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Gainesville Florida Estate Planning & Elder Law Blog

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Strategizing and Planning for the New Year

As we enter 2015 there is no better time to begin, or continue, the legal documentation of your wishes for your loves ones.

Many of you may not understand the importance of having an estate plan, and I want to make it clear. Think of your estate plan as a type of business plan for your life that will help you and your loved ones achieve peace of mind. There is absolutely no escape from taxes, and your estate plan is there to help you pan for that. If you are new to the journey of planning for the unforeseeable future, here are the basic documents that you may want to consider:

  • A Living Will states your wishes for your loved ones if you were to fall into an incurable state. This can cover everything from nutrition to the duration of life support. These decisions are extremely personal, so it is imperative that your family knows exactly what you would want to happen.
  • A Health Care Surrogate is someone who appoints a surrogate that you have personally chosen to make decisions on your health in the event you become incapacitated. This can be especially important if you have multiple loved ones who feel the need to act in your interest, thus it is critical that they know who you truly want making those decisions.
  • The Power of Attorney authorizes an agent to make your financial decisions for you if you are unable. This document is powerful and must be discussed at length with your attorney due to its ability to be easily abused.
  • A DNR (or Do No Resuscitate order) advises first responders that if you are found incapacitated you do not wished to be revived. This is a bright yellow form which should be posted visibly in your home and can be obtained from your physician.
  • A Last Will and Testament provides your loved ones with information as to what you wish to happen with you and your assets if you should pass on.
  • And finally, Beneficiary Designations may help dispose of any assets. There are the people you name as your primary beneficiary of your retirement plans, IRAs, life insurance, etc.

All of this may seem like a lot to take in, and may leave you wondering “why estate planning is even necessary?” This is more than just a simple group of documents that dispose of your assets at death; this is a road map that provides guidance and protection during life, along with death. Planning for the unknown allows you to choose the individuals whom you trust to make decisions about everything from your health to your finances if you become incapacitated or die. Without a well-documented plan you are leaving it to the legal system to make these personal decisions for you and your family.

It is true that none of us enjoys thinking about these types of situations, but the best time to plan is when you are healthy. Always remember that it is critical to periodically review, revise and update your estate plan, as certain events can impact it. The start of a new year is always a good time to do that. By getting your affairs in order now, you can save your loved ones, as well as yourself, from extra heartbreak and stress in a time of crisis. 


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