First things first. What is estate planning? Estate Planning that an attorney can assist you with is putting in place documents that protect you, your family and your assets in the event of your death or incapacity. Common documents that come to mind are Wills and Trusts, but these are just the beginning. A Will or a Trust alone cannot possibly protect you and your family in difficult circumstances. Note that I said “death or incapacity.” Incapacity is one of the less anticipated circumstances that most people fail to plan for. A good attorney will.
Imagine this scenario. Jack and Jill, a 40-something married couple with 3 children (10, 17 and 19), have wills that leave everything to one another. Their situation is not complicated by former spouses or children from previous marriages. Their kids are responsible and have no drug or alcohol problems. Jack and Jill think that they have everything they need, actually more than that, since under Florida law, should one of them pass away without a Will (intestate), the other would inherit everything.
But what if…
…Jack and Jill get into a fatal car accident coming home one night from Jack's work function. Who will take care of their minor daughter? Who will oversee their minor daughter's inheritance? They did not designate a guardian for her or her money. What if she develops a problem that prevents her from responsibly managing her finances, or simply lacks required maturity even at at 21?
…Jack and Jill live happily into their 60s, but then Jill develops Alzheimer's and cannot manage her affairs. Jack will now find out that he cannot sign checks or documents for Jill, he cannot sell their house, which he needs to do because the big home it too much for him to manage on his own, now that all the kids are grown and out of the house. He cannot sell the home to help with expenses of his wife's illness without a long, expensive and stressful court process that is necessary to appoint him Jill's guardian. Even after he is appointed, Jack will have to regularly account to the court for moneys spent on Jill's care.
…Jack stops breathing one day and falls into a persistent vegetative state. Jill knows that her husband would not want to “exist” hooked up to machines for decades and wants to take him off life support, since his doctors agree that Jack is effectively gone. Jack's parents feel very strongly that Jack is still “in there” and are adamantly against discontinuing life support. A decade-long court battle could ensue.
These scenarios are very difficult to think of and plan for, but are even more difficult to live through. The real value of Estate Planning is often not “who-gets-what-when-I-die”, but the certainty and protection for the planners themselves and for their families in situations that no one likes to think about, but that happen anyway.
Our generally comfortable American life already comes with daily stress and worries. Most people would not want to put additional stress and concern onto their spouse in the event that “something” happens.
Attorneys are trained by their education and experience to foresee the unforeseeable. While any of us can go online and have a Will, a Trust and a host of other documents done in a matter of hours, something that seems too good to be true, usually is. The Internet does not give the benefit of a human getting to know your particular situation. The internet will not analyze possible scenarios and will not offer creative solutions for your particular circumstances. The internet will not ask you thought-provoking “what-if” questions.
Lastly, while almost everyone knows what a Will is and has a general idea of what a Power of Attorney does, have you thought of what a “Lady Bird deed” is and what it can do to help you accomplish your estate planning objectives? Have you considered the fate of your digital assets and how your family will access your online banking in the event of your passing or incapacity? Your Estate Planning Attorney has!
Estate planning is not an expensive process, and is almost certainly less than an average cost of probate administration in Florida. Contact Bevilacqua Law today. Tell your story and listen to your options.