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Welcome to Estate Planning in Florida, a service of the Bates-Buchanan & Savitsky Law Group,  Dawn Marie and Susannah are Florida estate planning attorneys.

Estate planning is more than just drawing up a Will or Trust.  It's a well-planned and organized process to pass valuable assets you have acquired during your lifetime to your loved ones in the most efficient way possible. This also includes advance directives, such as Durable Power of Attoney, Living Will and Healthcare Surrogate documents to help you during your lifetime.

Valuable assets include your home, other real estate, businesses, investments, personal property and even your experiences, life lessons and values.  

We have a Flat Fee for these services. We don't change the price based on the value of your estate.








DEEDS $150.00 (PER DEED). 


The total of having all documents listed (not including Deed) is $2000.00 - or $4000.00 per couple




What is difficult for most people to discuss the fact that often on any different day it can mean the end of life or a reason to make hard decisions about healthcare and property issues. Perhaps the best way to approach this is by considering some of the most important questions. What do you want out of your life? What is important to you? Do you have any religious or ethical beliefs that doctors or hospitals should be aware of? That loved ones need to be aware of? Who is going to take care of you, if you can’t? Under what circumstances do you wish to remain alive? If you die, what is going to happen to you? What is going to happen to your assets? These are tough questions, but they need to be answered.



Have  A Life Documents File.

A Life Documents File is a collection of our important legal papers from identification records and major contracts we have signed to legal documents we have prepared or have had prepared for us by an attorney.  Examples of documents we should keep on file include the following:


Legal Papers to Keep on File

Birth Certificate or Adoption Certificate, Passport, Social Security Card, Marriage Certificate, Divorce Decree, Deeds, Loan documents, Insurance Contracts - life, health, home, auto titles, Military Discharge or Military ID, Naturalization Papers

Legal Forms to Prepare and Keep on File

Letter of Instruction, Will, Living Will, Power of Attorney, Healthcare Surrogate

HIPPA Release (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996), Trust
Name Change Documents.(if applicable)

Once you have compiled all of your important legal papers into a Life Documents File, you will need a safe place to keep them. Find a location at home where you know they will be secure, yet readily accessible in case you need to leave your home in a hurry and take your file with you. A personal home safe is best. You can also keep a copy of your Life Documents File at local bank by renting a safe deposit box. If you have an attorney, make sure he or she has a copy of your life documents file too. If you don't have an attorney, make sure a family member or close friend has a copy or knows about the location(s) of your file so they will know where to obtain your legal documents in the event you are unable to communicate with them.


The wealth of information and options available for handling basic legal matters now makes it very easy and affordable for people to organize their legal affairs and to keep and prepare legal documents. Whether you prepare forms on your own, go through a document preparation service, or hire an attorney to do the work for you, you should create and keep the following legal forms in your life document file: Letter of Instruction, Will, Living Will, Power of Attorney, Healthcare Surrogate, HIPPA Release, Trust, and Name Change (if applicable).


The first type of legal form you should consider preparing is a letter of instruction. A letter of instruction is not a formal legal document, but simply a list of instructions for people to follow when you are sick or have died. A letter of instruction will save the executor a lot of trouble and save on accountant and attorney fees in administering the estate, leaving more money for your loved ones.


A letter of instruction includes, but is not limited to, the following:


a.       Locations of documents- A list of legal documents, such as wills, trust documents, and powers of attorney, etc., and their location. Be sure to include the location and instructions to computer programs (financial software) and file names where this information may be stored.

b.      Contact list- A contact list of names and phone numbers of close family members.

c.       Remains- Description of prepaid funeral arrangements, or an indication of a preference for one funeral home over another. A statement of the type of desired funeral and whether burial, cremation, or body donation is preferred. The location of a pre-purchased burial plot or preference.

d.      Charities- A preference for charities to receive donations in your honor.

e.       Hospitals- Preferences for certain hospitals.

f.       Financial status- A relatively current list of assets and debts.

g.      Insurance- A list of insurance policies including life, medical, disability, long-term care, and property insurance.

h.      Investments- The location of all investment account statements.

i.        Titles- The location of all deeds to property.

j.        Taxes- The location of copies of tax returns.

k.      Personal resources- The name, address and telephone number of the following people: The family doctor, The family attorney, The family accountant, The family stock broker(s), The religious leader and house of worship.

2.         WILL

a.       A will is vital to ensure that the wishes of the deceased are carried out. A will is used to distribute personal property, real property, money, and particular items to the intended beneficiaries. A will helps you protect items of family or sentimental value from being sold in the estate administration process.

b.      Without a will, a deceased's property will be distributed according the state intestacy statute, which vary by state, or may escheat (be forfeited to) the state. This may take longer and cost more than if there is a will, and can also mean that your possessions and belongings may not be distributed as you would have wished. Your estate might wind up being administered by a total stranger appointed by the court. A will is the only way to ensure that your loved ones and favorite charities aren't deprived of your generosity.

c.       Even if you are married, living with a partner or have children, it is wrong to assume that they will automatically receive your estate should you die. For example, suppose you die in a car wreck caused by a drunk driver. Even if you have no assets, your estate might have a wrongful death suit that recovers millions, all of which will be divided up by the state if there's no will. Should both parents of a child or children die without a will, a court-appointed guardian takes custody of any minor children and of the parents' estate.


d.      Other advantages of making a will, among others, include:


-It is only through making a will that you can choose individuals you trust to act as your own personal representatives, who will take charge of your estate, wind it up and distribute it according to your wishes.
-With a will, you may make arrangements for the guardianship of any dependent children and so ensure that they are cared for as you would have wished.
-Many people also use their will to give specific instructions for their burial, cremation, or possibly for the donation of organs for medical research.
-A will also can avoid tax consequences that may result in its absence. A properly prepared will can greatly reduce estate tax liability.
-A will can save your family from the burdens of intestate distribution procedures and avoid family disputes.




3.         LIVING WILL


1.      A living will legally expresses what you want to occur if you are terminally ill or unable to speak for yourself. It also states who you would put in charge of making final decisions if need be. This would allow doctors to know whether to use artificial means to keep the body alive. The Terri Schiavo case recently highlighted the importance of having a living will in order to have a voice in deciding your fate when you are unable to speak. Expressing your wishes through a living will can save much additional trauma to your loved ones.




              4.         POWER OF ATTORNEY


1.      A power of attorney allows your spouse, a parent, or another competent person to act for you in your behalf. They are required in certain situations when a person is unable to act on their own behalf, such as being disabled or away on military service or other duties. The main purpose of a power of attorney is to appoint someone to make decisions, sign documents, and carry out other important acts when you are unable.


2.      Disability can strike any of us at any time. If a person becomes incapacitated and failed to appoint an attorney-in-fact, then no person may sign deeds, make gifts, or make other decisions without court intervention. A power of attorney may be needed to access joint accounts and conduct other transactions. Without a power of attorney, the spouse, parent or other interested party must petition the appropriate court to be appointed as guardian of the incapacitated person. This process usually costs between $2,500.00 and $5,000.00. By signing a durable power of attorney prior to incapacity, a guardianship proceeding can usually be avoided and the attorney-in-fact can usually act on behalf of the incapacitated person in all regards.







A Designation of Health Care Surrogate is a legal document in which you name someone you trust to make medical decisions for you if you are unable to communicate your wishes.  This designation is designed to work with your Living Will. Although you may already have a Power of Attorney, most Power of Attorney documents do not give the designated person the right to make healthcare decisions, usually only decisions of a financial nature. This why there is a need for both.


  • Normally, a spouse or next of kin makes these decisions, but sometimes (particularly when there's a conflict over treatment) institutions refuse to follow even a spouse's directives unless he or she has a Designation of Health Care Surrogate.  If there is no spouse, there may be delay while trying to locate all family members and determine who has authority. Also, family members often disagree on treatment. Who would you want to be the decision-maker? It is your right to designate that person. Sometimes it is a friend or close associate who has no legally recognized right, but knows you best or has special medical knowledge.


  • The Designation has the names, addresses and telephone numbers of the surrogate, an alternate surrogate, and your regular doctor. It is important that this tool is available in an emergency, so the surrogates and other people have originals or copies. Thus, I have my clients execute three originals. I carry one for myself with me at all times.


  • You need a Designation of Health Care Surrogate because no one can guarantee that:


  • 1. You will always be conscious and competent.


  • 2. You and your spouse will never be in a joint accident.


  • 3. Your children will absolutely agree on your medical treatment.


  • 4. All your children are equally available and emotionally equipped to make medical decisions for you.


  • 5. You have discussed the possibility of your incompetency and all your children know exactly what you would want, and will implement it. If you have wishes such as you do not want amputations, blood transfusions etc., you must put them in your limitations of the Health Care Surrogate.


  • A Designation of Health Care Surrogate eliminates the situation of having three or four children having to debate your medical care at a critical and emotional time.



6.         TRUST


A trust is an entity which owns assets for the benefit of a third person, called the beneficiary. A living trust is an effective way to provide lifetime and after-death property management and estate planning. When you set up a living trust, you are the grantor; anyone you name within the trust who will benefit from the assets in the trust is a beneficiary. In addition to being the grantor, you can also serve as your own trustee (original trustee). As the original trustee, you can transfer legal ownership of your property to the trust. This can save your estate from estate taxes when you die. However, you are still liable for income tax obligations. This document is not always necessary if you have few assets, but you should speak to an attorney or financial planner about the benefits of it. There are many types of trust and you should talk to a professional about what type is right for you and why you are seeking it.

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