Important Questions Every Estate Plan Must Answer

No one enjoys contemplating what the likely consequences would be if death or incapacitation comes earlier than expected. Thinking about the emotional, financial, social and legal toll such an event would cause is usually enough to stop most people from exploring ways to make such a traumatic life event easier. While such topics are unpleasant, they do need to be addressed in order to save surviving family members from potentially complex legal entanglements that often arise in absence of an estate plan, and the burden of trying to discern how a person would want their property distributed. There are numerous legal options to make a person’s wishes about property distribution, medical care and designating guardians for young children or other dependents known. However, before someone can decide which option is right for them, several important questions need to be answered. These essential issues and ways the law allows a person to address them will be discussed below.

Who Will Raise the Children?

As a parent, making sure the children will be cared for in a worst case scenario situation is a major concern. Executing a will is the most direct way to handle this matter. This document will allow a parent to designate family members or friends they wish to assume parenting responsibilities. Most importantly, though, a will gives the designees the authority to be named as legal guardians so they have the right to make decisions related to things like medical care and educational choices. A will also gives the parent the ability to exclude potential guardians and further refine how he/she wants to tackle this topic. Note that before naming a person as potential guardian, it is best to advise the person about this intention and obtain his/her consent to reduce the likelihood of problems if such a need comes to pass.

Possible Future Children

As reproductive technology continues to advance, questions around the possession and ownership of sperm, eggs and frozen embryos after a person’s death is becoming more common, especially as more people are freezing these items years before they anticipate using them. Since this is such a personal issue, it is best to address what to do with this genetic material as soon as a person takes steps to preserve it. As with living children, a will is the best vehicle to cover this issue. If no provisions are left indicating how this material may be used, it could be disposed of by the clinic or given as donations to other unknown individuals.

Medical Care

Deciding how and when one wants to die is another difficult question that should be considered when drafting an estate plan. People have varying opinions about the use of life support, resuscitation and long-term nursing care, and as these matters go to the heart of dying with dignity, it is critical when and how these decisions should be made. Florida offers two different legal instruments that permit a person to name someone to control health decisions during temporary or prolonged incapacitation. A health care surrogacy is a legal designation specifically created for this situation, and allows someone to pick a person that knows what his/her wishes are about medical care and is also able to put aside their own wishes on the subject if the views conflict. There are also powers of attorney, which transfer legal authority from one person to another. This decision-making power typically addresses other issues, such as property and financial affairs, but can also be used for medical purposes. The extent and breadth of the authority can be as broad or narrow as the creator wishes and can last for a single event or be ongoing.

Get Legal Help

If you need to establish or update an estate plan, it is best to work with an experienced estate plan attorney to ensure your wishes clear and legally binding. The Tampa law firm of Bubley & Bubley, P.A. understands the personal nature of these documents and strives to fully and effectively take the necessary steps to protect your interests and your family’s future. Contact us for a free consultation.

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