St. Petersburg Estate Planning Attorney
Many people believe that estate planning is only for people who are particularly wealthy, have elaborate schemes in mind for passing their money to their heirs, or for people who are acutely ill and contemplating their death. This could not be farther from the truth!
Estate planning is for every husband, wife, mother, father, grandparent, business owner, professional, or anyone else who has someone they care about, are concerned about providing responsibly for their own well-being and for the well-being of those they love, and for anyone who seeks to make a difference in the lives of others after they’re gone. Estate planning is not ‘death planning’; it’s ‘life planning’, an essential and important process for everyone to engage in to ensure peace of mind that your wishes are carried out both during your lifetime and after your death.
This process almost always requires the preparation of several sophisticated legal documents, but those documents themselves are not ‘estate planning.’ Planning is a process, represented by a complete strategy that is properly documented and maintained by a St. Petersburg estate planning attorney who has taken the time to get to know you, and who is committed to continuing to serve you.
The Basic Estate Planning Documents Everyone Should Have In Place Are:
Last Will & Testament – A legal document that tells the probate court how you want your property distributed after you die, and who has the power and responsibility to wrap up your affairs. Through the probate process the court will give the ‘executor’, who is called the "Personal Representative", of your will the authority to gather all of your property, pay any remaining creditors’ bills, and distribute your remaining property as you specify in your will. Because the will takes effect only after a court determined that it is a valid document, a judge must act before your Personal Representative can step in and manage your estate.
Durable Power of Attorney – A carefully written Durable Power of Attorney will allow you to name someone you trust to serve as your Agent and to deal with matters affecting your property, real or personal, as you so designate. Basically, your Agent is given the power to act on your behalf, as if you were present and acting, with respect to your property. Numerous types of transactions are spelled out in the Durable Power of Attorney document to eliminate any question as to the broad scope of your Agent’s authority. Being a “durable” power means that your Agent is authorized to continue to act for you while you are incapacitated (if a guardian is not appointed for you).
Designation of Health Care Surrogate – A Designation of Health Care Surrogate allows the person you name to make medical treatment decisions for you if you are unable to communicate your wishes to doctors. A Designation of Health Care Surrogate not only saves precious decision-making time, but it also makes sure that the individual you trust the most has the power to make these most important decisions for you if you are unable to make the decisions on your own.
Living Will – The Living Will is a statutory form, used to state your wishes regarding the use of life-sustaining measures if you become terminally ill. The Living Will works with the Designation of Health Care Surrogate to provide a full set of directions to your physician.
Declaration of Pre-Need Guardian – The Declaration of Pre-Need Guardian is a written document which states your preference for a guardian of both you and your property should you be determined by a Court of competent jurisdiction to be an incapacitated person as that term is defined under Florida Guardianship Law.
Revocable (“Living”) Trust – A Trust Agreement creates what is typically referred to as a “Living Trust”. A Trust Agreement is entirely revocable and amendable by you during your lifetime, but becomes irrevocable upon your death. Any assets that you transfer (or ‘fund’) to the Trust during your lifetime will remain within your control and will avoid probate upon your death. Assets that you do not transfer (or ‘fund’) to the Trust will be subject to probate, but will pass to the Trust through the probate process (under your “Pour-over Will”). The expectation is that you will transfer all of your assets to the Trust so that it will not be necessary to probate your Will. Revocable Trusts can be excellent vehicles for disability planning, privacy and probate avoidance.
Pour-over Will – A Pour-over Will is a specific type of will used in conjunction with your Revocable (“Living”) Trust. In the event that you die with assets outside of your Revocable Living Trust, a Pour-over Will acts to complete your estate plan, by “pouring” those assets into your Revocable Trust.
And if you have minor children, the following documents are highly recommended:
Designation of Health Care Surrogate for Minor Child – This is a document in which a parent grants authority to another adult empowering that adult to deal with medical issues for their minor child, including the ability to make health care decisions.
Power of Attorney for Care of Minor Child – This is a form of a power of attorney where a parent grants authority to another adult to deal with certain custodial issues for a minor child, for example, when parents go out of town and leave their child with relatives. Though it is not statutorily authorized, it represents as effective an attempt to convey other natural guardian rights as is currently possible.
Nomination of Guardian for Minor Child – This is a document where a parent nominates another adult to have custody of their minor child and provides directions for guardianship in the event something happens to the parent. This document is filed with the Guardianship Court in the County where the child resides.
The above documents will comprise a comprehensive estate plan that can provide substantial legal protections for your hard-earned assets and property, as well as provide for your surviving family members. You can also make sure that you have made your end-of-life wishes known and understood by executing your advanced directives (durable power of attorney, designation of health care surrogate, declaration of preneed guardian, living will) and naming the individuals you trust to respect and carry out your wishes.
Estate Planning at Kira Doyle Law is not “one size fits all” for everyone. We offer many levels of planning to suit your individual needs.
Our firm believes in personalized service for every client. Our approach is educational and proactive – our St. Petersburg Estate Planning Attorneys determine each client’s needs, objectives and values, and then tailor a plan to best fulfill the client’s goals.
We represent families throughout varying stages of life:
Traditional two parent families or single parents wishing to provide for and protect their children and themselves
Unmarried couples who are either solidifying their relationship through proper planning or dissolving their relationship with the assistance of caring counsel
Same-Sex couples looking for counsel who understands the unique challenges LGBT couples face and knows how to properly navigate those challenges
Blended families negotiating the challenges of creating new relationships with varying expectations
High net worth families seeking strategies for minimizing estate and income taxes
Estate Personal Representatives and beneficiaries navigating the court process of probate administration
Family members or trustees carrying out the legacy left behind through a trust administration
With each of our Estate Plans we include a complimentary 3 year review to ensure that as our clients’ lives change, so do their Estate Plans. We also ensure that all of our clients’ assets are held properly for maximum protection. Our clients benefit from the care we offer to the whole family from estate checkups to basic estate planning documents for young adult children. Schedule your personal Estate Planning Session today and become part of our client family!