Firm Story - Estate Planning
I think people usually think of estate planning as set of documents - a Will, perhaps a Trust, and some planning to deal with estate and gift taxes, as well as a Health Care Surrogate, Living Will regarding your end of life choices and a Power of Attorney. The documents are important, but I believe an approach to Life and Estate Planning should include more.Help Prevent Family Conflict
You can read our Firm Story regarding Estate Planning to see some of the origins of these idea, but as I discuss there, one important aspect of Estate Planning for your family is including a discussion with you family at the time we make your plans, of what the plans are, and what you want for the family, as a way of helping to avoid family conflict later if you become incapacitated or when you die. Unresolved family issues can come to the surface during these times, and a discussion with the family in advance can help. As part of Life and Estate Planning (link to that page) we encourage and help you to have this discussion with your family."Funding" a Trust
Many estate plans will include a Revocable Trust, and an important component of a Trust is "funding" the Trust, which means transferring title of assets to the Trust. A significant goal of a Trust is to avoid Probate, and if title to assets is not transferred into the name of the Trust, then your family when you pass away may still need to go through the Probate process. We will either take care of for you the process of transferring title and changing beneficiary designations if you choose, or provide you specific instructions for the transfer of each of your assets.Logistics and Other Problems to Avoid
If your assets are properly titled so that probate issues are avoided in the event of your death, your family can still run into significant difficulties, as we did with managing assets in my Father's trust when he became unable to do so himself; when one of the banks wouldn't accept a Power of Attorney as sufficient to manage trust assets after my Father had become unable to manage the Trust. That is actually the general rule in Florida - that a power of attorney does not confer sufficient authority to manage Trust assets. It is important to set up clearly in the Trust how assets can be managed in the event of incapacity, and a process for addressing that which will work for you and your family; and that is something we'll do with you.Reviewing Your Estate Plan
Things will change over the course of your lifetime. It is possible to seek to provide for all of these scenarios and possibilities in advance as part of your estate plan, but it can require more complicated planning, and multiple trusts which you may not be looking to undertake now. As part of Life and Estate Planning, we'll review your Estate Plan with you every three years, and can have more frequent and ongoing advice and planning if you want.Protecting Your Children
As part of Child & Family Planning (link to that page), we'll develop a plan for you as to what happens if you or both parents don't make it home; to have a plan in place to be sure your children are cared for as you want. This will involve signed papers designating who is to care for your children, and giving them the legal authority to do that, as well as the logistics set in place to be sure that can be documented immediately for appropriate authorities if never necessary. If the persons or people you want as permanent guardians live out of town, we'll address naming a temporary, local guardian. Having, for example, a will in place that perhaps is in a vault somewhere and would need to go through the courts, or having guardians named who live across the county, can present problems.Fixed Fees
For most of my legal career, when clients "retain" me, they paid a retainer and then were billed against that at my hourly rate, and start receiving bills and need to pay more if (when) the retainer is exhausted. This can lead to clients rightfully worrying about fees, what it will cost to call their lawyer; and lawyers in the position of needing to bill clients, replenish retainers, etc., or even worrying about getting paid. I recall a pro-bono matter I worked on, and remember it being nice not need to worry about billing and keeping track of time after each conversation or item of work I did.
All of the estate planning services I provide are at a fixed, flat fee. As part of developing your estate plan, we arrive at a fixed fee for the service.Communication With Your Attorney
Sometimes attorneys are available immediately when a client calls in; some people will have the experience of leaving messages and trying to reach their attorney. Generally speaking, I respond to messages quickly if I miss a client's call, but as clients of the firm you will receive a link to a calendar to schedule a call to reach me to make the process simple.
Call me at (954) 636-7498, or use the contact form on the website, and we can discuss Life and Estate Planning for you and your family.