ESTATE, TRUST, AND PROBATE LAW
At Suzanne W. Green Law we recognize that estate planning is more than just protecting your wealth. Have you thought about who will care for your children if you become disabled? How to ensure that your grandmother's jewelry ends up in the right hands after your death? Will your requests for, or withholding of, medical treatment be carried out if you become incapacitated? With a thoughtful estate plan, many of these concerns can be put to rest.
Understanding An Estate Plan
At Suzanne W. Green Law, our attorneys work closely with you to develop a full understanding of your priorities and goals. We then help you create a customized and holistic estate plan to protect what matters most. No two life stories are identical, therefore no two estate plans will look exactly the same. Rather than using boiler-plate documents, our attorneys use all of their legal tools to create a tailored plan to safeguard your family, assets, and legacy. Regardless of the size or complexity of your estate, there are several main aspects to the estate planning process that are important to know:
Wills & Trusts
In order to ensure that your assets are dispersed pursuant to your wishes, a last will and testament is essential. A will can address your intentions regarding child guardianship, asset dissemination, as well as helping loved ones avoid the lengthy Florida probate process. The creation of a revocable or irrevocable trust is one of the most effective and flexible estate-planning tools for asset management, Medicaid planning, tax relief, and privacy.
Advanced Health Care Directives
An Advanced Health Care Directive (also called a “living will” or "health care surrogate") outlines if, when, and what type of health care you prefer in the event you are unable to express your wishes for medical treatment. Additionally, an Advance Health Care Directive allows you to appoint an individual to make medical decisions for you if you are unable to do so. Perhaps the greatest value brought by an Advanced Directive is that it can bring family members peace of mind that they will not be forced to make difficult medical decisions without knowing your true desires.
Power of Attorney
A Power of Attorney (POA) permits the nomination of a trusted individual to manage your financial and medical issues in the event that you are incapacitated and/or unable to do so sensibly on your own. A knowledgeable attorney may prepare a Durable POA if you wish to create standing instructions, or a Springing POA if you would prefer to transfer authority only after you are no longer able to manage your affairs.
When preparing for your future and legacy, it is important to consider executing estate planning documents to protect your assets, administer your estate, make medical decisions, or secure care for your children. Failure to prepare these documents could result in internal family conflict and insecurity for your family during an already difficult time.
Estate Administration & Probate Law
A "decedent's estate" is a formal way of referring to property left when a person dies. The estate can include personal property: a vehicle, cash in a bank account, proceeds from a life insurance policy, furniture, jewelry, etc. It can also include real property, like a person's home. Often, the estate has both personal and real property. If there was no Will, the person is said to have died "intestate." The probate court supervises the administration of estates whether the person died testate or intestate.
Managing a decedent's estate can be an intricate process and difficult for an individual traverse alone. However, the Ponte Vedra lawyers at Suzanne W. Green Law have the experience and expertise to help an executor or administrator of an estate navigate their way through the complex probate process.
When There is a Will
If the decedent left a will, it will typically name a person to be the "executor" of the estate. Under Florida law, the executor is responsible for conducting an inventory of the decedent's assets, paying the debts of the estate, and distributing assets to the beneficiaries. The executor has the ability to make decisions about the estate without court supervision.
When There is No Will
If no Will exists, the property is divided among the person's heirs. In Florida, if the person has a spouse and/or children, the property first goes to them. If there is no spouse or children, the property goes to the person's next nearest relatives. In these cases, the court will appoint a personal representative (PR) to manage and distribute the assets. Like the executor, the PR of an intestate estate is responsible for completing all the same requirements to distribute the assets of the estate, with an important distinction: the PR has limited authority in carrying out the administration of the decedent's estate. The administrator must obtain court approval before undertaking certain actions.
Let Us Handle The Details
If you are an executor or PR of an estate, our attorneys can provide comprehensive counsel and representation through all aspects of the probate process and help you:
- Notify heirs and creditors
- Find assets and submit an inventory list
- Pay debts and taxes of the estate
- Submit accountings to the court
- Distribute the estate
- Determine homestead status
- Prepare and file all required probate court forms
- Represent the estate in probate court
- Transfer assets
The attorneys at Suzanne W. Green Law understand that the handling of a decedent's estate can be an overwhelming task that requires an acute attention to detail and a thorough knowledge of Florida probate laws. But you do not have to face it alone. The guidance of our knowledgeable and experienced estate and probate attorneys can help you through the overwhelming process. For a confidential consultation with an attorney serving the Ponta Vedra, Nocatee, Duval, or St. Johns areas, contact our office at (904)280-8770 to schedule an initial consultation.