Finding Your “Why” and the Importance of Estate Planning
Finding your “why”, in its simplest form, means finding your purpose. What drives you to succeed professionally? What motivates you each day to be the best Mother/ Father, Wife/ Husband, Son/ Daughter, Friend? The goal is, once you are able to label your “why”, you can use that information to maximize your success in all aspects of your life.
For so many, the answer to this question is easy- we are driven to succeed for the betterment of our family. We want to prosper professionally to be able to provide financially for our children. We want to be the best person we can be to ensure our families know they are loved and cared for. This drive to succeed for our children starts immediately.
From the moment our children are born we start planning for their future. We open bank accounts, set up college funds and obtain life insurance. As parents, it is our goal to give our children the best life possible.
But our goals for success should not stop in this lifetime. As parents, it is imperative we take the proper measures to ensure our children are cared for even after we are gone. A comprehensive Estate Plan can guarantee your children are cared for in the way in which you desire.
Too many parents, especially young parents, think an Estate Plan is only required for the elderly or wealthy. But, this simply is not true. An Estate Plan allows parents to ensure their “whys” are taken care of today, tomorrow, and every day thereafter.
A comprehensive Estate Plan is imperative at any age. As a parent, you know your child best and know what is best for them. An Estate Plan allows you to dictate who will care for your child and how your child is cared for after you pass. Everything from the schedule of how your assets will pass, to who will care for your child, to how that individual will care for your child, is written within your Plan.
A comprehensive Estate Plan includes many parts- not just a Will.
In order to protect your “why” it is important to understand what documents make up a comprehensive Estate Plan and how each impacts your Estate.
The most well-known component of an Estate Plan is a Will. In Florida, if you are of sound mind and above the age of eighteen you may sign a Will. A Will is a legally enforceable document which states how the testator (party signing the Will) wishes their affairs to be handled, and assets distributed, after their death. Young parents find comfort in having a Will as it provides a legal way to name a Guardian for their minor children.
However, it is important to note that a Will has its legal limitations. Mainly, a Will only becomes effective upon your death. At that point, the Will must be probated by the Courts. This can be an expensive and sometimes lengthy legal process that your beneficiaries will have to engage in. Because the Will must be probated it also becomes part of the public record. Meaning any individual can access your Will in the county public records.
The Revocable Living Trust
Unlike a will, a trust becomes effective upon your signature, avoids the lengthy and expensive probate process and does not become part of the public record. Specifically, a trust allows you to assign a trustee to handle your assets for the benefit of your beneficiaries. The most common probate trust tool is a revocable trust. A revocable trust is created while you are alive and may be changed throughout your lifetime. As the trustor you maintain ownership of your property while you are alive. The trust becomes operational upon your death and your assets may pass immediately to your beneficiaries without the need for probate.
For many, the knowledge that your family is taken care of without need for court intervention or monetary expenses is invaluable.
The Full Package
When you think of an Estate Plan you likely think of a Will and Trust. However, a comprehensive Estate Plan can contain so much more and provide you and your family with the protection you deserve. In order to take care of your “why” you need to ensure you are also taken care of. In order to do so, it is imperative you complete your Estate Plan with documents dictating how you wish to be cared for in the event you are incapacitated or cannot make decisions on your own behalf.
A Durable Power of Attorney is an individual whom you appoint to make decisions on your behalf in the event you become incapacitated or cannot care for yourself. The benefit of having an individual named in your Estate Plan is that it ensures that an individual whom you know and trust, and of your choosing, will take this role in the event of unforeseen circumstances.
A Florida Designation of Health Care Surrogate enables you to choose an individual to make all necessary medical decisions on your behalf in the event you become incapacitated. This individual is given the right to consult with your health care providers and make health care decisions on your behalf. This is another crucial tool to guarantee that your wishes are followed through in the event you cannot make those decisions yourself. In the event you do not have a Health Care Surrogate, you risk intervention by the Court system who may appoint a guardian of their choice to act on your behalf.
The purpose of a living will is to memorialize your wishes regarding your end-of-life care in the event you have a terminal condition. The living will provides your Health Care Surrogate with a roadmap of your desires as to end of life care. In the event you do not have a Living Will your Health Care Surrogate, should you have appointed one, will make decisions on your behalf.
The Big Picture
The most important thing to remember when Estate Planning is that it gives you control to make your own decisions. An Estate Plan is customized to your beliefs and desires. An Estate Plan allows you to make those important decisions to protect your “why” the way only you know is best. Without the appropriate Estate Plan in place, you risk an individual making decisions on your behalf that may not coincide with how you wish your Estate and loved ones be cared for.
Allow Us to Help
The estate planning lawyers at Scarnecchia Mullin, PLLC can help you have these essential discussions to craft an effective Estate Plan. We understand that while it may be difficult to address an uncertain future, taking the time to craft an Estate Plan today can save resources, maintain family relationships, and leave a lasting legacy. Contact us today to set up an initial consultation to help you and your loved ones begin this important process.