“By Failing to Prepare, you Prepare to Fail” - Benjamin Franklin

The holidays have ended, the New Year is here and the question is, did you make any resolutions?  In January we know many Floridians are focusing on how they will reach the resolutions they set. If you did make resolutions, what are they? Did you focus on work, or health, or family?  Did you include creating or updating your Florida estate plan?

We strongly recommend that one of the most important New Year’s resolutions you can make this year is to create or update your Florida estate plan. Your estate plan can protect you both during life and at the time of your death. By working with your attorney during your lifetime you can create a plan that ensures your choices for your health care and finances are honored by your chosen decision maker. Your attorney will also show you how you can ensure that your family will be provided for when you pass away. 

Do you have an estate plan? If your answer is yes, this is great news. However, if you already have a plan in place, time is of the essence to make sure that it reflects your wishes for yourself and your loved ones. As everyone knows, many changes can happen within your family, your business, and your finances in a year. 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. 

Are you ready to get started? We want to share four tips you may use as you work on your Florida estate plan in the new year.

1. If your immediate family members have changed, make it a priority to update your Florida estate plan. This is critical. Whenever there is a birth, death, divorce, or other life update, contact your attorney to determine if your estate plan needs any updates or significant changes.

2. If you do not have a Florida estate plan, you are truly unprotected if you are over 18 years of age. In the event of a crisis or death, there will be no guidance for your family, your bank, your friends, or the court system. By not taking the time to create an estate plan, the court in Florida may be required to step in, in order for there to be legal authority for another to act on your behalf. This can be time consuming, costly, and public, and can be avoided by completing your estate planning while you have the capacity to do so.

3. Get started now, not later, with creating a plan or updating it! 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.

4. Your best resource for creating or updating your estate plan is your Florida estate planning attorney.  He can discuss with you the importance of lifetime planning using tools such as the durable power of attorney for your finances. He can help you choose your decision maker, as well as a 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 strive to provide our clients with the security and peace of mind that comes from knowing their estate plan is in proper order and that our team of friendly professionals is always ready to help their family in times of need. We encourage you to contact us and schedule a meeting with our attorneys.

Once a person becomes legally separated from a spouse, the focus may be on retaining a divorce attorney. Did you know that it can also be important to locate a qualified estate planning attorney as soon as possible? Let us discuss the legal risks your estate plan faces, during the time of marital separation. 

While your divorce is pending, your soon to be ex-spouse will still legally be your spouse and thus, likely to remain the beneficiary via your estate planning documents, or, if you pass away without a will, be deemed your legal next of kin. It can be imperative, therefore, to meet with an estate planning attorney, as soon as you become separated, to update these legal documents and protect your estate.

Separation can also be a good time to update legal tools such as your health care surrogate and/or durable power of attorney.  It may be good to designate a family member or close friend to serve as your power of attorney, if your soon to be ex-spouse is who you have designated. Otherwise, your soon to be ex-spouse may be able to make financial decisions on your behalf, while the divorce is pending.  In addition, should you become mentally incapacitated, your ex-spouse may be the one making medical and/or financial decisions on your behalf.

As soon as you separate, it may also be a good time to update accounts in your name with new user IDs and passwords to prevent any unauthorized transfers or changes. You may also want to update email passwords that your soon to be ex-spouse may be in possession of, as you move toward divorce proceedings to assure confidentiality, regarding the decisions you are making. You may also need to update the named beneficiary on your retirement accounts, insurance policies and bank accounts. You may, however, need to wait until after the divorce is finalized to update beneficiaries.

The necessity of updating your estate plan, during an already trying time, may be complicated and overwhelming when dealing with many new unknowns. Our office can provide guidance on all of these changes, giving you the peace of mind that your estate may be safeguarded. Please contact us today to schedule an appointment.

We understand that planning for the end of life, a disability or aging can be complicated and emotional. We are here to help you.

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