Estate Planning is meant to cover all of your last wishes. This includes how you will be medically treated if you were to become incapacitated or unable to communicate with your medical providers, how your assets will be distributed upon your death, who will be responsible for handling your financial affairs, and who will care for your minor children, amongst other important matters.
For starters, a Last Will & Testament (aka Will) describes how your property will be distributed amongst your family and friends upon your passing, which can prevent the guesswork and fighting that can ensue, if there was no way to know how you would want the items distributed. This can prevent so many problems between family members. Moreover, if you don't have a Will, then the laws of Florida will dictate who is to receive your property through the use of probate. Furthermore, the court will appoint a personal representative to be charge of distributing your property, which can be someone who you wouldn't have wanted to do so in the first place. So, rather than you making the decisions, the laws of Florida will do it for you.
Another important legal document that should be a part of your estate plan is a Living Will. This document (aka Declaration) setsforth what will happen if you are dying. For example, it can state if you are to be treated by artificial means such as providing you with CPR, artificial food and water, intensive care treatment, and even pain medication, just to name a few. If you do not have a Living Will in place and become unable to state your wishes, your family may and most likely will have to make these decisions for you, which could weigh heavily on them well after you are gone.
Next, a Health Care Surrogate Designation (aka Medical Power of Attorney) can be used to appoint someone to make medical decisions for you, even if you are not incapacitated and/or dying. This authority allows your Surrogate to obtain your medical records and speak with your medical service providers about any options available to you, regarding your particular circumstance. Moreover, if you are unable to speak with your doctor, specialist, or whomever, regarding your particular medical situation, your Surrogate would step in your place and have these discussions, in order to receive the information and make an informed decision on your behalf. This document is much broader than a Living Will.
Also, there is the Durable Power of Attorney. This document is similar to the one mentioned immediately above, however, it deals specifically with your finances. For example, it can allow someone to run your business if you are unable to, or if you have bank accounts that are solely in your name, this will allow the person you designated as your agent to have access to your account and pay any bills, loans, etc. And this could go for all of your financial affairs. e.g., paying loans, credit cards and other bills, signing contracts and deeds, and even your tax returns, amongst many others. Once you think about all that there is regarding your finances, you will get a clear picture for the purpose and importance of having this document in place.
Lastly, a Pre-need Guardianship Designation is another extremely important document to have executed as part as your estate plan. This document allows you to appoint someone who you would like to care for you, if you were to become unable to care for yourself. This is another area that the court will decide for you, if you haven't done so beforehand. So, the idea behind this document is to designate someone who you would like to care for you, before the court appoints someone you wouldn't want to care for you.
In summary, estate planning is as much about you as it is about your loved ones. Because the hard truth is, once you are gone, they stay behind. And if you haven't left your affairs in order by way of an estate plan, they are left to handle it the best way they can, which sometimes can cause a lot of avoidable issues amongst family members, especially, at a time when they are coping with losing you. This information is only meant to give you a general and brief overview of estate planning, as there is much more to it. If you are interested in learning more about estate planning, please give me a call or send me a message. Thank you.