Welcome to Florida Estate Law, P.A.’s first blog post. As I type this, the world outside is in the middle of a global pandemic – COVID-19. Not surprisingly, I’ve had a surge of calls requesting estate planning consultations. Below, I’ll summarize the basic estate planning documents, their execution requirements and how estate planners are handling new signing challenges while most of the world is practicing social distancing.
Healthcare Surrogate Designation & Living Will – A Healthcare Surrogate Designation is a document that allows you to name someone to make medical decisions on your behalf should you become unable. A Living Will is a document that allows you to expressly declare your wishes regarding end-of-life procedures.
Each of these documents require, in addition to your signature, the signatures of two witnesses, one of whom cannot be your spouse or a blood relative. Furthermore, the individual(s) named as the Healthcare Surrogate may not serve as a witness. No notarization is required for a Healthcare Surrogate Designation or a Living Will.
Durable Power of Attorney & Pre-Need Guardian Designation – A Durable Power of Attorney is a document that allows you to appoint someone else to manage your financial affairs on your behalf, should you become unable. A Pre-Need Guardian Designation is a document that allows you to select a person that you would like to act as your guardian should you become incapacitated and a guardianship proceeding is initiated.
Each of these documents require, in addition to your signature, the signatures of two witnesses. A Durable Power of Attorney also needs to be notarized, but a Pre-Need Guardian Designation does not.
Last Will and Testament & Revocable Trust – A Last Will and Testament allows you to direct your assets to be distributed to your beneficiaries after you pass away in the proportions you determine. A Revocable Trust allows you to do essentially the same thing, but you can “direct beyond the grave” and retain greater control over the manner in which your beneficiaries receive your assets.
A Last Will and Testament typically includes a self-proofing affidavit, a clause that creates the presumption of the Last Will and Testament’s validity. It’s important to remember that a self-proofing affidavit is optional and is not required for a Last Will and Testament to be valid. A Last Will and Testament with a self-proofing affidavit requires, in addition to your signature, the signatures of two witnesses, and all three signatures must be notarized. Alternatively, if a Last Will and Testament does not have a self-proofing affidavit, then your signature and the signatures of two witnesses are required, but a notarization is not. A Last Will and Testament and the testamentary aspects of a Revocable Trust have identical signing requirements.
Not To Worry – By closely analyzing the Florida Statutes and providing options to our clients with the goal of reducing the number of individuals needed in-person for an estate planning signing, we can successfully help our clients validly execute their estate plans without added worry due to COVID-19. In these unprecedented times, we adapt because we must!