Harrison Estate Law, P.A. offers years of experience ranging from basic Wills and trusts to more complex estate plans involving detailed asset protection strategies. Our clients range from young couples just starting out to established families planning for estate taxes and preservation of a family legacy. We are happy to collaborate with financial advisors and accountants to coordinate a shared client's estate planning goals with their retirement and other financial strategies.
Based in Gainesville, we offer estate planning services to our neighbors in surrounding communities as well as to clients elsewhere in Florida. Consultations by phone or Skype are available. If you are looking for an estate planning law firm that combines years of legal expertise with a friendly, accessible atmosphere, contact Harrison Estate Law for a complimentary consultation about how our experienced team can help you.
Estate planning, at its most basic, means implementing a strategy to efficiently transfer your assets when you pass away. An estate plan specifies who your beneficiaries should be, what they should inherit, and how the inheritance should be managed. For people with young children, your estate plan will also designate who should raise your children if you pass away or become temporarily incapacitated because of illness or injury. A good estate plan also arranges for you and your affairs to be taken care of properly if you were to become incapacitated and unable to manage your own affairs. Estate planning benefits anyone who owns property, and you do not need to be wealthy to benefit from having a good plan in place.
Here are a few of the documents that might typically go into an estate plan:
A Will or Last Will and Testament provides written instructions regarding who should inherit from you when you pass away and who should be in charge of administering your estate. Contrary to popular belief, a Will generally will not allow your family to avoid probate without additional planning and re-titling of assets.
Revocable trusts are essentially “will substitutes” that, just like a Will, provide written instructions regarding who should inherit from you when you pass away. Revocable trusts are used in addition to a special type of Will known as a “Pourover Will” in order to provide efficiency, privacy, and probate avoidance. In our opinion, revocable trusts are the most efficient way to provide for the creation of additional trusts when you pass away, allowing for many planning options, including the following:
When you pass away, you can leave wealth to your loved ones in a trust that is protected from almost any potential creditor, such as an ex-spouse after divorce, a car accident victim, medical bills, or credit card debt. Divorce, in particular, is common and can result in devastating financial setbacks; protecting loved ones from the claims of potential ex-spouses has been particularly attractive to my clients.
A trust can be used to provide control after you have passed away. Perhaps you want to make sure your spouse is provided for but that, after he or she passes away, remaining funds should go to your children — not your spouse’s new husband or wife and new children. Perhaps you want to provide for your daughter but make sure the money doesn’t ever go to your overbearing and irresponsible son-in-law.
The Florida Statutes specifically allow for the creation of trusts just for pets. If your most important family members are furry or scaly ones, then a formal pet trust is the best option to make sure they are taken care of after you pass away.
Trusts created after you pass away are one of the best tools for minimizing estate taxes at your death and the death of future generations.
If you would like to provide for someone who cannot manage their own assets because of a drug problem, disability, or simply bad spending habits, then a trust can be created with a responsible third party in charge of investing the funds and making distributions to the beneficiary according to your wishes.
Whenever we set up a revocable trust for a client, we provide detailed trust funding instructions. We also offer our clients the option of having us implement the trust funding strategy for them. Properly funding a revocable trust is a very important step to make sure that you achieve all of the benefits of having a revocable trust. It is generally not sufficient to simply sign a document which lists your assets and says they are now transferred to the revocable trust. Rather, you commonly need to "fund" the trust by making it the owner or beneficiary of your assets.
Deeds are often needed as part of the process of funding the revocable trust, which we are happy to prepare.
Instead of a revocable trust that you can change during your lifetime, you can also create an irrevocable trust that you cannot change after its creation. We use irrevocable trusts primarily for estate tax planning, although attorneys specializing in government benefits planning also use them to help qualify clients for public benefits.
A durable power of attorney names someone to make financial and legal decisions for you during your lifetime. This is invaluable if you ever have dementia or long term medical problems and are unable to pay your own bills, file your own taxes, and manage your own affairs. Without a durable power of attorney, an expensive and time-consuming guardianship might be necessary. Contrary to popular belief, the word “durable” does not mean that the power of attorney continues to operate after your death, but, instead, means that it continues to operate after your disability. In the State of Florida, it is not possible to create a power of attorney that continues after you pass away.
A Designation of Health Care Surrogate names a person who can make medical decisions for you if you are unable to speak for yourself. For example, you can designate your spouse, adult child or friend to speak for you if you have an illness and doctors need to know whether you would want a risky new surgery or a more conservative type of treatment.
A Living Will allows you to specify that you do not want to be kept alive artificially if you are brain dead or terminally ill and unable to communicate. The exact amount of care a person wishes to receive in that situation can be customized to each client.
Harrison Estate Law is happy to help you with setting up a new estate plan or to review and update an existing plan. Please contact us online or via email or call 352-559-9828 to schedule a free consultation. If you don’t live close to Gainesville, we are happy to set up a phone or Skype call.