Wills and Trusts
DeBellis Law, P.A. is a full-service estate planning firm, using wills and trusts to accomplish the best plan to meet our clients’ needs. Estate planning ensures that your assets will be distributed in accordance with your wishes. An estate plan may include a Will, one or more Trusts, a Durable Power of Attorney, a Declaration of Health Care Surrogate, and Living Will.
Developing a Plan
At DeBellis Law, P.A., we spend a great deal of time during the intake and consultation process, including a careful review of your assets, to work with clients to develop an individualized plan. We understand that no client or family is the same, so no two clients will leave our office with the same exact plan. We advise clients regarding the benefits, advantages, and disadvantages of using wills or trusts and provide guidance, support, and assistance throughout the funding process.
We use revocable trusts primarily to avoid the probate process and to make sure your assets are managed and distributed according to your wishes. Probate can be a very lengthy and expensive process, so taking steps during your lifetime to avoid it will likely cost less money in the long run and make it easier for your family and beneficiaries to distribute your assets after your demise. If you want to learn more about probate, click here.
As the creator of the revocable trust, you will serve as the trustee and maintain full control of the assets. The terms of your revocable trust will also instruct the successor trustee as to the proper management of assets in the event that you are unable to make decisions regarding the trust.
Depending upon your estate planning goals, we can customize the terms of the trust and even retain assets for later generations. This creates a legacy for your family while properly planning for all available tax benefits. We can also provide for protective trusts in the event one beneficiary is disabled, an inappropriate spender, too immature to handle the assets, or if a beneficiary is going through a divorce. We can also develop comprehensive plans for charitable gifts and specific gifts of property.
Power of Attorney, Health Care Surrogate, & Living Will
These documents, also known as “Advance Directives,” are they are tools used to help clients plan for incapacity. The importance of having these documents cannot be understated as they avoid the need for guardianship in the event of incapacity. The Durable Power of Attorney is a detailed document providing legal authority for your designee to act on your behalf when you are unable physically and/or mentally to act on your own.
Similarly, a Designation of Health Care Surrogate allows you to choose individuals you trust to make vital health care decisions if you are unable to make those decisions for yourself. At DeBellis Law, P.A., we take care to ensure all state and federal regulations are complied with, including HIPPA language and statutory requirements, so that your health care surrogate can speak freely with your doctors and access your records when needed.
A Living Will specifies your wishes regarding life sustaining treatment if you are ever in a persistent vegetative state or on life support with no expectation of recovery. This document gives your surrogate specific direction if you are ever in this situation and gives them the authority to make the decision you would have made for yourself.
Planning for Minor Children
An important aspect of estate planning is providing for your family after your demise. If you have minor children, you can designate a Guardian for your children to care for them in the event that you and your spouse die unexpectedly before your children have reached age 18.
As discussed above, you can also create continuing trusts for each of your children to be sure that your assets are used for their care. You will designate a trustee (which does not have to be the same person as the guardian) and the trustee will manage and use the assets in the trust to pay for your child’s health, education, and support. It is important to take these steps because it would create significant legal issues if your child inherits assets as a minor. In that case, a guardianship would have to be established through the court and would remain in place until your child turns 18.
Keeping Your Estate Plan Current
If you already have an estate plan in place, it is important to review your plan every few years to be sure that your documents are up to date. Laws often change and your prior estate planning attorney does not have a responsibility to update you regarding any changes in the law. Additionally, if circumstances or relationships change in your family, it is always wise to revisit your estate plan to be sure it accurately reflects your current wishes.
As a Florida-based firm, we frequently have clients who have moved from another state. It is important to update your documents as a Florida resident to be sure that there are no administration issues during incapacity or upon demise. In addition, Marissa DeBellis, Esq., the owner of the firm, is licensed in New York and has significant experience with clients who are moving from New York or spend time in both states.
Before your initial consultation with DeBellis Law, please be sure to indicate whether you have a current estate plan. We are happy to review your current documents to determine whether they should be updated.
Our office is located in Palm Beach Gardens, but we are happy to schedule a consultation closer to you or in your home, particularly if you or a loved one has difficulty travelling.