Cantonment ➔ Pensacola ➔ Navarre
Planning a Will ➔ Estate Planning ➔ Creating a Trust
"A stitch in time saves nine." —Benjamin Franklin, Poor Richard's Almanac
What should I know about a Florida Last Will and Testament?
A Florida Will is a written document, signed by a competent adult, which lays out how you wish to distribute your property upon death. It is important to understand that a handwritten note or simply telling your family what you want them to have is usually not enough. Florida Statutes are very explicit on how a will must be notarized and witnessed. Not all Wills are created equally. Poor drafting can lead to disputes and even lawsuits. A Will can be changed as the circumstances and relationships in your life change, as often as you feel necessary. One of the most important things for young families it that a Florida Will allows you to name the people that you wish to act as guardians of your children, should something happen to you.
What Is a Florida Revocable Trust?
A Florida Revocable Trust Agreement is a document that creates a "Trust", a legal entity which can own and hold title to property for you. In some ways a Florida Revocable Trust is similar to a corporation. When you create a Trust, you appoint a Trustee, someone who will manage the property for you and any other beneficiaries that you name. In most situations, you can even act as your own Trustee, while naming who will succeed you at your death or incapacity. You can still use the property and money in your Revocable Trust during your lifetime and you can change or dissolve (cancel) the Trust at any time.
Florida Revocable Trusts are very versatile and can be used for many different purposes:
- They can be used to avoid the cost and hassle of probate, which will keep your family's personal information out of the public court records.
- Trusts are also a wonderful way to protect your beneficiaries from themselves, giving you the ability to decide how and when your beneficiaries will receive their gifts from your estate and protecting these gifts from your beneficiaries' creditors.
- For a child or grandchild with a disability who may receive government assistance, a Special Needs Trust can allow you to provide for your loved one without risking a reduction or elimination of needed assistance.
- If you own real estate in multiple states (even time-shares), deeding the properties to a revocable Trust will eliminate the necessity of a probate in every one of those states!
While a Florida Revocable Trust can be very useful, it is not a magic bullet to fix all things. There are some disadvantages. A Revocable Trust is more costly to create and oversee than a run of the mill Will. In particular a Revocable Trust that is unfunded is simply an piece of paper, an empty shell. A Revocable Trust only can only manage that property which has been set into it.
What is a Florida Power of Attorney?
A Florida Power of Attorney is a document which allows you to name another individual to transact legal or financial matters on your behalf. A Power of Attorney (also called Durable Power of Attorney) can be limited to certain actions (i.e. selling a car or house for you), limited by time (i.e. handling matters during your European vacation), or the power can be broad enough to allow the person to handle almost any issue for you. A valid Florida Power of Attorney, when granted to a trustworthy friend or family member, can prevent the necessity of a more expensive Guardianship and often allows you to remain socially and financially independent for longer.
Florida Health Care Surrogate Designation and Florida Living Will
A Florida Health Care Surrogate Designation (AKA Health Care Power of Attorney) allows you to choose who can make medical decisions for you if you are unable to make them yourself. A Florida Living Will is a document that allows you to choose the circumstances under which you would wish for life prolonging medical care to be withdrawn.