An estate plan is a coordinated plan that addresses the management and disposition of your assets in the event of death or disability. It’s comprised of two types of documents: (1) documents that control the disposition of your assets at death, i.e., a Last Will and Testament (and a Revocable Trust if you’re interested in privacy and limiting judicial oversight) and (2) documents that assist with the day to day management of your financial and medical affairs, i.e., a Durable Power of Attorney, Designation of Health Care Surrogate, Living Will Declaration and Declaration of Preneed Guardian, which are often referred to as advance directives.
A Last Will directs the disposition of your individually owned assets at death to your chosen beneficiaries. This is accomplished through the court process known as probate. A Revocable Trust, if funded prior to death, can avoid probate while still distributing your assets to your chosen beneficiaries. Death without these dispositive documents results in assets being distributed through probate to beneficiaries determined under Florida law, which may be inconsistent with your intent.
The Durable Power of Attorney enables your Agent (a trusted person chosen by you) to engage in financial transactions on your behalf. The Designation of Health Care Surrogate allows your Surrogate to access medical records and make medical decisions for you. The Living Will Declaration provides end of life instructions to your doctors so you can be treated in the manner of your choosing (i.e., continuing life support or hospice). The Declaration of Preneed Guardian tells the Court who will serve as Guardian of your Person and Property if one is needed.
You don’t need to have a large estate to have an estate plan. Rather you only need a desire to provide a plan to follow in an otherwise challenging time.