Van Winkle & Sams P.A. 

Estate Planning and Probate

We can help with a wide range of Estate Planning and Probate matters.

Married people often assume that if a spouse becomes too ill to handle financial matters, such as selling stock or applying for a mortgage, they can simply take over. That is not necessarily true. If the stock or residence is titled just in one spouse’s name, the other spouse has no legal right to access that asset. With no legal documents in place, he or she will be forced to file a proceeding in the Probate Court to be appointed conservator or guardian of the spouse’s assets. The process is expensive, emotionally draining, and an invasion of privacy. 

To avoid this, each spouse should execute a Durable Power of Attorney naming the other as agent, with authority to administer all assets the other spouse owns. They should both name a successor agent, in case the other spouse might not be able to serve.

For even greater protection, people often create Revocable Living Trusts and re-title assets into the name of the Trust. The creator of the Trust will usually serve as Trustee, but if he or she becomes incapacitated, a Successor Trustee can step in and continue the management of the Trust assets.

Everyone should have a Health Care Power of Attorney, naming a health care Agent. Due to privacy concerns, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) makes it difficult to obtain medical information about someone without being authorized under HIPAA. A wife does not have the legal right to access her husband’s medical records unless he has signed the proper legal document. With no Health Care Power of Attorney, a conflict among family members can force a Probate Court hearing to determine who should be legal Guardian.

  • Wills, Living Wills, Healthcare Directives
  • Power of Attorney
  • Living Trusts, Irrecocable Trusts
  • Probate and Trust Administration
  • Life Partner Planning, Asset Protection
  • Business Succession Planning

Call us today at (941) 923-1685