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Why is Having an Estate Plan so Important?

There are many reasons to have an estate plan set up by a qualified estate planning attorney; a will, trust, guardianship, even having a power of attorney designated in case of your future incapacitation. The idea of protecting assets one acquires over a lifetime of working is part of the American culture, inherited from civilizations as old as man himself. But what happens in the State of Florida if an individual dies without taking the necessary precaution of protecting their property, savings, retirement accounts etc. without having the proper designations of beneficiaries set in place in a legal instrument. Unfortunately, many people fail to take the time and limited expense in hiring an estate planning attorney to ensure their family, loved ones or some other entity receives their property upon their passing with the least amount of wasted time and governmental involvement.

At Heekin Law, we are a local and experienced estate planning firm specializing in all types of estate planning documents, from wills and trusts to the administration of asset protection plans. Below are some good reasons to have an estate plan that is right for your needs, developed by a knowledgeable estate planning attorney in Jacksonville.

Dying Without a Will or Estate Planning Document

One of the easiest decisions one can make about their wishes for the inheritance of assets upon their death can be lost if they fail to prepare the correct legal documents instructing said wishes.  Dying without a legal estate planning instrument is what is called dying “intestate”, and will require the intervention of a Florida probate court to divide assets and transfer property to living relatives in accordance with the intestacy statutes. To clarify, not all assets would be probated, for instance, retirement accounts where a beneficiary has been designated or real property that is owned jointly with survivorship rights. Besides having the government decide who gets what when you die, not giving clear instructions often leads to complications and family member conflicts. The death of a loved one is usually a stressful and emotional ordeal, only further exacerbated but the lack of a properly executed estate planning documents to fulfill one’s final wishes as to who should receive what in the event of your death.

What Happens if You Become Incapacitated?

Life can deal some very tragic blows to just about anyone at any time. These types of unexpected medical events do not just happen to aged people and anyone can be vulnerable to an unexpected incapacitation. Certainly, the longer you live the increased likelihood that a debilitating illness could change your way of life forever. These types of medical conditions may also have a devastating effect on those around you especially if you are the primary bread winner of your family. Medical incapacitations can also occur due to injuries and trauma sustained in an accident.  A prudent choice to make to prepare for the unexpected is to seek the advice and counsel of an estate planning attorney and create a number of documents in the event or anticipation of the unexpected.

A living will is a medical “advanced directive” that allows you to express your wishes concerning your medical treatment in the event you become incapacitated and cannot direct or express your desires yourself. This can take the arduous decisions for end-of-life care out of a loved one’s hands and legally bid a medical entity to perform to your presubscribed desires.

A power of attorney is a document that gives authority to an individual (or more than one) while you are alive to make financial as well as medical decisions on your part. A power of attorney can be limited or all encompassing, depending on your situation. It is important to know that a power of attorney, no matter what authority given therewith, dies with the person.  Upon your death, a person you have given authority to handle your affairs no longer holds those powers through the power of attorney.

Designation of a pre-need guardianship allows a person to select an individual to take care of them and their financial and personal matters in the event that the person becomes incapacitated. Guardianships, on the other hand, are court appointed legal representatives authorized to make financial, medical and legal decisions for an incapacitated person.

In conclusion, it is important for anyone who lives in the State of Florida to consult with an estate planning attorney before making certain decisions about who will inherit their assets, represent their interests if they become incapacitated, or make decisions on their behalf for any reason. The time to plan for the unexpected or inevitable consequences of life is now. Just like having an insurance policy, an estate planning document ensures your wishes will be carried out and the beneficiaries of your estate, no matter the size large or small, will inherit your remaining assets. At Heekin Law we specialize in all types of estate planning services for individuals, married couples, domestic partnerships, divorcing couples and beneficiaries.

Give us a call at 904-355-7000 for a free initial consultation to discuss how we can help you prepare for the unexpected.   

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