Estate Planning

Estate planning is something everyone needs to do, and most people put off. If you have a young family, or fast-paced career, you may put off estate planning because the demands of daily life seem to take precedence. Many people are uncomfortable with the subject matter, or with the decisions that estate planning involves. Whatever the reason, it is often easy to postpone estate planning until tomorrow, and then the day after.

Many of the clients who contact our office for an estate planning consultation had been putting it off for a while. After completing the process, almost all of them feel as if a burden has been lifted from their shoulders. Creating an estate plan is about achieving peace of mind for the future, and in the present.

Attorney Nicole K. Shafran strives to make the estate planning process as straightforward and comfortable as possible, whether you are creating an estate plan for the first time or updating your existing plan.

Creating an Estate Plan: The Essentials

You do not have to know what documents you need in order to begin making an estate plan. The first step is to share your concerns with an attorney who can advise you about the best way to achieve your goals.

The fundamental building block of an estate plan is the Last Will and Testament. In addition to distributing your property, your Will should also name a personal representative to administer your estate and, if needed, a guardian for your minor children.

A Will is the beginning of your estate plan, but you will need other documents as well:

  • Durable Power of Attorney allows someone you choose to act on your behalf with respect to a broad spectrum of legal and financial activities.
  • Medical Power of Attorney (also known as a “Designation of Health Care Surrogate” or “Health Care Power of Attorney”) permits a person you have chosen to make medical decisions for you, if you are incapacitated and unable to make those decisions for yourself.
  • Living Will sets forth instructions for your end-of-life care, if you are incapacitated and unable to give those instructions yourself.

Together with your Will, these documents let your loved ones know your wishes so that they are not burdened with difficult decisions at an already stressful time. Depending on your needs, you may also choose to include a living revocable trust in your estate plan.

A living revocable trust allows you to use and enjoy assets in the trust during your lifetime just as if they were in your sole name. After your death, or in the event you become legally incapacitated, a trustee you chose will administer the trust. The successor trustee will manage or distribute assets as you have directed in the trust document. Many people choose to have a living revocable trust because assets in a trust avoid the probate administration process.

The documents described above are sufficient for the needs of many people. If you have significant or complex assets, such as investment property or a business, you may need more advanced estate planning services.

Updating an Estate Plan

Life changes, and with it, your estate planning needs. Just as it is important to establish an estate plan, it is important to regularly update your plan. You should review your estate plan every few years to evaluate whether it still meets your needs. You should revisit your estate plan any time you experience a major life change, such as a marriage or divorce, the birth of a child, or the death of a beneficiary.

You should also review your estate plan if you have recently moved to a different state from the one in which you created it. If your existing estate planning documents refer to the laws of the other state, it could complicate the administration of your estate. While the documents are probably still valid, it makes sense to update your estate plan to reflect your current state of residence.

Florida Estate Planning Attorney

Attorney Nicole K. Shafran has a Master of Laws (LLM) in taxation, along with years of experience in estate planning law and wealth management. She understands both the financial and emotional aspects of estate planning, and will help you create an estate plan designed specifically for your needs. Hopefully, you will not need your estate plan for many years—but you will have peace of mind knowing that it is in place.

The future is uncertain. You cannot control what will happen, but you can control how prepared you and your family are to meet challenges that may arise. Work with an attorney who has the experience to preserve your legacy and protect what matters to you. Contact the Law Office of Nicole K. Shafran to begin preparing for the future today.