I Just Need a Simple Will…
Friends, this just is not ever the case. We love simple and elegant solutions to complex problems as much as anyone, but the cold, hard truth is that no mere Last Will & Testament can provide for all the legal and financial challenges our loved ones will face upon our death or incapacity. All the time, we are asked to put together a “simple will”. Like good physicians, however, we don’t write a prescription based on our patients’ self-diagnosis; we ask questions and come to our own professional conclusion of what our client really needs to address their concerns and accomplish their objectives. Every single client who has come to us asking for a “simple will” has quickly agreed that what they really want, actually need, are most or all of the following. Moreover, as the saying goes, the only sure things in life are death and taxes, so we thought everyone should know that a complete estate planning package involves a lot more than just who gets what. Most individuals will also benefit from a Revocable Living Trust, but here’s a quick rundown of the fundamental estate planning tools we always recommend for starters and why:
Durable Power of Attorney
A Durable Power of Attorney is extremely helpful in a situation where you are unable to make decisions for your-self due to some type of incapacity. This document is in-tended to empower someone else to manage your financial affairs as necessary, without having to ask a judge for per-mission.
Designation of Health Care Surrogate
If you have a preference of who your health care providers should listen to when options are presented regarding your treatment, this is the way to go. Alternate surrogates are also listed just in case, for example, your first choice doesn’t make it to the hospital in time. Most hospitals provide these forms when checking in if the patient is able to re-view and sign them at the time.
Regardless of what your personal feelings are concerning the use of life-prolonging procedures, if you are in a persistent vegetative state with no reasonable medical probability of recovery, a Living Will clears doubt and avoids disagreement over what you would have wanted.
Burial / Cremation Affidavits
If you feel strongly one way or the other, you will want to leave clear instructions to the effect.
Uniform Donor Cards
Anatomical gifts for purposes of transplantation, therapy, medical research or education must be made in writing.
Pre-Need Competency Affidavits
If you are incapacitated, you will need a legal guardian to speak for you in all your personal affairs. Special guardianship proceedings are held to appoint this guardian where a judge ultimately chooses someone based on the law, the evidence presented and who shows up asking to be appointed. The judge is allowed to appoint anyone he or she feels is “fit and proper”, however, the judge must also consider who you would have wanted as your guardian. This document sets the record straight as to who that person is.
Pre-Need Guardianship Designation for Minor Children
If prepared properly, the Court must presume the person you named is the best person to care for your children if you are unable to.
Florida law allows you to keep and update a separate list of specific personal property and who you want to leave it to without having to amend or restate your entire will every time.
Authorizations for Release of Protected Health Information
Strict enforcement of state and federal privacy laws, such as HIPAA for example, can sometimes result in absurd scenarios where important information about your condition is withheld from your family. This document authorizes the release of information to the person(s) you designate.