Author: Elder and Estate Planning, Attorneys PA.

Legacy Trust Basics in Florida

Is making a lasting, meaningful, positive contribution to the world a goal of yours? How about doing something that you will be remembered for long after you are gone? It is a noble goal, but one that many people may not know how to achieve. One way to do so could be by including a legacy trust in your estate plan. This type of trust allows you to set assets aside not only for your children, but for your grandchildren, too. Depending on how it is structured, this trust may even provide for your great-grandchildren.  Because it can be used as a legal mechanism for charitable giving, this type of trust also encourages beneficiaries to keep contributing to the causes you valued.

Take a moment to keep reading as we provide you with more information on this type of trust. 

There are a couple of different ways to create a legacy trust.  You could have your estate planning lawyer draft it as an irrevocable trust while you are still alive. In the alternative, you can also have your lawyer include provisions in your living trust that initiate a legacy trust when you die.

From a financial standpoint, there are several advantages to creating a legacy trust.  One is that there are certain tax benefits. As long as the assets you use to fund the legacy trust do not exceed allowable limits, the trust will be exempt from certain taxes. Another practical and financial advantage is that the assets are usually shielded from creditors and judgments. Additionally, a legacy trust is generally immune from probate or court administration. The only exception is when assets are transferred at death.

The biggest disadvantage associated with this type of trust is that it is irrevocable. This means no one can change the terms once the trust is funded. Another drawback is that the person who creates the trust cannot act as the trustee. He or she must designate someone else to administer the trust.

 Of course, this is not an exhaustive list. If you are interested in creating this type of trust, you should consult an experienced estate planning lawyer. He or she can review all of the pros and cons with you.  Armed with this knowledge, you can make an informed decision about what is best for you. Our office is available to help you with all of your estate planning needs. This includes answering any questions you may have. Contact our law firm to arrange a free consultation, today.

Will My Estate Lawyer Store My Original Estate Planning Documents?

When it comes to making an estate plan, there are some things you may not think to ask about and some things you may take for granted. Consider your original documents, for example. Did you ask your estate planning lawyer who is responsible for storing them? Or did you simply assume that he or she would give them to you? 

A few factors determine what actually happens. The first is whether your attorney still keeps his or her clients’ original documents. Some do, some do not. Even if your estate planning lawyer stores your paperwork, it may not be kept on site. 

If your attorney’s practice has transitioned to a paperless system, you may end up getting your original documents. You may also ask your attorney for the originals if you simply prefer to have them. Either way, let us go over some things to consider when deciding where to store your estate planning documents.

If you are going to keep your will and other estate planning documents at home, think about buying a fireproof and waterproof safe or lock box. If you get a home safe, make sure someone you trust knows the combination. If you opt for another type of container, make sure you put it as far out of harm’s way as possible. 

 It is recommended that you avoid hiding your original documents in an unusual spot, or in a spot known only to you. This would make it difficult, if not impossible, for your personal representative to find them after you die. 

 It is also recommended that you avoid keeping your original estate planning documents in a safe deposit box. One reason is that the bank is not always open. Another reason is that access to the box is restricted to the owner. If you were the only owner, your family or personal representative would need a court order in order to open the safety deposit box.

No matter what, make sure that you make and keep copies of the original documents. If your original documents are lost, a court may accept a copy of your will for probate. This is an option only if your personal representative convinces the court they have exhausted all efforts to find the originals.

Conversely, intestacy rules may apply if your family is unable to provide your original documents or copies. This means that state law will govern distribution of your estate, not your own wishes. This happens based on the legal presumption that you never had any estate planning documents or that they were deliberately destroyed. 

Estate planning documents provide critical information regarding your wishes for your future and that of your loved ones. If you have any questions relating to estate planning or where to safely store your documents, please contact our firm to schedule a meeting.

Elder Law – Three Documents Necessary During Any Emergency

If you are watching this video, you are concerned about what documents you need during an emergency. I’m talking about estate planning documents.

I’m Annè Desormier-Cartwright, of Elder and Estate Planning Attorneys, and I’m here to talk to you about the documents you want access to during an emergency and how to gain that access.

The first document is the Durable Power of Attorney. That’s where you name an agent to act for you. In Florida, a Durable Power of Attorney is immediately effective upon signing. That means it can be a dangerous document, so you must name an agent to act for you that you trust.

The second document is your Healthcare Power of Attorney. This document allows somebody to make health or medical decisions for you when you are not able to. This is a very important document as we come into hurricane season, because if you’re unable to make your decisions because you get hurt this is the document the medical provider will rely on to get you the medical help you need.

The third document is a Living Will, or an Advance Care Directive. That’s where you tell the world, “Keep me alive artificially, or don’t.” “Pull that plug, I don’t want to be kept alive.”

I get it, these documents can be overwhelming, the concepts confusing. We are here to help. Give us a call, the number is below.

(561) 694-7827

Family Caregivers Can Help Senior Adults During Older Americans Month

Senior adults have not only made a lifetime of contributions to society, but according to the U.S. Census Bureau seniors are on track to outnumber young people for the first time ever. Thus, older adults deserve both recognition and support for senior-specific issues that are only going to increase in the years to come, and that is what Older Americans Month is all about.

Since 1963, every U.S. president has declared the month of May, Older Americans Month. This involves ceremonies, events, fairs and similar activities, as well as connecting seniors to resources that provide valuable support services. Older Americans Month also coincides with National Elder Law Month, which provides outreach, education and legal services to seniors across the country. 

Adult children of aging seniors and family caregivers can play a critical role in facilitating these resources by assisting their elder loved ones. Let us share a few of these important resources for you to consider.

  • Eldercare Support: The national Eldercare Locator helps connect older adults and their family caregivers with trustworthy elder care organizations across the country.
  • Health Care: State Health Insurance Assistance Programs, or SHIPs, provide free support to Medicare beneficiaries and their caregivers.
  • Long-Term Care: The U.S. Administration on Aging assists seniors in understanding what is involved in long-term care, such as nursing homes and assisted living. The National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care helps older adults and their family caregivers understand their rights. It can also assist in obtaining help if they need it. 
  • Elder Abuse: The National Center on Elder Abuse helps combat elder abuse. Learning more about this critical issue can help identify warning signs, protect vulnerable seniors and take necessary actions.
  • Pensions: Millions of senior adults depend on their pensions to survive. Family caregivers can help resolve pension-related problems by connecting with groups like PensionHelp America.
  • Legal: The National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys, which our own attorney is a member of, is a nonprofit association that provides legal services for senior adults and people with special needs. NAELA established National Elder Law Month as a way to acknowledge the elder law profession and provide legal support for the nation’s senior community.

We know that you and your loved ones may need estate planning or elder law help right now. If you or someone you know would like more information or specific guidance on legal matters, do not hesitate to contact us now, or anytime throughout the year.

 

Tips to Consider During Women’s Health Week

It does not matter whether you are a young professional, a student, or a working mother. Twenty-first century life for American women is often a delicate balancing act. Further, it is nearly impossible to find a healthy balance if you are constantly putting everyone else first or, let’s face it, during a time of a global pandemic. These are just a few of the reasons why National Women’s Health Week is so important.

This year, National Women’s Health Week is celebrated May 10-16. During this time, women are reminded to look after themselves. Here are some tips we want you to consider this month, and throughout the year.

1. Make your health a priority. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, recommends that women take charge of their health by doing the following: 

  • Seeing the doctor regularly for routine checkups and screenings.
  • Getting plenty of exercise including aerobic and strength boosting activities.
  • Eating a healthy diet including plenty of fruits and vegetables.
  • Avoiding foods that have too much sugar or salt.
  • Refraining from smoking or drinking too much.
  • Getting enough rest, at least seven hours per night for adults.
  • Finding constructive and effective ways to cope with stress.

Of course, the first step toward improvement is choosing to start. Experts acknowledge that taking the first step towards a healthier lifestyle is often the hardest part of the process. This is especially true if you already feel as though you are constantly juggling a million things at once. For many of the women we work with in our practice this holds especially true as they are the primary caregivers for young children and aging parents, in addition to working.

Instead of feeling pressured to try the latest exercise craze or fad diet, professionals say the best approach is to do what is most effective for you. They also say that identifying what that is may take some reflection on your part. Specifically, they suggest that you think about: 

  • Your goals
  • What motivates you
  • What is holding you back

In all honesty, prioritizing your health is now more important than ever. By now, everyone knows that social distancing and self-isolation are two of the most important steps we can take to slow the spread of COVID-19. Besides taking steps to protect others, the Office on Women’s Health also urges women and girls to take steps to protect themselves at this time. This is especially important for those who are most susceptible to the virus. 

Finally, health providers agree that emotional wellbeing is a key to safeguarding your physical health. In addition, finding healthy ways to cope with stress is an important part of the equation. 

We know this article may raise more questions than it answers and we want to help you. If you have any legal concerns that are causing you stress at this time, please know that we are here to help. You may reach us by email or phone and we will get back to you as soon as possible.

Financial Power of Attorney – One COVID-19 “essential” You may be Missing

How can you protect your finances from coronavirus complications?

A Financial Power of Attorney (FPA) allows you to select a trusted family member or friend who will be responsible for managing your money and other property if you become mentally incapacitated (unable to make your own decisions) due to illness or injury. Without this document, bills won’t get paid, tax returns won’t be filed, bank and investment accounts held in your name will become inaccessible, retirement distributions can’t be requested, and property can’t be bought or sold.

Why holding assets jointly isn’t always enough.

Financial Power of Attorney

If you already have a Financial Power of Attorney

An FPA can become quickly outdated—sometimes within a year. Once you get your FPA (or a complete estate plan) in place for potential incapacity, you cannot simply stick it in a drawer and forget. Instead, you need to have your FPA regularly refreshed and revisited after any major life event (such as a divorce or death) to ensure that the plan will work the way you intend it to work if it is ever needed.

We’re here to help

We can make sure that your choices are updated and right for your situation and goals.

Please contact my office now to schedule a convenient time for us to discuss your questions about an FPA and to arrange for an estate plan review. Only an up-to-date estate plan works and we’re here to help you get yours in order.

 

A Charitable Remainder Trust Can Protect Your 401k & IRA from the SECURE Act

Millions of Americans have worked hard, saved for retirement and planned to give their remaining assets to loved ones when they pass away. If those assets involve tax-qualified retirement accounts like 401ks or IRAs, however, then you may want to contact an experienced estate planning attorney and discuss a charitable remainder trust.

 

As of January 1, 2020, non-spousal beneficiaries who inherit tax-advantaged retirement accounts will no longer be able to “stretch” annual required minimum distribution (RMD) payments over the course of their lifetimes. This was a longstanding practice that was virtually eliminated last year by federal legislation known as the Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement Act of 2019, or the SECURE Act. The law is intended to boost retirement savings for more Americans by expanding access to 401ks and IRAs, along with a number of other provisions, but costly changes were also included. 

 

Prior to the SECURE Act, retirement account beneficiaries could opt for lifetime RMD payments and reap the benefits of continued tax-deferred account growth and reduced annual tax bills due to the lifetime period of distributions. Now, applicable retirement accounts must be liquidated within 10 years. That means less tax-deferred growth and higher tax liabilities for beneficiaries. 

 

A charitable remainder trust, however, can provide a solution. A charitable remainder trust is designed to generate income, reduce taxes and support philanthropic activity. Instead of bequeathing a tax-advantaged retirement account, like an IRA, directly to a non-spousal beneficiary, the account holder would make the charitable trust the beneficiary. Then, the account holder would select an individual, perhaps an adult child, to receive annual income payments from the trust for a specified period of time, including the adult child’s lifetime. 

 

This mirrors the pre-SECURE Act stretch arrangement and includes the benefits of tax-deferred asset growth and lower annual taxes. Plus, after the specified period of time or the death of the adult child, remaining assets in the trust would be donated to a charity to help others. 

 

We know this blog may raise more questions than it answers. If you or someone you know would like more information about charitable remainder trusts and how they might help protect your retirement accounts, do not wait to contact our law practice today.

COVID-19 Florida Supreme Court Administrative Orders and District Court

During this time of the Coronavirus pandemic, getting information is important. We are providing links to help you. Updated: 3/25/2020

Florida Supreme Court

 

Palm Beach County – 15th Judicial Circuit Court

 

Palm Beach County

Protecting Family Caregivers from the Coronavirus

We know that you and the Florida seniors you love may have concerns right now.  We also know that uncertain times can put all of us on edge. Often, even when we are inundated with information, the right knowledge from a trusted source can put our minds at ease. We can no longer ignore the fact that the COVID-19 virus is spreading at an alarming rate around the world. Even with its unprecedented spread, however, there are still many precautions that we can take right here in Florida to protect you, as well as your loved ones.

 By now we are all familiar with the most popular precaution which has been shared by the various health authorities around the world:

Make sure that you properly wash your hands! 

What does it mean to “properly” wash your hands? This means meticulously cleaning your hands for at least twenty (20) seconds with soap and water, or an alcohol-based hand rub.  You may find it interesting to learn that, according to the FDA, “the benefits of using antibacterial hand soap have not been proven.”  Washing your hands remains one of the best preventative measures that you can implement to safeguard yourself and your elder loved ones.  In addition, according to the World Health Organization (WHO) washing your hands helps to kill viruses that may be on your hands.

Let us share a few other suggestions from the WHO.

 1. Maintain social distancing. Maintain at least 1 meter (3 feet) distance between yourself and anyone who is coughing or sneezing.  This one is especially important because it is easy to breathe in the droplets of someone who is suffering from the COVID-19 virus. This is true for most viruses like the flu.

 2. Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth. Remember, especially for our younger loved ones, touching many surfaces can cause you to pick up viruses. WHO states that, “once contaminated, hands can transfer the virus to your eyes, nose or mouth. From there, the virus can enter your body and can make you sick.”

 3. Practice respiratory hygiene. How do you practice respiratory hygiene?  Cover your mouth and nose with your bent elbow or a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Dispose of the used tissue immediately.

 4. Help “at risk” loved ones limit interactions with those who may be infected. First, understand who may be at risk using this article we want to share with you. Although social isolation can be hard, help these individuals try to make informed decisions about where they truly need to be. Routine check up? Maybe postpone it until the virus is under control as very ill people could be in the waiting room. Although these decisions are up to you and your family, think about how to best keep everyone’s health intact.

Another important precaution that can help everyone around you is to stay home if you feel unwell. Further, if you have a fever, cough and/or difficulty breathing, do not wait to seek medical attention. Be sure to call your healthcare provider in advance, if you can.

The last tip we will share is also extremely important as we continue to battle this deadly virus. Make sure that you stay informed and follow any advice given by your healthcare provider. Do not rely simply on the news or secondhand information. Staying up to date can arm you with the right information to make the best decisions for yourself and your loved ones.

If you would like to learn more about how you can protect yourself and your loved ones check out this WHO article that goes into detail about preventative measures that we can follow in the fight against COVID-19. Know that we are here for you, both now and in the future. Do not hesitate to contact our law practice to learn more about how to protect and advocate for yourself and those you love.

All Local Social Security Offices Closed Due to COVID-19 – Notice

All local Social Security offices will be closed to the public for in-person service starting Tuesday, March 17, 2020. This decision protects the population we serve-older Americans and people with underlying medical conditions-and our employees during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. However, we are still able to provide critical services.

Please read our press release to learn more, including how to get help from the Social Security Administration by phone and online. You can also visit our Coronavirus (COVID-19) information page to learn more and stay up to date.

Please share this message with your friends and loved ones.