Estate Planning, Probate and Guardianship

Estate Planning, Probate and Guardianship2019-01-11T15:39:00+00:00

Comprehensive estate planning and probate attorneys guide clients in developing a detailed estate planning strategy and guide them through the probate legal process to protect their assets and leave behind a legacy

We work our entire lives to accumulate all our assets and belongings, and we want them to be protected and to pass on according to our own wishes when we die. But we usually don’t want to think about the inevitability of our own death, and we probably don’t want to plan for it either. However, proper planning is essential to ensuring you keep control upon your death and your wishes are carried out. Proper estate planning requires and individual analysis of each client’s needs and wishes to develop a customized estate planning strategy. Using a trusted estate planning and probate attorney who knows the estate planning laws in the State of Florida and can thoroughly guide you through the legal process is imperative to proper and complete estate planning. The attorneys at The Storay Advocacy Group, P.A. (SAG) are highly skilled in all areas of estate planning, and probate, and we carefully guide their clients through the entire legal process from start to finish. It is never too soon to start thinking about your estate plan, but it can become too late if you keep waiting. And even if you already have begun the process of estate planning, your plan should be reviewed regularly to ensure it is updated and remains reflective of your wishes with major life events and changes.

What Is Estate Planning?

Whether you know it or not, you have an estate, everyone does. An estate is the compilation of everything you own – checking and savings accounts, insurance, furniture, clothing, your home or car, and personal belongings – everything you own will become a part of your estate upon your death. Estate planning is simply establishing a plan now for whom you want to receive those belongs, and how and when you want your assets to be distributed upon death. But the simplicity of estate planning ends with its definition. A comprehensive estate plan can also:

  • Include a living will with hospital instructions such as resuscitation orders
  • Make funeral arrangements in advance, and provide a means to paying for such arrangements in advance
  • Minimize tax implications, court fees and costs, and any other unnecessary legal fees associated with the probate process – so your heirs receive as much as possible.
  • Include disability income insurance to protect your income and continue to provide for your family if you become seriously ill, injured, or disabled prior to your death, long term care insurance to pay for your cost of care if you experience an extended illness, injury, or need to be placed in a nursing home, and life insurance to cover final expenses and continue to provide for your family beyond your death.
  • Provide instructions for how you would like to be cared for if you become disabled or incapacitated prior to your death.
  • Name a guardian for your minor children or provide for family members with special needs.
  • Establish protections to provide for heirs who may be financially irresponsible and require future protection and assistance in financial management and decision making
  • Provide instructions for how you want to pass along your personal values, such as religion and education, on to your heirs.
  • Provide instructions for who your interest in business ownerships should be passed to and how upon your death.

Proper estate planning is an important step for everyone to take to protect their assets and best interests of their family and loved ones, and once established should be continually reviewed to ensure the plan is accurately reflecting your current wishes.

What Happens If You Die Without An Estate Plan?

When you die without an estate plan, you are referred to as having died intestate, and intestate succession will apply in determining, according to state law, how your belongings will be distributed amongst your heirs. The State of Florida does have a plan for anyone who dies without one, but the chances are likely that it will not follow the same plan you would have wanted had you taken the time to prepare your own plan beforehand. Intestate succession distributes the decedent’s belongings and assets in a manner that is supposed to represent how the average person would have designed their estate plan, but this default plan often differs drastically from what someone would have really wanted to happen. And even if it is known what the decedent’s wishes were, or if there are special needs or circumstances, no exceptions are made to the default plan when a person dies without an estate plan in place.

Caring estate planning and probate attorneys provide clients with the individualized attention a thorough and comprehensive estate plan requires

The thorough estate planning and probate lawyers at The Storay Advocacy Group, P.A. (SAG) genuinely care for their clients and want to walk with them through every step of their estate planning and probate process. Whether you are looking to begin your estate planning process for the first time, review or change your current plan, or you need assistance with a current probate administration process, our estate planning and probate lawyers can help. It is our passion to help families through their most emotional legal challenges and aide them in finding the solution that is right for them. To schedule your free and confidential legal consultation with one of our skilled estate planning and probate attorneys to draft or revise your estate plan call us at 813-502-5520 or contact us online. We look forward to working with you soon.

Wills

A will should be the primary building block at the foundation of every estate plan. Your will is a written legal document that is used to name an personal representative for your estate (the person who will be responsible for ensuring your wishes listed in your will are carried out), establish a guardian for any minor children, and determine what specific property and assets will be distributed to your heirs upon your passing. In a will your heirs do not have to be direct relatives, you can use a will to establish how property and assets will be divided among family, friends, and even charitable organizations that you want the assets to pass along to. While a will is the foundation of your estate plan, there may be other documents you need to include as part of your estate plan because a will does not avoid the probate process.

Trusts

A trust is a tool that can be used to distribute assets during a person’s life, or at their death, instead of a will. Revocable living trusts are a popular method used for transferring assets to beneficiaries outside of the probate process. A revocable living trust can prevent the court from controlling your assets, bring all of your assets together into one plan (even ones with beneficiary designations), provide privacy a will does not, is valid in every state and can avoid ancillary probate (when there is probate in more than one state), and can be changed by the creator at any time. Generally, trusts are also more difficult to challenge than a will is, however a trust can still be challenged by trustees, beneficiaries, and other parties, so it is important to ensure the trust is properly written to prevent issues such as probate and challenges. The creator of a trust will name trustees who will be responsible for managing the trust and all assets controlled by it through the instructions you designate in the creation of the trust. A trust can be used to provide long-term care for a heir with special needs or to protect financial assets from creditors and spouses of irresponsible heirs.

Guardianship

Many comprehensive estate plans have a need to include guardianship plans within them. Guardianship is used to establish a person who will be responsible for making personal, legal, and financial decisions if a parent of a minor child dies or the person establishing guardianship becomes otherwise physically or mentally incapacitated and incapable of making decisions for themselves. There are many reasons establishing guardianship may be essential to completing your estate planning strategy.

What Is Probate?

Probate is the legal process in which a person’s debts and taxes are paid, and their property and assets are transferred upon their death. If the decedent had a will when they died, probate is the legal process of the court administering the decedent’s property, assets, and wishes according to their will. If a will is not in existence when they died, probate is the legal process of the court administering the decedent’s property and assets according to the intestate succession laws of their state. Proper estate planning designed to avoid complications with probate are generally established in one of two ways – with a will or a trust. There are different types of probate, and the attorneys at SAG are experienced in handling:

  • Formal Administrationin a formal administration a full petition is filed along with a formal “notice to creditors”, there are generally no shortcuts involved in the process, and the entire process can take quite some time to finish and allow the assets to be inventoried and distributed by the final court order.
  • Summary Administration a summary administration can be used in cases with assets totaling less than $75,000 in the estate, and typically takes less time and is less expensive to file and complete than a formal administration.

The basic probate process includes collecting all the decedent’s property and assets into the estate, paying all debts and taxes owed by the estate, collecting all rights to income and dividends, settling any disputes or challenges, and distributing the remaining property and assets to the decedent’s heirs.

What Is Guardianship?

Guardianship is the legal process in which one person is appointed by the court to serve as a legal decision-maker for personal and/or financial decisions of a minor or another adult who has physical or mental disabilities and is incapable of making sound decisions for themselves. The person who is appointed as the decision-maker is called the “guardian” and the person for whom the guardian is responsible is called the “ward”. While making the decision to have a guardian appointed is difficult because of there being a loss of a certain amount of independence, the law tends to favor appointing the least restrictive form of guardianship that will be effective. Whether you are a potential ward thinking of appointing a guardian or are seeking to be appointed as a guardian of a ward, contact an experienced guardianship attorney to discuss your individual needs and goals who can help you determine whether guardianship is the right decision for you.

Compassionate guardianship attorneys guide clients through their most emotional family decisions

There are times in life when we must rely on others to help care for us or our loved ones, even if we wish we were able to still do so ourselves.  Whether guardianship is being appointed voluntarily by the person needing a guardian or involuntarily by the courts, the skilled guardianship attorneys at The Storay Advocacy Group, P.A. (SAG) understand the high level of emotion involved in deciding to have a guardian appointed and we are here to help guide you and your loved ones through the complex guardianship legal process. We will work together with you to determine a complete legal strategy designed around your needs and aimed at reaching your goals for the guardianship.

Who Can Be A Guardian?

In the state of Florida, for an individual to qualify to become a guardian, they must be age 18 or older and generally a Florida resident. Additionally, any person seeking to be appointed as a guardian cannot have ever been convicted of a felony. If the individual seeking appointment as a guardian is not a resident of Florida, they may still be able to obtain guardianship if any of the following apply:

  • They are related by direct descent to the ward, such as a child or grandchild
  • They are the legally adoptive parent or a legally adopted child of the ward
  • They are a spouse, sibling, aunt, uncle, niece, nephew, or have some other familial relationship to the ward
  • They are the spouse of a person who is otherwise qualified as listed above

Types Of Guardianship

There are different forms of guardianship. The most common forms are limited and plenary.

Limited guardian means a guardian who has been appointed by the court to exercise the legal rights and powers specifically designated by court order entered after the court has found that the ward lacks the capacity to do some, but not all, of the tasks necessary to care for his or her person or property, or after the person has voluntarily petitioned for appointment of a limited guardian.

Plenary guardian means a person who has been appointed by the court to exercise all delegable legal rights and powers of the ward after the court has found that the ward lacks the capacity to perform all of the tasks necessary to care for his or her person or property.

Reasons For Guardianship

There are a variety of different reasons someone may require or need a guardian. Some of the most common examples of situations requiring a guardian to be appointed include:

  • A disabled minor child who reaches the age of 18 but is still incapable of making their own legal, financial, and healthcare decisions
  • A minor child who has lost their parents from either death or incapacitation needs a guardian, and often another family member is able to obtain guardianship of the minor child
  • A minor child who receives an inheritance, proceeds of a lawsuit, or an insurance policy payout that exceeds statutory amounts needs a guardian appointed to be responsible for financial management and decision making
  • An elderly adult who is no longer capable of managing their own finances or making sound decisions may be appointed a guardian, often this guardian is one of their children or a younger family member

What A Guardianship Attorney Does

A skilled guardianship attorney can guide their clients through every step of the guardianship process. The guardianship lawyers at SAG assist people seeking a guardianship appointment of someone else and those wanting to appoint a guardian for themselves or a loved one with developing a legal strategy that will fulfill their needs and goals of the guardianship. A guardianship attorney assists with completing and filing the proper legal forms and documents on behalf of the petitioner, ensure the proposed guardian meets necessary requirements, attend guardianship hearings, and assist the guardian in completing and filing the initial inventory of the ward’s assets, the initial guardianship plan, and the required annual guardianship plan and accountings of the plan. The Storay Advocacy Group, P.A. (SAG) is also proud to be a full-service firm and to have skilled attorneys in all areas of family law, estate planning and probate, bankruptcy, and personal injury, and we can assist our guardianship clients with cases such as these which are related to their guardianship case.

Caring guardianship attorneys provide individualized attention to each client while guiding them through the guardianship process

The compassionate guardianship lawyers at The Storay Advocacy Group, P.A. genuinely care for their clients and want to walk with them through every step of their guardianship process. It is our passion to help families through their most emotional legal challenges and aide them in finding the solution that is right for them. To schedule your free and confidential legal consultation with one of our skilled guardianship attorneys call us at 813-502-5520 or contact us online. We look forward to working with you soon.