Reviewed by Mike Jorgensen, Esq.
As a Florida senior, what are your goals for yourself and your loved ones? Many of the more experienced citizens share with our elder law attorneys that they have two goals. First, they want to make sure they protect themselves in the event of sudden incapacity. Second, they want to create an estate plan that ensures the right people get their assets in case they pass away unexpectedly.
The month of May is one of the best times of year to discuss these goals with your Florida elder law attorney. Why? During this month we celebrate not only National Elder Law Month but also National Older Americans Month! There is never a better time to set up estate planning documents, (such as powers of attorney, health care documents, a last will and testament, or a trust agreement), with your Florida elder law attorney. Perhaps some key insights into using these tools may protect both you and your loved ones.
What about Powers of Attorney?Power of attorney documents give people you choose the legal authority to act on your behalf in certain financial and healthcare matters. This may be your most important estate planning document. The authority in the power of attorney may include assisting you with transferring property if you are unable, with being admitted into a long term care facility, or with banking transactions, just to name a few. The proper durable power of attorney may be your best defense against the necessity of a guardianship.
The medical power of attorney may include end-of-life care if you become incapacitated and do not have a living will. Without these documents in place, a guardianship court may need to get involved and the court would ultimately choose the people to act for you in those matters and decide what can and can not be performed.
What is a Last Will and Testament? Your will may define how you want to distribute your assets and to whom. Unfortunately, if you die without one, the Florida court may need to decide how to divide your assets and who will get them under the intestacy laws in our state. This is just the start of what a will can do, however, and you can discuss with your elder law attorney about the other special circumstances it can help you plan for.
What is a Trust Agreement? There are many different types of trust agreements and your Florida elder law attorney can help you identify what you need. For example, a commonly seen trust is a revocable or “living trust” which can help not only manage your assets if you are incapacitated but also serve as a guide for your loved ones. Further, trusts can provide an extra layer of protection. In contrast to a will (which is administered in a probate), assets titled in trust may not have to pass through the probate court, which may result in delays and an extra expense for your heirs.
Planning Generally—the above documents are a great start of the estate planning considerations you may want to begin contemplating in this National Elder Law Month. Bear in mind, each of these documents can do so much more for you and your loved ones such as:
– Create a legacy for future generations,
– Protect your beneficiaries from their creditors, bad marriages, youth and destructive life-styles,
– Provide for loved ones with special needs,
– Allow for redistribution of a business or partnership interest, and
– Utilize planning strategies to access public benefits in the long-term care setting.
Do not wait to contact one of our Florida elder law attorneys to schedule a meeting and discuss your questions. Our goal is to ensure you have the education you need to begin to learn to protect yourself this month of May and throughout the year.