Spoiler alert: You are not going to live forever!

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We work with families to educate them and give them peace of mind by answering their questions, explaining the legal process and creating the documents that help 1) create, protect and transfer their nest egg to their loved ones OR 2) navigate the Probate and/or Trust Administration process. What is unique about our practice is that we try to minimize the financial and emotional impact of their matter.  Also, clients expect the experience to be stressful and unpleasant, but we surprise them with the warmth and accessibility of our team and services, and even humor – and often become their lawyer for life.

Let’s face it, no one wants to think about what would happen if they were in the hospital for a long time, needed long-term nursing care forever, or, in the worst case scenario, if they fell ill and died. At JUPITER LAW CENTER, we recognize this is not a “warm and fuzzy” interest that will get you invited to many dinner parties. Trust us. We know.

And, although you can deny the inevitable or put it off just one more year, you are not going to live forever. You’re lots of things, but immortal is not one of them.

But never fear! The professionals at JUPITER LAW CENTER have a reputation for taking the sting out of facing your future and positioning the conversation to help you realize that every decision you make now is one less daunting decision your loved ones will have to make at an emotional time in their lives.

Make sure your wishes are carried out and that the ones you love the most are the ones who receive the most. Leave nothing to chance.  Trust us, the relief you feel after planning your estate will add years to your life.*

*This claim is not based on any fact or scientific study. However, we can say that no puppies were harmed as a result.

A Will is a writing that directs the disposition of property at death.  The laws of each state establish the formal requirements for a legal Will.  In Florida:

  • The maker of the Will (the Testator [Male] or Testatrix [Female]) must be at least 18 years old;
  • The Will must be written and witnessed with certain formalities; and;
  • The Will must be presented to, and admitted by, the Probate Court in order to be validated.

When a Testator/Testatrix dies, he/she is called the Decedent. A Will does not become final until the death of the Decedent, so it may always be amended or revoked or a new Will can be made.

If you die without a Will or Trust, you are said to have died “Intestate” and if you didn’t own your assets jointly with someone or designate specific beneficiaries, then your assets will be distributed according to Florida’s Intestacy Statute, which sets forth a priority of intended beneficiaries. It is very strict and goes by bloodlines only, so “boyfriends”, “girlfriends”, “friends”, “companions”, “roommates” and/or others with whom you have close relationships will be excluded if they are not blood relatives or related to a blood relative. If it is important to you that specific non-family beneficiaries be named, including same-sex significant others, then it is urged that you do so via a Will or Trust rather than leaving it to the Intestacy statute to do for you. Also, your Will designates the person who will serve as the Personal Representative (the person who enforces the Will) so, if you don’t have a Will, the court may appoint someone whom you did not want to serve in that capacity.

A Will affords YOU, and not a third party or the Court, the opportunity to decide:

  • Who should receive your assets (both Real and Personal Property);
  • Who should act as your Personal Representative (formerly called Executor [Male] or Executrix [Female]) and whether or not a Bond should be required of your Personal Representative;
  • Who should act as the Guardian of your minor child(ren) or the Trustee of a beneficiary’s assets;.
  • Whether a Trust should be established to maintain all or a portion of the Estate for the benefit of minors or other beneficiaries; and
  • Whether Real Estate and other assets may be sold without the necessity of Court Proceedings.

Probate is a Court-supervised process to identify and gather a Decedent’s assets, pay any taxes, claims and expenses and distribute the Estate to its beneficiaries. This can take anywhere from several months to several years (depending on the nature of assets in the Estate, how long it takes to sell them and family friction). Inasmuch as the Court file is a Public Record, the details of your Estate might be available to the public and/or to other interested persons or disgruntled heirs (who might attempt to contest the process).

No.  This is a common misconception.  Having a Will does not have anything to do with avoiding Probate because Probate is required if the Decedent died with assets in his/her name (such as a house, bank account, etc.).  However, you can avoid Probate fairly easily by titling certain assets in joint names or by designating beneficiaries on some or all of your accounts. Another way to avoid Probate is to transfer Real Property by Deeds, or set up a Living Revocable Trust, where you can immediately transfer assets from your individual name to the name of your Trust. Then, from a legal perspective, you no longer own anything (because the Trust, in essence, owns the property), but YOU still retain full control of the property if you name yourself as Trustee.

  • Avoid Probate. Since all of your assets are brought together under one plan, there is nothing that needs to be subjected to the Probate process when you die. And, this type of Trust is revocable, so you may always modify the terms or even revoke it. Many clients prefer having a Living Revocable Trust to consolidate assets, minimize potential Probate fees and assist with creditor protection issues.
  • Avoid Guardianship. If you are unable to manage your affairs or conduct business due to mental or physical incapacity, then only a Court Appointed Guardian or Attorney-in-Fact can act for you – even if you have a Will (which only becomes effective upon your death). Once the Court gets involved, it usually stays involved until you recover or die. The Court, and not your family, becomes the ultimate decision-maker as to how your assets are to be used to care for you. A Living Revocable Trust permits you, rather than the Court, to name a Trustee to make those decisions.
  • Care for your Beneficiaries’ needs after your death. After your death, assets can remain in your Trust, managed by the Successor Trustee you have chosen – until your beneficiaries reach the ages(s) you have determined to be appropriate for them to inherit or to provide for a loved one with Special Needs (including Disabilities and/or Substance Abuse issues) or financial issues (such as a pending lawsuit or Divorce where it would be better not to disburse).

A Durable Power of Attorney designates someone as your Attorney-in-Fact to handle your financial, business and personal affairs for you when you are incapacitated, while a Health Care Surrogate manages your health and medical needs during such time. Each designation is effective as soon as it is signed and survives incapacity. When you die, it ceases to be effective, and your Will or Trust takes over.

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (“HIPAA”) law protects a patient’s privacy by requiring certain Release language so that your physicians, healthcare professionals, dentists, health plans, hospitals, clinics, laboratories, pharmacies and/or other health care providers may furnish information to your Attorney-in-Fact/Surrogate regarding your condition or your care. Absent this language, your designee may be denied access to your records and/or information at the time he/she needs access the most.

Most people do not understand the importance of a Durable Power of Attorney/Health Care Surrogate until a loved one becomes incapacitated – and by then, it is too late for the incapacitated person to sign it, forcing the commencement of expensive proceedings to transfer assets or make decisions that could have easily been avoided by the simple use of the Durable Power of Attorney and/or Health Care Surrogate.

A Living Will expresses your wish not to be kept alive by an artificial life support system or by forced feeding in the event of a terminal injury, disease or illness (where death is imminent), affording you Death with Dignity. In situations where there are multiple family members and/or friends with varying viewpoints, the existence of a Living Will prevents your family or friends from being faced with the heavy burden of making this decision for you, since you have already made it for them.

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