Law Office of Katherine L. Floyd, PLLC

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Why the DIY Will is A Really Bad Idea

Who doesn’t like to save a few bucks with a “do it yourself” or DIY project? However, some things are best left to the professionals.

There’s no shortage of DIY legal services on the Internet. You can even buy a basic fill in the blank legal form at your local office supply store. People ask me all the time if these documents work. For some people - maybe they do. But does that mean the DIY will is a good idea? I don’t think so. After all, most of us wouldn’t endorse the idea of DIY dentistry.

Here are just a few of the common problems I see with DIY Estate Planning:

1. It’s not custom to your needs.

DIY estate planning is based on filling in simple forms or answering a slate of generic questions. By their very nature they can’t take into account your specific situation, family structure, complexities or concerns. One of the most important pieces of my job is the client interview where I learn about my clients, can ask follow-up questions and dig deeper about their needs and concerns.

2. They don’t always ask the right questions.

How many times is the answer to a question “it depends” or “that’s complicated.” DIY estate planning solutions don’t allow for further explanation. Many of these forms don’t take in to consideration joint ownership of assets, beneficiary designations, or distinguish between probate vs. non-probate assets. A trained professional can.

3. Unintended consequences.

Many of the DIY estate plans that are created by these form sites and programs create plans that are not what the creator intended. Unfortunately, this isn’t learned until years (hopefully decades) later when the estate is probated. Probate attorneys spend a lot of time, and a lot of their client’s money, trying to fix the unintended consequences created by the DIY estate planner.

4. Some aren’t effective at all.

When a person creates their own estate plan using a form or an online tool they aren’t aware of their specific state’s laws or requirements. Florida has rules regarding elective share, support for minor children and requirements of a valid will. Many times we find a DIY estate plan that is invalid in whole or part for failure to follow state law or formalities.

5. Provides a false sense of security.

People create an estate plan because they want to protect their family and plan for the future. That’s an admirable goal. Unfortunately, using an online service or form only creates a false sense of security and may actually do more harm than good.

6. It just doesn’t compare.

Online services try to entice users by saying they can save significant money compared to the cost of hiring an attorney. But it’s really not an apples-to-apples comparison. Online services and forms can’t give legal advice, can’t customize a document to your specific needs, and can’t tell you when you’re making a mistake.

No one likes talking to an attorney and thinking about their own mortality. Creating a comprehensive estate plan is one of the best gifts you can give your family. If you’re going to go to the time and effort to prepare an estate plan, it pays to get it done right. When you’re ready to get started, or if you want to fix that DIY project you did a while ago, we can help.

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Estate PlanningKatie Floyd
The Durable Power of Attorney

The Durable Power of Attorney is probably the single most important document in a comprehensive estate plan. A Durable Power of Attorney (DPOA) allows you to appoint an agent, such as a trusted family member or friend, to manage specific legal and financial abilities.

A Power of Attorney is considered “durable” if it can survive a subsequent incapacity. This means that as long as a Durable Power of Attorney is signed when someone is of sound mind, the power conferred in the document will remain valid even if that person later becomes incapacitated due to accident or illness. In Florida, the Power of Attorney must contain specific legal language to be “Durable” so it’s important your documents are drafted by an attorney who regularly handles these matters.

There are many ways that a Power of Attorney can be drafted. Some are very specific in scope, such as the ability to buy or sell a certain piece of real estate. The Durable Power of Attorney that is drafted as part of a comprehensive estate plan is typically much more broad in nature and grants a wide-range of powers.

Signing a Power of Attorney can be a scary thing. Some clients may be concerned about losing independence or are fearful their agent may act in a way that is contrary to their wishes. It is absolutely imperative to choose your agent wisely. While precautions can be put in place to prevent abuse, your agent will have significant power. It’s important to discuss these concerns with your attorney. A Power of Attorney can be revoked, so long as the person signing the document is considered competent to do so.

Since illness, accident, or injury can strike at any time, I believe the Durable Power of Attorney is an essential part of a comprehensive estate plan, regardless of age or financial status. However, a Durable Power of Attorney is especially important for older clients or those with medical concerns. It is important that a Durable Power of Attorney be prepared before a person starts having memory problems or trouble handling certain aspects of their life.

If a person becomes incapacitated or incompetent without proper documents in place, friends and family will not be able to make important financial decisions, pay bills, access benefits, request governmental assistance, sell or manage assets and other critical tasks without going through a formal guardianship process which can be very expensive and difficult on families.

The Power of Attorney laws changed significantly in Florida in 2011 and new documents are now much more complicated. If you have an older Power of Attorney or a DIY form, it’s time for an update. Contact our office today to get started.

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You Probably Need More Than “Just A Simple Will”

Many clients come to our office and proclaim they need “just a simple will.” Perhaps their estates aren’t all that complicated and they simply want to make provisions to leave their assets to a spouse or children.

If all a client wants or can afford is a simple will, I’m happy to help. However, I believe that a comprehensive estate plan is not just about planning for the disposition of property upon death. Perhaps more important is making sure the client and their loved ones are covered during life.

While wills are very important tools in the estate planning process “just a simple will” doesn’t take into consideration many important issues such as:

  • Planning for incapacity
  • Dealing with healthcare end of life decisions
  • Minimizing or avoiding the probate process

Planning for Incapacity

Most of us will suffer some kind of incapacity during our lifetime. Perhaps it is a short-term hospitalization due to an accident or illness or a longer term incapacity due to aging or dementia. A will has no effect until death and if proper planning is not put in place there may be no one to assist with handling personal or financial affairs. Planning with a document such as a Durable Power of Attorney grants legal authority to an agent to make personal and financial decisions on your behalf and can avoid the need for expensive guardianship proceedings.

Healthcare and End of Life Decisions

If you were unable to make your own medical decisions, who would you want to speak for you? What if there is a disagreement between family as to your care? If you have not planned accordingly there may be no one in a legal position to advocate for you.

Minimizing or Avoiding Probate

is the court-supervised process where the assets are gathered, debts are assessed, and ultimately legal title of the assets of an estate pass to the proper parties. Probate can be an expensive and time-consuming process and assets may not be available during probate. With a simple will, probate may be unavoidable but perhaps can be minimized with careful planning and consideration.

If you have “just a simple will” or worse yet, no documents at all, we can help you put together a more comprehensive plan to cover you and your family. No matter what your means or background, we can help. Learn more about the estate planning process. and contact our office to get started.

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Katie Floyd Invited to Speak at ABA TECHSHOW

Katie Floyd has been invited again to speak again at the American Bar Association’s “TECHSHOW”. Katie will be giving the following presentations:

  • Thursday, March 16, 2017, 9:00 AM - 10:00 AM: Everything AND The Kitchen Sink - Mac Practice Advice from the Pros
  • Friday, March 17, 2017 9:00 AM - 10:00 AM Set Your Mac on Auto-Pilot
  • Saturday, March 18, 2017 10:15 AM - 11:15 AM Mobile Apps

ABA TECHSHOW has over 30 years of experience bringing lawyers and technology together. The program will be held this year March 15–18, at the Hilton Chicago. Registration is open now with early bird pricing available through January 30, 2017.

You can find more information at www.techshow.com

Katie Floyd
New Years Resolutions For Landlords
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The new year is only a few days old and many of us are making resolutions to break bad habits or resolve an issue that we may have let linger in the previous year. If you own rental property the beginning of a new year is a great time to start fresh. Here are a few things to review and resolve to do better:

  • Keep Better Records - January is the perfect time to revamp your record keeping. You should be keeping records of maintenance issues, capital improvements, tenant concerns and - perhaps most important - tenant payments. When a problem arises, these records will serve you well.
  • Setup Regular Inspections- Many landlords take a break/fix approach when it comes to rental property. This can end up costing way more in delayed maintenance and unreported problems. Make sure that you have someone putting eyes on your rental property at least once every six months, perhaps once a quarter, to perform routine maintenance and address tenant concerns. You’ll keep costs down and have happier tenants. Routine inspections will also keep you aware of what’s going on in the property and will clue you in on potential lease violations.
  • Get a Better Lease - If you’re using a lease you put together yourself or maybe something you “found on the Internet” chances are your lease is woefully out of date and inadequate to protect your interests. You can read about the dangers of a DIY lease and check your lease to see if it has these 10 key provisions. If your lease needs some revisions, I can help you create a custom lease that is up to date with current laws and protects your interest.
  • Treat Your Rental Property Like A Business- Renting property is serious business and should be run like one. Most of us wouldn’t tolerate an employee who regularly showed up late and didn’t follow the rules. The new year is a good time to revisit the rules with your tenants. If you’ve let your tenants slide on making timely payments or haven’t been regularly enforcing late fees or other lease provisions, now’s the time to get back on track.

The above list is just a starting point for landlords looking to get things on the right track for the new year. If you need some help with any of the above or some of your own resolutions please contact my office and we’re happy to help you check a few items off your resolutions list.

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Landlord/TenantKatie Floyd