As we have touched on before, the living will, known in Florida as an advance directive, and health care proxy can be important documents for Floridians in case they become incapacitated and cannot make their own health care decisions. Many people will never need these documents, however, what happens if you do need them and don't have them?
Having a medically incapacitated loved one is often a heart-breaking situation. Along with the grief that goes with the loss, there can be the additional stress of when to decide that life-prolonging procedures have become too invasive, especially if someone has been designated as the person's healthcare surrogate. Of course, if the incapacitated person has properly executed an advance medical directive, sometimes called a "living will," as part of a comprehensive estate plan, the decision can be a bit easier, as the person, hopefully, has made their wishes known in that document.
About a month ago, this blog discussed the issue of "living wills" in Florida. To review, a living will, also known as an advance health care directive, is a legal document that specifies a person's wishes with regard to the medical intervention techniques that he or she wants or does not want to be used if he or she becomes incapacitated. Often, along with the advance heath care directive is a health care proxy, which legally designates a person to make medical-related decisions for someone who is incapacitated.
Floridians may have heard the estate planning term "living will." Some may be a bit confused by the phrase and how it differs from what they may think of as a "regular" will. First, it is important to understand that a "living will" isn't really a will, in the technical sense. That is why the term is increasingly being replaced with the terms "health care advanced directive" or "health care proxy." These are the terms recognized by Florida law and they make more sense and differentiate an important document from a last will and testament.
Florida residents who have families are likely aware that having life insurance is a way to help ensure that loved ones have the resources to handle the aftermath of one's death. But there are several types of life insurance, and policies can vary greatly in value. Because of this, it may not be obvious exactly how a life insurance policy fits into an estate plan.
"Snowbirds" is a term that has been used for many years to describe people who make the trip south to Florida every fall and stay until spring before returning north for the summer. The state welcomes snowbirds with open arms, as they add a vibrant diversity to Florida's culture, as well as being a boom to local economies. If you are a snowbird, or simply in the process of relocating to Florida from another state, you may wish to consider the effects that establishing a "domicile" in Florida may have on your estate plan.
Most people who are over 30 likely remember the name Terri Schiavo. This is probably especially true of those of you in Florida. The Schiavo case captured the attention of the nation, and its politicians, and remains controversial today. No matter what you think of the controversy, there is a lesson to be taken from that case, where a husband and parents found themselves in court litigating, in front of the entire nation, whether Terri should or should not be taken off life support.
Many Florida residents may have heard of, or read about, the benchmarks that smart people use to determine their goals for retirement savings. Depending on whom one asks, this can be a million dollar figure, or a certain percentage of your current income. Some experienced financial professionals, however, say that a static figure is not best for everyone, and that proper retirement planning may require a more introspective approach than simply pulling a figure out of the literature.
In a survey done in 2012 by a legal website, it was indicated that only about 41% of members of the "baby-boom" generation have a will. Reportedly, even smaller numbers of individuals belonging to younger generations have an estate plan. Due to the high number of retirees in Flordia, these numbers have an even larger impact than in other states. According to people in the estate-planning field, there are several legal documents that people should secure sooner rather than later.
Perhaps the most important thing any Florida resident should do when estate planning is to write and properly execute a will. Without a valid will, a person's estate passes to relatives according to state law. A valid will directs the court on how to distribute the estate according to the person's own wishes. However, a will can't do everything, and there are times when a well-crafted estate plan needs something more.