Wills, Trusts, and Estate Planning

A. Wills

The most common estate planning instrument is the Last Will and Testament. This instrument is the springboard for the rest of a solid estate plan. This document, when properly executed, provides instructions on how a person’s debts and assets are handled and distributed, respectively, after death. The Will also nominates the person the testator (the person that creates the Will) desires to have in charge of any Probate proceeding and the powers that person has. This person is called a Personal Representative. Understandably, this document has significant legal power and must be done correctly. Additionally, the Will should be reviewed periodically to ensure the provisions match the person’s life circumstances. For instance, the way in which a person wants their assets distributed may change upon marriage, divorce, or after children. The Estate Planning Attorneys at Rosales Lopez have drafted numerous Wills for clients in a variety of life circumstances. This experience allows them to help customize creative and effective Wills for each client to maximize and realize the client’s desires and to avoid litigation down the road. If you do not have a Will, or if you are not sure whether your Will is properly updated to match your circumstances, please feel free to give us a call to discuss.

B. Trusts

Trust instruments are versatile and sometimes help avoid probate altogether. A trust is typically used if a person wishes to place their assets in a vehicle that allows them and/or someone else to manage those assets (known as the “trustee”) while still being able to use those assets for the trust creator’s (known as “grantor” or “settlor”) benefit. For instance, if a person has several properties in a trust, the trust holds title to the property but the grantor is able to manage the properties and use the income for his or her benefit. However, if the person is no longer able to manage the properties in the trust, a successor trustee can be named. That person may step in to continue to manage the trust properties in accordance with the trust documents. If the grantor dies, trusts typically allow for distribution of property from the trust to the trust beneficiaries without the need of a Probate proceeding.

Creating a trust is especially helpful if the grantor(s) has/have assets and minor children. Since minors cannot inherit property, parents or family members with young children can plan for the minor to receive expected inheritance through a trust as opposed to outright to the minor, which would likely cause the assets end up in a guardianship.

The experienced Trust and Estate Planning Attorneys at Rosales Lopez have drafted numerous trusts of all shapes and sizes. Trusts can be narrow or broad in their purpose. Give us a call to discuss if a trust is right for you and your family as part of your estate plan.

C. Power of Attorney

A power of attorney is a powerful document that allows one person (the attorney-in-fact) to act on someone else’s behalf (the principal). The powers conferred can be narrow or a limited purpose, such as a sale of a home or asset. On the other hand, the powers conferred can be nearly all-encompassing, in which the attorney-in-fact may act completely on the principal’s behalf. Some power of attorney documents also incorporate medical surrogate authority, which allows someone to make medical decisions on someone else’s behalf. Florida allows for a variety of power of attorney documents. The experienced Trust and Estate Planning Attorneys at Rosales Lopez have drafted numerous power of attorney documents for various occasions. Give us a call to discuss whether a power of attorney is suitable for your estate plan.

D. Living Will/Healthcare Surrogate

Florida 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 and to designate another individual to make treatment decisions if the person becomes unable to make his or her own decisions. Additionally, Florida law does not require you to be incapacitated to elect a health care surrogate to make your decisions.

An advance directive is a written statement about how you want medical decisions made should you not be able to make them yourself.  Some people make advance directives when they are diagnosed with a life-threatening illness.  Others put their wishes into writing while they are healthy, often as part of their estate planning. The experienced Trust and Estate Planning Attorneys at Rosales Lopez have experience walking clients through this difficult part of the estate planning process. Give us a call to discuss whether a living will and/or healthcare surrogate designation is suitable for your estate plan.