J. Kelly Kennedy, Attorney/CPA, PLLC

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Lakeland FL Probate & Estate Administration Law Blog

Living will basics for estate planners

A living will or advance healthcare directive can be important to have for a number of reasons. An advance healthcare directive is an essential component of an overall effective estate plan. An advance healthcare directive, or living will, allows the estate planner to ensure their wishes for their medical treatment and care will be honored even if they become incapacitated.

A living will must be executed in Florida by an estate planner that is of sound mind. A living will can instruct a treating physician to either provide, withhold or withdraw medical procedures that prolong the estate planner's life. A health care surrogate can also be designated to make medical decisions for the estate planner if they become incapacitated and are unable to make those decisions for themselves.

Who might be a good candidate for guardianship?

Asset distribution is the best known reason for formulating an estate plan, but it isn't the only reason. There are many other reasons to put together an estate plan. One of these is to pre-select a guardian for oneself in case one is disabled or incapacitated. A guardian is the person who makes important decisions on behalf of a disabled or incapacitated person.

It's never too early for a Florida resident to think about who might make a good guardian. There are a number of considerations that should be taken into account when pre-selecting a guardian for oneself. First, does the candidate have a reputation for integrity, honesty and timeliness? Do they manage their own personal matters in a responsible manner? If the answer to both of these questions is yes, the candidate may have the makings of a good guardian.

Don't navigate matters of trusts alone

A will is a necessary component of the estate plans of many people in Winter Haven and Lakeland. However, a will by itself may not be sufficient. Many people find that a trust, when used with a will, helps them to preserve and distribute their assets.

Not long ago we described some of the attributes and advantages of living trusts. Unlike a will alone, a living trust can be used to manage assets both during the trust creator's life and after their death. Also, living trusts can be used to distribute assets without their going through probate. Like wills, living trusts can be changed or revoked before death.

Real estate contracts could help keep transaction terms clear

Contracts are useful documents that can help make a variety of situations more clear. Even simple transactions could benefit from having agreements in place, and creating specific terms are often vital in significant endeavors. If you have plans to purchase a piece of real estate in the near future, you will likely be using a contract.

Because real estate transactions take place fairly regularly, you may not think it is necessary to spend much time understanding your purchase agreement. After all, you have a real estate agent or are working with other professionals who will help keep affairs in line, right? While these individuals can prove immensely helpful throughout the process, you will be able to participate more fully by understanding how a legally-binding real estate contract works for you.

Putting a value on the property of an estate

One aspect to estate administration that residents of Polk County, Florida, may overlook is the placing of a value on the estate's property.

While not garnering as much attention as, say, will contests or questions about the interpretation or applicability of a will, how the executor chooses to value the estate can have an effect on the distribution of assets to heirs, and not valuing property correctly could mean someone gets the short end of the stick. The value of an estate can also in certain circumstances have significant tax implications.

Do you have an estate plan for your pet?

Humans outlive their pets. It's almost always true. However, pet owners will tell you that they have had several pets over their lifetime, so in theory, couldn't a dog outlive their owner? Sadly, 500,000 pets are euthanized every year due to an unfortunate situation in which there is no-one left to care for them after their owner dies unexpectedly, or suffers a life-changing illness or injury.

Ask any pet owner and they will tell you how important their pets are. They will tell you that their pets are like family. So why would you leave them out of your estate plan? If you can have an arrangement for a family member or friend to vouch for your pet if you were to unexpectedly die or be unable to care for them, it can be the only saving grace a beloved pet has after losing their owner. It's entirely acceptable to write pets into your estate plan in hopes of securing them a happy life in case of a worst-case scenario for their owner.

What to consider when choosing an executor

One important part of the Florida estate planning process is determining who gets what assets of an estate. Another important part is deciding who will oversee the estate administration process. The person who oversees the administration of an estate is often referred to as an executor. This blog post will describe some things to consider when choosing an executor.

Just about anyone can be the executor of a will. Common executors include children, spouses and siblings. There are a number of qualities that an executor should have. Honesty is one of these qualities. Another is organizational skills; administering an estate can be a complex process. Finally, good communication skills are essential when dealing with multiple, sometimes impatient beneficiaries.

How do you challenge the validity of a will?

Sometimes, not everyone is happy with the terms of a family member's will. People feel they were accidentally left out of a will or that another person prevailed on the testator not to include someone. Emotions can run very high. Can a disappointed party challenge a will in court? There is a process to do this; it is called a will contest. This blog post will describe how will contests work and who can file them.

Not everyone can file a will contest on anyone's will. In order to be recognized by the probate court, a person must have standing. In order to have standing, a person must be either named on the face of the will or a family member who would inherit from the testator if the will is declared invalid.

Living wills can be a key part of Floridians' estate plans

Death can be an unpleasant thing to think about. Yet there may be many advantages to thinking about and anticipating potential end-of-life issues. A big issue that may be worth thinking about is the issue of what happens if one becomes incapacitated and unable to make one's own health care decisions.

This is where an advance health care directive may prove to be helpful. Advance health care directives are also known as living wills, and they provide directions to health care professionals on the topic of providing, withholding or withdrawing life-prolonging procedures. An advance health care directive provides assurance that a person's wishes will be respected regarding this sensitive topic.

What are contingencies in a real estate contract?

Purchasing real estate in Florida can be intimidating. You will be dealing with many mysterious agencies and signing reams of documents with little time to review them. Many of these contracts and agreements are standard with the usual terms, but to someone who has little experience in real estate transactions, you may have questions about what terms are usual.

Among the negotiable terms in your purchase contract are contingencies. These are provisions that allow you or the seller to stop the sale if certain conditions are not met. Contingencies are common, but you do not want the property seller to be the only one including those contingencies. To protect yourself, you would do well to seek legal advice about including contingencies that will allow you to avoid binding yourself to a contract that will no longer benefit you.