Estate Planning : Basic Documents

A Will

A revocable written instrument, executed with the formalities required by Florida statute, by which you declare your wishes as to the disposition of your property, to be performed or take effect after your death.

A Trust

A legal entity created by you, the grantor for the benefit of designated beneficiaries under the laws of Florida. The trust is a flexible vehicle for different types of legal maneuvers. In the typical revocable living trust, you create the trust and appoint yourself as trustee until your death, disability or resignation, and then you appoint a successor trustee to manage your trust for your benefit during a period of your disability and then distributing it to your beneficiaries. Some non-tax benefits are: 1. avoidance of probate delays and expenses; 2. opportunity for professional asset management; and 3. permit distribution over time to the beneficiaries.

Power of Attorney

An instrument in writing, whereby you, as principal, appoints another as your agent and confers authority to perform certain specific acts or kinds of acts on behalf of you. By placing certain language in the power of attorney, the document becomes a "durable power of attorney", and thereby you may authorize any person to act on your behalf, even though you are disabled. By signing a durable power of attorney, you can avoid or at least minimize the risk for the need to appoint a guardian.

Designation of Healthcare Surrogate

A person you appoint to act on your behalf when you are unable to make healthcare decisions.

Living Will

A document you execute which governs the withholding or withdrawal of life-sustaining treatment from you in the event you have an incurable or irreversible condition that will cause death within a relatively short time. The document is used when you are no longer able to make decisions regarding your medical treatment.


Florida has a large number of senior citizens, with no local family for support. If you have not executed a Durable Power of Attorney while you are still competent, upon being declared incompetent by a judge, the judge would also appoint a guardian to take care of your person or your property or both. Because of past abuses of the system, the legislature has imposed a great deal of restraint of guardianships.