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Estate Planning Glossary
What do these documents mean?
Last Will and Testament
A Last Will and Testament is a document that provides instructions of how you want your belongings to be distributed among your surviving loved ones, relatives, and friends. Without this document, your assets become susceptible to higher taxes, which your loved ones who receive these assets will be required to pay. Not having your assets and final instructions may also result in the contestation between your surviving loved ones of how to distribute your assets and handle your funeral services.
DID YOU KNOW? Florida maintains law and precedent that provides what is called, full faith and credit, to any and all wills drafted and executed outside the state lines of Florida, so long as the Will complies with the state law in which it was drafted in.
DID YOU KNOW?Oath of Witness affidavits are required to be filed in Court in order to open an estate unless the witnesses signed each page of the Will along with the signature of the person executing the Will?
Living Will is a document that authorizes a loved one to make the decision to stop treatment by a hospital on your behalf in the event that a terrible accident or illness which renders you incapable of sustaining life without constant aide of respirator or equipment.
Health Care Surrogate
Health Care Surrogate is a document that authorizes a loved one to make the decision on your behalf for the type of additional or alternative treatment a doctor performs if an unexpected issue arises during the course of surgery that you have not already authorized the Doctor to perform.
Durable Power of Attorney
Durable Power of Attorney is a document that authorizes another individual to make decisions on your behalf in the event you are mentally or generally incapacitated. This document may also provide an individual authority for a specific purpose.
Credit Shelter Trust
This trust is prepared within the Last Will and Testament and provides tax benefits for amounts up to two million dollars USD for beneficiaries of estates. These trusts can be stacked by existing in husband and wife estates and by generation. Therefore, if you and your wife create these trusts in their Wills, the children will receive tax benefits up to four million dollars.
Family Limited Trust
Family limited trusts are entities incorporated in which assets are transferred into during lifetime to enable these assets to be exempt from any probate proceedings. Federal laws allow you to transfer up to one million dollars in assets each year into the family limited trust without tax ramifications for the transfer. Upon the passing of the family members moving assets into this trust, the trust becomes effective and the assets are distributed to the beneficiaries in accordance to the terms of the trust. More importantly, the assets are completely exempted from probate and therefore any inheritance tax.
In the event the deceased is on the deed of a house protected under homestead, in the event the surviving member is also on the deed and is protected under homestead, the home is transferred to the surviving member and exempted from probate and any claim or lien.
If you have a Last Will and Testament, your surviving family members will have a set of instructions on how to distribute your assets. In addition, wills appoint an individual, individuals, or an entity as the estate’s Personal Representative. The Personal Representative is essentially the officer of the estate who has the power to close open accounts that are liabilities, such as car loans, credit cards, even simple things like cell phone contracts or the water bill. The Personal Representative also collects all of the assets into the estate and then distributes them in accordance to the terms of the will once creditor publications have expired. So long as a Will is in place, these responsibilities and appointments of Personal Representatives are straightforward and simplified, and the Court as well as the Personal Representative has the Will’s instructions to follow in closing any liabilities and distributing any assets. There are tax benefits with estates opened and closed by Last Wills and Testatments.
In the event you do not have a Will, then you must file for probate as an intestate. This means that there are no instructions on how the assets are to be distributed, and no specific appointment of a Personal Representative. These situations result in more timely and costly probate proceedings, because it will involve everyone who survived and may have an interest in the assets. However, more impressively, it takes longer to close liabilities, meaning close the accounts or change the accounts because it will take longer for the Court to appoint a Personal Representative, because there is no Will to instruct the Court as to who the Personal Representative is going to be. As an analogy, it is like building a car engine without instructions when you don’t know how to add window washing fluid. Taxes levied on estates that were files intestate are significantly higher than estates filed testate.
Letters of Administration
This is an executed Court order that appoints the Personal Representative enabling the Personal Representative to open a bank account for the estate, as well as transfer assets, and close liabilities.
Each state has their own title for the person or entity charged by Court order to handle all matters of the estate, including but not limited to, transfer assets, open accounts for the estate, close liabilities, and handle liens against the estate. Florida titles this position as, “Personal Representative”; however, other names for this position are, “Executor” and “Executrix”