St. Augustine Estate Planning Attorney

St. Augustine Estate Planning Attorney

Representing Families in St Johns, St Augustine, Ponte Vedra, Orange Park, Fleming Island, and Jacksonville

Estate Planning Attorney Serving Florida for More Than 20 Years

Our Jacksonville office is located in Mandarin but serves all neighborhoods, including San Marco, San Jose, and Southside FL

Estate planning is vital for protecting your assets and your family members. At Preddy Law Firm, we strive to help our clients with all of their estate planning needs. We care about our clients and their families, and we want every client to feel valued, respected, and heard. No matter what your estate planning needs, the team at Preddy Law Firm will help you achieve your goals. 

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Attorney Rose Marie Preddy has been helping individuals prepare their estate plans for more than 25 years. She is passionate about working with her clients to create sound estate plans that protect their assets and their loved ones. Attorney Preddy works closely with each client to offer custom-tailored estate planning solutions. She emphasizes maintaining open communication lines to ensure that no issues, questions, or concerns are ignored.

Estate Planning Basics 

The term “estate” is short for your assets and liabilities and when we refer to “estate planning” it is focused on how to pass on your assets and address liabilities.  Assets can be personal property, real property, checking accounts, and other items of value. Liabilities are debts or sums that you owe to third parties. 

The majority of individuals in Florida die without a valid will. Without an estate plan, the state has intestacy statutes that determine in which order surviving family members will receive the decedent’s assets. An estate plan is an organized set of instructions that will allow the probate court to administer the decedent’s estate. 

Estate planning can also refer to planning for your incapacity.  As a result, the documents in any estate plan will include a will, a durable power of attorney, designation of health care surrogate, living will and a designation of pre-need guardian.   A durable power of attorney gives someone to manage your assets and legally act on behalf as though they stood in your shoes.  It is an incredibly powerful document. However, without such a document, if you are in need of help, a court ordered guardian may be appointed.  A designation of health surrogate names the person you choose to make health care decisions for you.  A living will intensifies the type of medical procedures you want discontinued if you are in an end state condition. 

Other documents addressed during any estate plan consultation is the use of a will ( which is only used in probate court) and a trust, which can be used to hold title to assets to avoid probate.  A will is a document that directs the probate court on how you want your assets distributed upon your death. 

A will is a testamentary document that is effective only upon death.  It must be executed according to the laws of Florida. The will must be in writing, it must be signed at the end by the testator, and it must be signed by the testator in the presence of two witnesses. These will formalities must be satisfied for the will to be valid under Florida law. 

The will permits the testator to determine who will receive their assets. Many different types of wills exist, including stand alone wills and pour-over wills (pouring over the assets into an existing trust). These types of wills involve trusts. Specific clients may have unique needs, and an estate planning attorney can assist them with learning about which estate documents are best suited to help them achieve their goals. 

Florida law permits several different types of trusts. The majority of trusts in Florida are either revocable trusts or irrevocable trusts. Revocable trusts are more common than irrevocable trusts because revocable trusts can be modified at any time during the settlor’s (the person creating the trust) lifetime.  The settlor can also retain full control over the assets.  A settlor creates the trust, a trustee holds the trust assets (also called a corpus), and the beneficiaries are those who benefit from the trust. Most of the time the settlor will be their own trustee as long as they are competent. 

Trusts are fiduciary arrangements and a trustee has a fiduciary duty to act in good faith and not dispose of or waste trust assets. The trustee must carry out the wishes of the settlor and make sure that the trusts are held for the benefit of the named beneficiaries. Trust administration is an important area of property law. Attorneys draft trusts and it is important to understand the benefits of using trusts as part of a comprehensive estate plan.

A power of attorney gives authority to one person to make decisions on behalf of another person. A power of attorney creates a principal-agent relationship. A power of attorney can provide an agent with broad or narrow authority depending on the language used in the document. In Florida, a party may create (1) a general power of attorney, (2) a limited power of attorney, and (3) a durable power of attorney which is effective upon execution and typically indefinite until death.

Probate is a process overseen by a probate court that involves identifying the assets belonging to an individual upon their death. Probate laws are state-specific, and every jurisdiction has its own probate laws. An attorney is required to represent a party throughout the probate process, with the exception of very small estates (such as where the assets do not exceed the cost of the funeral bill). 


If a party does not have an estate plan, then the decedent’s assets will be dispersed according to the principles of intestate succession. The intestacy statutes of Florida will determine which parties should receive which assets. Having a sound estate plan can help family members avoid dealing with problems that can arise during intestate succession.


Lauren Vickroy
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Rose Marie did a great job handling the probate matter for my father's estate. I appreciated her hard work and thoughtful and cost efficient approach to working through the probate issues that arose. She also was exceptionally good at handling the family stress that comes from a sudden death in the family. I would certainly recommend her!
Helen Levinson
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Rose Marie Preddy is one of the most experienced, detailed, attentive and forward thinking estate planning attorneys I've engaged. Rose Marie has reviewed our family estate plan and wills to identify potential issues that could leave our loved ones in vulnerable situations. Based on her feedback, we've have modified our estate plan and will always lean on Preddy Law for their expertise moving forward.
D Fadeley
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Rosemarie and her staff are so knowledgeable, informative, efficient, compassionate and patient. We've always wanted to do estate planning and after the unexpected illness and death of my Dad we knew we needed to get it done. Rosemarie really knew what would be best for our situation and was very fair with her pay schedule and fees. Her and her office made this process as simple and painless as possible not to mention affordable. I will be back with my husband for our estate planning and highly recommend her to anyone in need.

Contact Us Today to Speak with an Estate Planning Lawyer in St. Augustine 

If you have questions about an existing estate plan, or if you want to inquire about how you can create an estate plan, call Preddy Law Firm today at (904) 665-0005. Planning for the future is one of the most important things you can do to protect your family from unforeseen circumstances. We value our clients, and we hope that you reach out to the Preddy Law Firm for all of your estate planning needs. 

Frequently Asked Questions About Estate Planning Attorneys

The needs of the client will dictate the documents needed to create a comprehensive estate plan. However, most estate plans include some of the following documents: 

  • charitable planning  (“planned giving”)
  • business succession planning (such as a buy-sell agreement)
  • healthcare directives (health care surrogate and living will)
  • asset protection planning 
  • guardianship for incapacitated or disabled
  • irrevocable trusts
  • revocable (“living”) trusts
  • last will and testament 

Yes. Quite often, a testator will have testamentary trusts, which are trusts created inside the will. Many trusts are created during a testator’s lifetime to set aside assets outside the will. 

If a testator dies without a valid will, the estate assets will pass to others through Florida’s intestacy laws. If a testator dies without children, the assets will be distributed to family members. If a testator dies with no heirs, the estate assets may escheat to Florida. It is advisable to have a valid will even if you do not have children. You have options for who you want to receive your assets upon your death. 

Living trusts are formed to avoid living probate and death probate and reduce state and federal estate taxes. A living trust is not a tool for reducing income taxes. If the settlor of the living trust is also the trustee, the trustee will file their income tax exactly as they were filed before the trust was created. No new tax returns must be filed after someone creates a living trust. 

The federal estate tax is a tax by the federal government on the decedent’s estate. The federal government provides specific exclusions and deductions, and taxes everything above a certain level. Many states have their own estate tax.  Florida does not.

Real estate can be transferred into a living trust. If a decedent owns real property in many different states, there will most likely be probate in every state where the decedent owns real property. If real property is owned by a living trust, no probate procedure is necessary for the real property. 

Contact Preddy Law Firm today at (904) 665-0005 to schedule a free consultation.