Most clients are interested in simple and inexpensive estate planning. They do not want complicated, hard-to-understand, expensive documents. They are interested in a set of documents that can cover everything which will typically be done in one office conference. They include Last Will and Testament, Designation of Health Care Surrogate, Living Will, and Durable Power of Attorney.
The Designation of Health Care Surrogate and Durable Power of Attorney help care for you during your life. These documents appoint Agents to help manage your health care needs and your financial needs during your life. If you do not have these documents with your chosen Agents, and you later become incompetent or otherwise incapable of managing your own affairs, then it is possible that it may be necessary for the State of Florida to start and continue a Guardianship for the rest of your life with the Court selecting the Guardian to manage your affairs for the rest of your life.
Your Last Will and Testament and/or Trust state what happens to your assets after your death, They state your beneficiaries, the amount each beneficiary will receive, and the person who is in charge of administering your estate after death.
For those clients that are interested in trusts, I can answer questions about the different functions of a will and a trust, and the limitations, benefits, and detriments of each. I can also answer questions about different forms of ownership of assets and how they affect wills and trusts.
In conclusion, after discussion, estate planning documents will be prepared, signed, witnessed, and notarized. You will feel secure knowing your “estate” is in order.
Generally, when someone dies owning assets in their name alone, there needs to be some administration of their estate. This is sometimes called Probate. A financial institution may state that they need “Letters of Administration” or some Court Order in order to transfer the assets into the account, because there is no joint owner or no “Payable Upon Death” beneficiary that is specified in the account. Or, there is no other provision or directions in the account to whom the account should be distributed upon death of the owner.
There are different types of administration of the estate that are available. I will only mention three types: formal administration, summary administration, and disposition of personal property without administration.
Generally, in the briefest nutshell explanation which has exceptions, formal administration involves larger estates and the appointment of a Personal Representative with more ongoing duties but also more time and flexibility to deal with later discovered assets and later discovered debts. Summary administration involves smaller estates in which all the assets and all the debts are known with certainty in the beginning. Disposition of personal property without administration involves the smallest of estates in which the petitioner advanced payment of funeral expenses and last medical expenses (60 days before death) and seeks reimbursement. There are statutory requirements for each type of administration which I cannot detail herein.
In further explanation of summary administration, a Petition for Summary Administration is filed which lists all the assets and all the debts, and a proposed Order of Summary Administration (which copies a lot of the petition) is filed at the same time. The Court can immediately enter the Order of Summary Administration which covers only the assets and the debts that were disclosed and stated in the Petition for Summary Administration. If additional assets are later discovered, it is possible that the process may need to be repeated to cover those newly discovered assets with possibly more attorney’s fees and costs due for repeating the process. It is also possible that if a petitioner did not list a debt in the original Petition for Summary Administration, the omitted creditor may seek attorney’s fees against the petitioner who failed to disclose a debt in the original petition.
In conclusion, my services include advising you on what type(s) of administration is allowed. If there are more than one type of administration that is allowed, I can make a recommendation to you of which one I think is the best to use. Most importantly, I can represent you and guide you through each step of administration, providing the services needed to complete administration of the estate and to satisfy all Court requirements.