sell property, and more.  A Power of Attorney can be held by your attorney until it is needed in the event of your incapacity.
  3. Health Care Surrogate. A health care surrogate is a type of advance directive that gives a person you choose  the power to make medical decisions for you if you are ever unable to make them for yourself. This document allows your designated surrogate to decide what type of treatment you should or shouldn’t have and consult with your health care providers to make the best possible decisions. It should also include a HIPAA provision so your surrogate can have access to all of your medical history and information.
  4. Living Will. A living will is an advance directive that states whether you would like to withhold or withdraw life-prolonging procedures if you are in a vegetative state, have a terminal condition, or have an end stage condition. Life-prolonging procedures can include “any medical procedure, treatment, or intervention, including artificially provided sustenance and hydration, which sustains, restores, or supplants a spontaneous vital function.”

  1. Beneficiary Forms. Make sure your beneficiary forms for any life insurance policies and retirement accounts, such as 401(k)s and Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs), are up-to-date so the appropriate beneficiaries will receive the payouts upon your death.

These are the 5 essential documents to a basic Florida estate plan, but you could also include an inventory of your assets, a list of contacts – including personal advisors and service providers – and a list of your digital accounts and passwords.

With all of these documents, make sure you have copies stored in a safe place, with your attorney, and also given to the appropriate people to ensure that, in the event anything happens, your wishes will be honored.

Contact an experienced estate planning attorney to assist you with the five documents discussed here and who can also advise you if your circumstances call for more advanced estate planning.

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