The new year has begun, January is underway, are your resolutions completed? We know many Floridians are focusing on how they will reach the resolutions they set. Did your resolutions focus on work or health or family or all three? Did you include creating a Florida estate plan in your resolutions?

We want you to know that we believe that one of the most important New Year’s resolutions you can make this year is to create your Florida estate plan. Having an estate plan can protect you both during life and at the time of your death. By working with your estate planning attorney, you can create an estate plan that will protect you while you are living and then your estate when you pass away. Your attorney will ensure your choices for your health care and finances are honored by your chosen decision maker. He will show you how to make sure that your family will be provided for when you are no longer here with them.

Do you currently have an estate plan? If your answer is yes, that is great! However, does your plan currently reflect your wishes for yourself and your loved ones or have there been changes? Everyone knows that in one year many changes can occur within your family, your business, and your finances. It is important to make sure your estate plan remains effective in not only summarizing the desired future for you and your loved ones, but also has the best tools in place to accomplish those goals.

Where do you start? We want to share ten questions for you to think about. You may also use them to ask your Florida estate planning attorney as you work on your Florida estate plan in the new year.

1. Do I need to update my plan if my immediate family members have changed? Yes! Whenever there is a birth, death, divorce, or other life update, make it a priority to work with your attorney to determine if your estate plan needs any updates or significant changes.

2. Do changes in the laws have any effect on my estate plan?  They may. This is an important question to ask your attorney. Your attorney stays up to date with all the latest information that could impact your legal plan and can make recommendations on if your current plan needs to be updated or changed.

3. What does a Florida estate plan do?  A Florida estate plan employs a variety of legal planning tools to address how your assets will be managed and distributed in the event of your death or incapacity, among other things.

4. Am I really unprotected without an estate plan?  Yes.  You are unprotected without an estate plan because if you have a crisis or you pass away there will be no legal guidance for your family, your bank, your friends, or the court system. If you do not take the time to create an estate plan the court in Florida may be required, in order for there to be legal authority, for another person to act on your behalf. Often this can be time consuming, costly, and public.  All of this can be avoided by completing your estate planning while you have the capacity to do so.

5. When is it necessary to get started with creating a plan or updating it? You should begin as soon as possible. To maximize the potential benefits a Florida estate plan has to offer, it is important to put the plan in place sooner rather than later.

6. When should I consider long-term care planning? Now.  It is never too early to start to plan for long-term care and your future needs. You can choose to work with an estate planning attorney who also has experience in Florida long-term care planning. Your attorney can advise you on how to plan so that you may avoid losing all of your savings to pay for nursing home care.

7. How do I choose my decision maker? A key part of any estate plan is to have a trusted individual in place to make decisions when you cannot. Through your estate planning, you can give this person the legal authority to make both financial and healthcare decisions. Your experienced estate planning attorney can help you find the right person to ensure you can reach your goals.

8. Does having a will avoid probate? No. A will by itself must be read by the Florida probate court. Only a trust can avoid probate. If one of your estate planning goals is to avoid probate, you should discuss this in a meeting with your attorney.

9. My estate plan was created in another state before I moved to Florida, will my out of state estate plan work? It depends. Not all out of state documents work in Florida. The best advice is to meet with an experienced estate planning attorney who can let you know.

10. When I meet my Florida estate planning attorney for the first time, what may I expect him to discuss with me? First, he will discuss with you the importance of lifetime planning.  He will describe various tools, such as the durable power of attorney for your finances. He can help you choose your decision maker, as well as back up decision maker, for times of crisis. He can also discuss with you the difference between will based estate planning and trust based estate planning.

We know this article may raise more questions than it answers. We want to help you achieve the New Year’s resolution of having a Florida estate plan that can meet your needs. We know working through legal matters can be exhausting. You may have many questions, but not know where to find the answers. At Poucher Law, we work closely with clients to help them find the answers they need. 

We do telephone, computer, and face-to-face appointments. Our face-to-face appointments are held outside in the open air (frequently selected by clients for document signing) and inside our office conference room. We follow all CDC guidelines. Our office procedures adhere to COVID-19 safety protocols and are designed and enhanced by medical review and air quality engineering.