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The month of January is underway and we know many Floridians are focusing on how they will reach the resolutions they set, how about your resolutions? What did your resolutions focus on? Work or health or family or all three? Did you include creating an estate plan this year?

We believe that one of the most important New Year’s resolutions you can make this year is to create your Florida estate plan. With your estate plan in place you will be protected both during your lifetime and at the time of your death. Working with your Florida estate planning attorney will enable you to create an estate plan that will protect you while you are living and then your estate when you pass away. In addition, your attorney will ensure your choices for your health care and finances are honored by your chosen decision maker. She will also advise you on how to make sure that your family will be provided for when you are no longer here with them.

Do you have an estate plan? If your answer is yes, that is good news. It is important, however, that your plan is up-to-date and reflects your wishes for yourself and your loved ones. As we all know, during the year many changes can happen within your family, your business, and your finances. It is important to make sure your estate plan remains effective in not only expressing the desired future for you and your loved ones, but also has the best tools in place to accomplish those goals.

Ready to get started? Here are four tips we want to share with you as you work on your Florida estate plan in the new year.

1. If your immediate family members have changed, it is critical that you update your Florida estate plan as soon as possible. Whether it is a birth, death, divorce, or other life update, make it a priority to work with your estate planning attorney to determine if your estate plan needs any updates or significant changes.

2. Without a Florida estate plan, are you truly unprotected if you are over 18 years of age? Absolutely! Without a Florida estate plan, in the event of a crisis or death, there will be no guidance for your family, your bank, your friends, or the court system. Without an estate plan in place the court in Florida may be required to step in to appoint someone in order for there to be legal authority for another to act on your behalf. This can be time consuming, costly, and public, and can be avoided by completing your estate planning while you have the capacity to do so.

3. When getting started with creating a plan or updating it, is time of the essence? Yes, it is important to put the plan in place, sooner rather than later, in order to maximize the potential benefits a Florida estate plan has to offer.

4. If I have a last will and testament may I avoid probate? No, a will by itself must be read by the Florida probate court. By creating a trust you may avoid probate. If one of your estate planning goals is to avoid probate, you should discuss this in a meeting with your attorney.

5. I am not ill or really old, do I have to look into long-term care planning now? It is never too early to consider long-term care planning. Right now, by choosing to work with a Florida estate planning attorney who also has experience in Florida long-term care planning, she can advise you on how to plan to avoid losing all of your savings to pay for nursing home care.

6. Who or what is the best resource as I begin to accomplish my estate planning and long-term care planning goals? Your Florida estate planning attorney is your best resource. She will discuss with you the importance of lifetime planning using tools such as the durable power of attorney for your finances. She will help you choose your decision maker, as well as back up decision maker, for times of crisis. She can also discuss with you the difference between will based estate planning and trust based estate planning.

We know this article may raise more questions than it answers. We want to help you achieve the New Year’s resolution of having a Florida estate plan that can meet your needs. At Britton G. Swank, P.A., our mission is to guide you in the right direction to help you provide for yourself and your loved ones no matter what the future holds. We want to help you control the assets you have, leave them to people and causes you care about, when you want, in the way you want. We can help you take care of yourself and those you love in the event of disability due to illness, injury or old age. No matter what risks unfold, we can help give you the comfort of knowing you are prepared. We want you to feel good about your future and the future of your loved ones. We encourage you to contact us and schedule a meeting.