Our firm takes pride in helping our clients create estate planning documents in Florida. We also always strive to make it as simple as possible while ensuring our clients’ goals are carried out in the event of death or incapacity. Today, we’ll break down the basic steps to create essential estate planning documents to safeguard your legacy and provide peace of mind for you and your loved ones.
**Step 1: Take Inventory**
The first step is to take stock of your assets and debts. Make a list of everything you own, from your home and bank accounts to personal possessions and investments.
**Step 2: Choose Beneficiaries**
Next, think about who you want to inherit your assets. You might want to leave your assets to family members, friends, or even charities. Being clear about your intentions is key and essential to your estate plan.
**Step 3: Create a Will**
A Last Will and Testament, commonly known as a Will, is a critical document. It sets forth how your assets should be distributed when you pass away. In Florida, your Will should be in writing, signed by you (the testator), witnessed by two individuals, and notarized. This document ensures your wishes are legally binding. In your Will, you can name a guardian for your minor children and even name a guardian over your pets.
If you have questions as to what make a Will valid, please check out our article on this topic.
**Step 4: Appoint a Personal Representative**
Your Will should name a Personal Representative, a.k.a. “executor”, the person responsible for carrying out your wishes as stated in your Will. You should choose someone you trust and who is willing to take on this role. They’ll handle your estate’s distribution and other necessary tasks. Remember that not everyone will qualify for such a role so it’s something that we can discuss at our initial meeting.
**Step 5: Consider a Living Will, Healthcare Surrogate, and Durable Power of Attorney**
Don’t forget to think about your healthcare wishes. A Living Will and a Healthcare Surrogate designation allow you to specify your healthcare preferences and appoint someone to make medical decisions for you if you’re unable to do so. These documents are invaluable in case of illness or incapacity. If you want to learn more about a Living Will, please read the below linked article.
A Durable Power of Attorney allows you to appoint someone you trust to manage your financial affairs. This person, your designated agent, can pay bills, make financial decisions, and ensure your finances are in good hands. A Durable Power of Attorney can also possibly prevent the court having to get involved with the appointment of a guardian over your finances.
**Step 6: Revocable Living Trust (Optional)**
While not required, many individuals choose to create a Revocable Living Trust. This legal document allows you to transfer ownership of your assets to the trust, making the transition of assets smoother and more private after your passing. For example, you can transfer your real estate into the name of your Revocable Living Trust.
**Step 7: Keep Your Documents Safe**
Once you’ve created your estate planning documents, make sure they’re stored in a safe place. Let your personal representative, healthcare surrogate, and family members know where to find them. It’s a good idea to keep digital and physical copies.
**Step 8: Regularly Review and Update**
Life changes, and so should your estate plan. Review your documents periodically, especially after major life events like marriages, divorces, births, deaths, or significant changes in your financial situation.
Estate planning may seem daunting, but these simple steps can help you get started in Florida. It’s a proactive way to protect your legacy and ensure your loved ones are taken care of according to your wishes. If you have any questions, please reach out anytime to Jason Siegel, Esq.
Also, if you would like to get started you can start completing our Preliminary Information Form and schedule a meeting with our office.