As I sat down to write the blog this month, I reviewed my past posts for inspiration. I came up with a post giving Estate Planning definitions of the terms that I use in my practice. I hope this post is an educational resource for anyone new to the legal vocabulary of Estate Planning.
Estate Planning Documents
These documents will vary depending on your circumstances and consist of your Will, Durable Power of Attorney, and Health Care Surrogate Designation. These documents should be kept in a safe environment and their location known by your Personal Representative. I listed the documents I recommend for my clients living in Florida (https://heidiwebb.com/what-documents-should-be-in-my-estate-planning-if-i-live-in-florida/)
Personal Representative of an Estate
A Personal Representative of an estate is an individual appointed to administer the last Will and testament of a deceased person [in many states called an Executor but not in Florida!]. The Personal Representative’s primary duty is to carry out the instructions in the Will to manage the affairs and wishes of the deceased. https://heidiwebb.com/ask-heidi-what-is-the-role-of-the-personal-representative-in-florida/
Durable Power of Attorney
A legal document gives one person [agent] the power to act for another [principal] that does not become invalid if the principal becomes incapacitated —it is ‘durable’ through incapacity.
Many legal documents must be notarized to be valid. Notarization serves three purposes:
- To ensure the person signing a document is identified correctly
- To ensure the intended person signs the document of their own free Will
- And to ensure the transaction can be independently verified after the fact
Notarization is a system to prevent fraud.
A form filled out for insurance policies, retirement accounts, and other assets when set up. A beneficiary form prevails over a Will. Meaning, in some cases if you didn’t remove an ex-spouse from a beneficiary form, your Will giving everything to your new wife or husband is not valid. This is a complex area that is determined sometimes by federal law and sometimes state, but the general rule is REVIEW/UPDATE beneficiary forms every time you update your Will.
The formal legal process recognizes a Will and appoints the Personal Representative who will administer the estate and distribute assets to the intended beneficiaries.
Please remember that if you are meeting with an attorney and do not understand the terms being used, ask them to explain these Estate Planning definitions to you. This is part of their job as your attorney. Call my office for a free consultation if you live in Daytona Beach or Melbourne, Florida.