Paul E. Riffel, Attorney at Law
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Tampa Wills & Trusts Attorneys

Having a comprehensive estate plan is important for everyone. Too many individuals believe that an estate plan is not necessary because of their age, because they have no dependents, or because they do not own substantial property or assets. However, sudden tragic accidents can occur at any time and, if you pass away without an estate plan, all of your debts, property, and assets will be distributed at the mercy of Florida intestacy laws and the probate court. In addition, estate planning tools can provide many benefits while you are still alive. It is never the wrong time to discuss your situation and legal options with an experienced Tampa wills & trusts attorney. Attorney Paul E. Riffel has been assisting individuals throughout Hillsborough County create smart and effective estate plans for over 30 years, so do not hesitate to contact our office today.

Wills

A 1977 study found that fewer than half of people surveyed had a will. Some of the reasons include laziness (64%); never considered it (15%); do not need one because too young, no children, not enough property (15%); and other reasons (6%).

But putting off preparing a will is not only a futile way to avoid the inevitable—it is a big mistake. If you die without a will, your estate will be divided up by a Probate Court according to a hierarchy of heirs that varies from state to state. In Florida, the surviving spouse receives fifty percent of the estate if there are children of the decedent who are not the children of the surviving spouse. The other half is divided among those children. Without a will, the Probate Court not only decides who gets what based on state law, it also appoints people to handle your affairs, including appointing a guardian for your minor children and a personal representative. You lose the opportunity to make vital decisions. Contact our Tampa wills attorney today.

A will has three essential functions: to name a personal representative who will see to it that your estate is distributed, according to the terms of your will, to spell out who is to inherit how much of your estate, and to name a guardian for your minor children. In the will, the personal representative will be given extra powers and no bond will be required, both of which reduce the cost of probate considerably. In naming your beneficiaries you can include or exclude anyone and also have a provision for their survivors to be included if they should predecease you. If there are minor children, a testamentary trust is essential for their proper care. Otherwise, all assets awarded to your child will be turned over when he or she reaches age 18.

A will must be written and witnessed in a special manner provided by law. Florida does not recognize hand-written will without any witnesses. A will can be amended or entirely revoked at any time before the maker’s death as long as the maker is competent. Remarriage, relocation, birth of a child, a new job, and major revisions in the tax law are all reasons to update your will.

To assist your Tampa estate planning attorney in properly preparing you will you need to have the following information:

  • The personal representative and a contingent personal representative;
  • Your primary beneficiary or beneficiaries;
  • Your secondary beneficiary or beneficiaries;
  • If there are minor children; a guardian and contingent guardian; and
  • If there are minor children, a trustee and contingent trustee as well as a contingent beneficiary within the trust.

Each will we prepare is drafted according to your particular needs and situation. Once it is completed it is properly executed in our office. Do not lose the opportunity to make these important decisions—set up a will conference today.

Drafting A Last Will And Testament

A will is the document most often associated with estate planning and this document is extremely important to express your intentions for your estate distribution to the probate court. In order for a will to be enforceable and effective, however, it must be drafted and executed in a specific manner in compliance with Florida statute. At the law office of Paul E. Riffel, we have a thorough understanding of the requirements for a valid will and can help you identify the necessary provisions in your will, determine how your estate will be distributed, and identify any potential property or beneficiaries you may have overlooked.

Living Wills

A living will allows you to state in advance your unwillingness to be subjected to life prolonging medical measures in the event an injury or illness leaves you no chance of recovery.

The living will not only expresses your wishes, but also relieves others of the legal and emotional burden of making decisions for you. For instance, the living will can ease a doctor’s fear of civil or criminal liability if he or she abides by a dying patient’s wishes. Without a living will, it is likely life-sustaining treatment will be provided even though such treatment may only serve to extend the period of dying.

Once the living will has been executed, give copies to family members, close friends, your clergy, lawyer and anyone else who may be called upon to make decisions when you are dying. Ask you doctor to include a copy in your medical file.
If you are considering a living will, you should also know that:

Refusing life support measures is not considered suicide. Your death would be caused by your disease or condition, not the withholding or withdrawing of treatment.

In Florida, the statute specifically states that the execution of living will can have no effect on insurance policies.
To date, no healthcare provider or facility has ever faced criminal or civil charges as a result of honoring a living will.
It is recommended that you re-date and initial your living will periodically (at least once every 5 years) to make sure that our directions are unchanged.

Should you wish later to revoke your living will, you can sign witnessed and notarized statement indication that the document is no longer valid, or you can simply destroy all copies of the original living will. Our Tampa living wills attorney can help.

Trusts

A trust is a device in which the legal title to property and the right to control it are separated from the right to receive benefits from it. Trusts come in many different forms with several distinguishing features. Various terms are used to describe trusts. Commonly they are revocable, irrevocable and testamentary. These descriptions reflect important aspects of the trust. “Revocable” means that the settlor of the trust retains the assets while alive. “Irrevocable” means that the settlor of the trust has given the right to revoke the trust. “Testamentary” means that the trust is created by the testator’s will. Contact our Tampa trusts attorney. Revocable living trusts have become popular probate avoidance devices.

Some positive aspects of trusts are:

Assets transferred into a revocable living trust do not go through probate; and

Provides more privacy because the probate process is a public proceeding

Nonetheless, such trusts are not for everyone. Some other considerations are as follows:

  • Creation of a trust is more expensive;
  • The trust provides no protection from creditors;
  • Transferring assets into the trust can be a cumbersome process; and
  • Tax returns must be filed for the trust after the settlor dies

The Benefits Of Forming A Trust

A will is often not sufficient on its own to protect your property and the best interests of your surviving family. For this reason, many individuals opt to form a living trust, which is a legal arrangement that transfers the ownership of certain assets and property from you to the trust. While you are alive, you can serve as the trustee and manage your property as you normally would. After your death, your carefully chosen trustee will continue to manage and distribute your property in accordance with your carefully drafted trust instructions. Trusts have many benefits including asset protection and avoiding the probate process. An experienced attorney can evaluate whether forming a trust is right for you.

Other Estate Planning Tools

There are many other important estate planning tools in addition to a will or a trust, including durable and medical powers of attorney, advanced healthcare directives, insurance policies, and more. At the law office of Paul E. Riffel, we can identify all of the tools needed to create a comprehensive estate plan for you so that you receive proper care at the end of life and so your family and estate will be protected after your death.

Find Out How A Tampa Wills & Trusts Attorney Can Help You

Estate plans can vary substantially from one individual to the next depending on many factors. Tampa wills, trusts, and estate planning attorney Paul E. Riffel helps design individualized plans that are beneficial to each client, so please call our office today at 813-265-1185 for assistance.

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Paul E. Riffel, Attorney at Law

Paul Riffel Law is located in Tampa FL and serves clients in and around Brandon, Tampa, Valrico, Odessa, Thonotosassa, Gibsonton, Sydney, Dover, Land O Lakes, Oldsmar, Apollo Beach, Lithia, Safety Harbor, Trilby, Plant City, Durant, Holiday, Hillsborough County and Pasco County.

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