Estate Planning FAQs

No one likes to think about a time when incapacity or death will leave them unable to provide for loved ones or manage their financial and business affairs. Fortunately, a well-structured estate plan can protect your family and your legacy and even let you indicate your wishes when you cannot do so yourself. Below are some answers to frequently asked estate planning questions.

Q. How often should I revisit my estate plan?

A. It’s a good idea to review your estate planning documents at least every three to five years to make sure that all assets are mentioned and accounted for. If you experience a significant life event like a marriage, divorce, birth of a child, death of a named beneficiary, or anything else that could change your future needs and wishes, see a Florida estate planning attorney.

Q. What if my estate plan was created outside Florida?

A. Under Florida law, any estate planning document that was valid in the originating state will be valid in Florida, but certain arrangements, like Durable Powers of Attorney and Advance Directives, are state-specific and should be updated to ensure that they remain effective.

Q. What is the difference between a Will and a revocable living trust?

A. Wills and revocable trusts have two key things in common: 

  • They let you dictate how your property will be distributed to beneficiaries after you pass away. 
  • You can change them whenever you wish during your lifetime.

The biggest difference is that your Will goes through probate while assets in a revocable living trust can bypass probate and go right to beneficiaries.

Q. Can a married couple create a joint revocable trust?

A. Yes. With a joint revocable trust, you and your spouse will own trust assets together. When one of you dies, the other will retain control of everything in the trust and even be able to change its final distribution.

Q. How often should I update my Durable Power of Attorney?

A. As a general rule, Durable Powers of Attorney should be updated at least every 10 years to ensure that the arrangement complies with current laws and keep the documentation up-to-date. If you divorce and your spouse is on the document, you will want to update it to reflect your new circumstances.

Q. What is the difference between a Living Will and a Do Not Resuscitate Order?

A. Living wills are written directives that specify your end-of-life wishes. You can state that if you are terminally ill or in a vegetative state, you do not want certain measures, like ventilation or tube feeding, taken to prolong your life. On the other hand, a Do Not Resuscitate Order is signed by your doctor and directs medical providers not to provide CPR if your breathing stops or your heart stops beating.

Q. Who should I name as my healthcare surrogate?

A. You can name anyone you wish as your healthcare surrogate, but it’s a huge responsibility. Your surrogate will be responsible for making healthcare decisions on your behalf and may have to arrange for you to move to a nursing home or assisted living if you become incapacitated. You therefore want to appoint someone you trust to act in your best interests at all times.

Q. What is the difference between a healthcare proxy and healthcare surrogate?

A. In Florida, a healthcare proxy is used when you are incapacitated and either have not designated a healthcare surrogate or your surrogate is unwilling or unable to act. In this case, Florida’s proxy law will determine who can make your healthcare decisions.

If you have an estate planning question that hasn’t been answered here and you want to meet with an attorney, please contact Alvarez Law Group.