Author: Anne' Desormier-Cartwright

4 Tips for Reviewing Your Florida Estate Plan During National Estate Planning Awareness Week

Did you know, during the third week of October every year we focus on National Estate Planning Awareness week? How familiar are you with estate planning in Florida? Did you know estate planning involves putting legal protections in place to help secure a future you want for yourself and your loved ones? Do you have a Florida estate plan right now but need to make sure it reflects what you need?

Many of our potential clients have estate planning that is years out of date. It does not reflect their goals for their:

• Decision makers for finances and health care
• The age or marital status of their children
• Is missing key beneficiaries such as grandchildren
• Does not reflect their disability needs
• Does not represent the legacy they wish to leave

Let us share four tips on how to review your Florida estate plan with your attorney on our blog.

1. Is it from Florida? While this may seem like an unusual question to begin with, your out of state estate plan may not work in Florida. Start by reviewing your plan to make sure that it was written and executed in Florida. After you determine the state of origination, look at the dates. Is it only a few years old? Or older? Laws change over time and you may need to work with your attorney to update it to reflect the current laws.

2. Does it consider your incapacity planning? Incapacity planning allows for considerations such as having someone you have selected assist you if you are unable to make decisions for yourself. The most important tools for incapacity planning include a Florida durable power of attorney, health care planning tools, and living will.

3. Does it reflect your goals for your legacy? Creating a legacy is what most of our potential clients who come to our firm are looking for. While the last will and testament may be the most common legal document for estate planning, there may be more flexibility to create the legacy you want through a trust agreement. What are your goals? Have they changed since you last created your estate plan?

4. Make a list of what you want, now. Your needs met change over time. They may have changed since you last created your Florida estate plan. Go ahead and make a list of what you want, now, and the changes you anticipate you will need to make. You can bring this list to your meeting with your estate planning attorney so that she can help you update your existing Florida estate plan or create a new one to reflect what you need.

Whether you schedule an appointment with our firm during the month of October or anytime throughout the year, our law firm is here to help you. We can guide you through your Florida estate planning options and update your existing plan to ensure it reflects what you want. Please do not hesitate to contact our office today to schedule a meeting with our experienced Florida attorneys.

Planning for a Loved One with Special Needs in Florida During National Special Needs Planning Month

Do you have a loved one in your family who has a disability? There are many legal considerations you need to discuss with your Florida estate planning attorney if your Florida estate plan needs to include special needs planning for someone who may need more assistance to manage his or her disability. While we know that it may be easier to avoid this estate planning topic due to the potentially difficult future it forces you to face, you simply cannot wait to complete this planning. Instead, you need to be proactive and plan ahead for the long-term future of your loved one with special needs.

One of the biggest issues we see in our practice is that when someone with a disability reaches the age of majority, there are many changes that can take place that the family is often not prepared for. As an example, did you know that if the person with the disability is extremely high on the spectrum or can barely function for him- or herself, a parent no longer has the legal right to make decisions? Without the proper Florida estate planning in place, even your loved one with a significant developmental, cognitive or mental health disability is legally permitted to make decisions at the age of majority.

What should you do as a parent or grandparent of a disabled family member? Plan ahead with an experienced Florida estate planning attorney! After all, for years, you have spoken to the school, to banks, financial institutions, doctors, specialists and so many more for this individual. It does not have to stop, but you do need the legal authority to act. If your disabled family member does not have the requisite capacity to make Florida advanced directives, such as powers of attorney or health care planning documents, you may need to consider creating a guardianship or engage in the guardian advocacy process.

As a guardian of the person and property, or as the guardian advocate, you will be able to maintain the authority to make legal decisions for your special needs loved one. The process of deciding whether or not guardianship is necessary can be difficult. Before speaking with your attorney, evaluate your loved one’s medical, educational, financial, and vocational decision-making skills. In this situation, your loved one may be able to retain specific control over some aspects of his or her life, but you, as the guardian, maintain the rest.

Your attorney with specific expertise in this area can be especially helpful for guidance and decision-making. Your attorney will not only help you with the advanced directives or the guardianship but work with you to ensure that your Florida estate planning is comprehensive and up-to-date. You need to ensure your legacy will provide for your loved one with disabilities should something happen to you. Planning ahead for a future when you are no longer here is extremely important. You do not want the person with disabilities to be left to his or her own defenses, or let the court make decisions through the intestacy process in the probate court.

A special needs trust can be set up for people with disabilities to ensure that money will be available for a person with autism throughout his or her lifetime. It can be used for a special needs beneficiary while not interrupting his or her ability to receive public benefits, such as Medicaid or Supplemental Security Income. We can help you both understand this process and complete the Florida estate planning you need.

You know as well as we do that people with disabilities deserve the best planning possible. The key to success with all Florida estate planning is to prepare and take action early. We encourage you to contact our office now, or anytime throughout the year, to schedule an appointment and start planning.

Tips For Estate Planning as an LGBTQ+ Family

Whether you are about to become a parent for the first time or have several young children, estate planning can be critical to ensure they are cared for in the event of your untimely death. Did you know that this may be even more important for LGBTQ+ families? This is due, in part, to issues that may arise if both parents are not biologically related to the children. These issues can be considered and resolved if enough attention is given to creating an estate plan with a qualified attorney in your local area. Let us review three tips for estate planning as an LGBTQ+ family.

1. Guardianship for Minor Children. If you are married to your child’s other legal parent, your spouse will automatically remain the child’s guardian. If, however, you pass at the same time, you may need to choose someone else. This could be the same person you appoint to manage the child’s finances, or it could be somebody else. You and your spouse should take time to decide who you would both want to care for your children if the circumstances were to arise. If you are comfortable with one person’s family members, that may be a good choice, but it may be a good idea to explain why you made the choice you did as part of your will. You might also choose family or friends because you know they would raise your children with the same values you wish to impart, or because they live in or would move to an area you feel would be better for your children.

2. Guardianship If You Are Not Married. Many children are born to single parents or to LGBTQ+ couples. The parents of one child may divorce and remarry, creating blended families in which the child has biological half-siblings or a stepparent who becomes an equal parent alongside the biological parents. Not every arrangement, however, may be protected by every state’s laws. Typically, if a child is born to two married parents, whether they are of the opposite or the same sex, these are the two legal parents who have rights to parent the child. If you and your partner are unmarried, however, and one parent is not biologically related to your child, you should take steps now to ensure that parent could be considered a legal parent if the biological parent were to die unexpectedly. Similarly, if you have been widowed or divorced and your new spouse has not legally adopted your child, you need to leave specific instructions in your will as to your wish that they be named your child’s guardian and take steps now to ensure a judge could approve this arrangement.

3. Providing Financially for Your Children. If you are married to or in a relationship with your child’s other parent, you need to decide together who should manage your child’s finances if both of you pass away while your child is still a minor. This person will be your child’s fiduciary and it does not have to be the same person you name as his or her guardian. In fact, it may sometimes be better to appoint different people as long as you think they will work together effectively on behalf of your child. As with choosing potential guardians, this is a big decision and one to work through with a qualified estate planning attorney.

Do you have questions? Please contact our law practice to learn more. We are here for you. Elder and Estate Planning Attorneys PA is a law office small enough to provide personal service but large enough to provide service in Palm Beach, Martin, St. Lucie and Indian River Counties.

Understanding Why Prenuptial Agreements Matter to Your Estate Plan

Did you know that prenuptial agreements can be a critical part of the estate planning process? This may be especially true if you are marrying later in life, as many people do these days. Let us review three reasons why you might consider a prenuptial agreement as part of your estate plan if you have built a business, earned significant retirement savings, or been widowed or divorced prior to your new marriage.

1. You Have Been Married Before. If you are widowed or divorced, a prenuptial agreement can help ensure that your estate will be divided as you choose upon your death. If you are widowed, you likely inherited everything from your former spouse. The expectations of your deceased spouse was probably that any children you share would inherit what is left, not a future new spouse. If you did not have children, you might feel differently, but this is something you can address in a prenuptial agreement that fits your unique circumstances. A prenuptial agreement can specifically set aside any assets you had before your new marriage and make fair provision for any assets or earnings accumulated during your new marriage, with respect to children or other family you had before the marriage. If you are divorced, a prenuptial agreement as part of your estate plan can ensure that any money you received as part of a divorce settlement is set aside for your heirs as well.

2. You Have Retirement or Other Assets. If you have spent many years building up your retirement accounts, you can decide as part of a prenuptial agreement that these should go directly to your children, rather than to your new spouse, if you pass away unexpectedly.

3. You Have a Business. If you already own a business prior to getting married, you may want to discuss what will happen to the business and any financial interest your new spouse accumulates during your marriage. This can make sense to protect both your new family, and the business you worked hard to build.

Do you have questions? Please contact our law practice to learn more. We are here for you. Elder and Estate Planning Attorneys PA is a law office small enough to provide personal service but large enough to provide service in Palm Beach, Martin, St. Lucie and Indian River Counties.

Congratulations, Anné Desormier-Cartwright, on Being Honored Among the Florida Legal Elite!

Did you know that less than 2% of active Florida Bar Members practicing in Florida appear among Florida Legal Elite? Florida Trend invites all in-state members of the Florida Bar to name attorneys whom they put in high regard or would recommend to others. An outside vendor then tabulates all ballots and the ballots are then scored based on the number of votes received. More weight is given to votes made from outside their firms. Let us congratulate Attorney Anné Desormier-Cartwright on being honored among the Florida Legal Elite!

This honor comes to Attorney Desormier-Cartwright due to her continued commitment to excellence in the legal fields of estate planning, Medicaid and Veterans Planning, and probate, estate and trust administration, as well as a dedication to serving her community. She has been appointed to the Guardianship Education Committee for the Palm Beach County Bar since 1998. She also serves on the Probate and Guardianship Practice Committee of the Florida Bar and is a member of the Florida Bar Real Estate, Probate and Trust Section.

Additionally, she is a charter member of ElderCounsel, a nationwide association of elder law attorneys focused on the changing laws impacting the elderly. An active member of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys and the Academy of Florida Elder Law Attorneys, she supports these organizations as they lead the way for understanding and preparing legislation to address the complicated issues our elderly population faces as they age.

Congratulations, Attorney Anné Desormier-Cartwright, on this well deserved achievement. For assistance with estate planning or elder law issues, our office is here for you and your loved ones. Do you have questions? Please contact our law practice to learn more. We are here for you. Elder and Estate Planning Attorneys PA is a law office small enough to provide personal service but large enough to provide service in Palm Beach, Martin, St. Lucie and Indian River Counties.

Moving to a New State? Here are 3 Key Reasons Why You Need to Update Your Estate Plan

Did you move back to your home state during the pandemic after having lived away during college and afterwards? It may have been a move that you did not really plan for. If you have decided to stay, however, you should consider taking control now. Whether you are single and starting life anew, or you moved closer to family for help with your kids, it can be important to ensure you have a solid estate plan in place in your new home state. Let us discuss three reasons why.

1. You Should Have Estate Planning Documents Anyway. If you moved to a new state and you only had minimal estate planning in place, now may be the perfect time to execute documents in your new home state. Many young, single adults do not have formal estate plans. Those who are newly married or became parents during the pandemic often do not have them either, even if you have been meaning to get around to it. Now may be the perfect time. Consulting with a qualified estate planning attorney in your new state can help ensure you have everything you need in place.

2. You Should Consider a New Health Care Surrogate. If you did have an estate plan where you used to live, it is likely that you named a health care surrogate who lived in that state. Most states only allow you to choose a state resident for this purpose. If you had chosen a local friend, but you are now back living near family, you may want to update your choice of health care surrogate to someone you trust who lives near your new home.

3. You Should Name a Guardian for Minor Children. If you became a parent during the pandemic, you may not have had the chance to name guardians for your child yet. When you update your estate planning documents for your new state, you can choose someone for the task. If you already had kids, but you have moved to a new state, the people you had chosen previously may no longer be suited to the role if your intent was to keep your kids in your new location should you pass away. If you update your estate planning documents now that you have moved, you can consider who might be the best choice for keeping your kids in their new home and update your guardianship arrangements if that is necessary.

Do you have questions? Please contact our law practice to learn more. We are here for you. Elder and Estate Planning Attorneys PA is a law office small enough to provide personal service but large enough to provide service in Palm Beach, Martin, St. Lucie and Indian River Counties.

What Are The Differences Between A Skilled Nursing Home And An Assisted Living Facility?

Have you or a senior loved one reached the point where it may no longer be safe or appropriate to live at home without assistance? If so, you may be considering moving into a skilled nursing home or an assisted living facility and find yourself wondering what is the difference between the two? Although both facilities offer medical care and assistance with activities of daily living, there are a few essential differences that are important to understand.

First, an assisted living facility may be more of a residential setting and a skilled nursing home may be more of a clinical setting. The difference in settings may be due to the fact that those in a skilled nursing home typically require constant medical care and attention.

Another key difference can be the amount of independence afforded by the facilities. Those in an assisted living facility may be able to live a bit more independently and, thus, are given the opportunity to cook their own meals and participate in a wide range of social and recreational activities. In a skilled nursing facility, residents do not have access to their own kitchen for meal preparation and all meals are instead prepared by the staff. While nursing home residents are given the opportunity to socialize and participate in activities, they are often more limited based on the physical health and condition of the residents.

Finally, nursing home and assisted living facilities differ in cost and insurance coverage. According to the American Health Care Association and the National Center for Assisted Living, the cost of a skilled nursing home is nearly double the cost of an assisted living community and can amount to over $100,000.00 annually for a private room. Paying for either senior care option can impose an enormous financial burden on seniors and their families. Medicare will not pay for assisted living costs and full Medicaid benefits might not be available. You should start investigating your coverage options as soon as possible. Fortunately, an elder law attorney will be able to analyze your financial circumstances and medical needs and help you come up with a plan to pay for whatever care option is right for you.

Do you have questions? Please contact our law practice to learn more. We are here for you. Elder and Estate Planning Attorneys PA is a law office small enough to provide personal service but large enough to provide service in Palm Beach, Martin, St. Lucie and Indian River Counties.

Estate Planning Tips Floridians Need When They Near the Proposed Tax Limits

Have you seen the  rise and fall in estate taxation rates making headlines these days? It seems to be more and more common, especially given the changes that often occur with new leadership at the federal level. Right now, the federal estate tax exemptions are so high that very few Americans need to be concerned with approaching the limits. The federal exclusion is approximately $11.7 million per individual person or $23.4 million for a married couple. Luckily for Floridians, the state of Florida does not impose any estate tax of its own in addition to the federal tax. Floridians who wish to be careful with their estate planning, however, may want to keep abreast of the proposed changes to the estate tax exemption at the federal level. 

The bill introduced to Congress in March proposes that the individual estate tax exemption be lowered to $3.5 million per person or $7 million for a married couple, reducing the current amounts by roughly two-thirds. Let us discuss some estate planning tips for Florida married couples who are nearing the proposed estate tax exemption limits.

You may want to consider creating a Spousal Lifetime Access Trust (SLAT). This is because different types of irrevocable trusts, such as SLATs, may exclude your assets from being subject to estate tax if you are nearing the federal estate tax limits. Keep in mind that once you put money into an irrevocable trust, you cannot take it back, so if you are just nearing the proposed federal estate tax exemption limit you may want to shield only the funds necessary for exemption in a trust. A Spousal Lifetime Access Trust may work for a long-married couple. The donor spouse makes a gift to the trust for the other spouse’s benefit. Any appreciation of assets gifted to the trust will be excluded from the estate of both spouses for tax purposes, removing the need for the surviving spouse to pay taxes on the capital gains. 

You may also benefit from filing a surviving spouse return when needed. For a married couple, the combined estate tax limit can be important. Any part of the current $11.7 million individual exemption, or potential future $3.5 million individual exemption, that is not used when the first spouse passes away can be carried over to the other spouse. When the second spouse dies, they can use up to the full amount of the married couple credit. This is referred to as a Deceased Spousal Unused Exclusion (DSUE). To obtain this benefit, the second spouse has to file a federal estate tax return (IRS Form 706) upon the first spouse’s death and make the accurate election. 

Do you have questions? Please contact our law practice to learn more. We are here for you. Elder and Estate Planning Attorneys PA is a law office small enough to provide personal service but large enough to provide service in Palm Beach, Martin, St. Lucie and Indian River Counties.

Protect Your Parents Before They Enter A Nursing Home

Do you anticipate that your parents may require full-time nursing home care due to their age or their health condition? If so, you should consider helping them put a plan in place now.  According to Genworth’s Cost of Care Survey, the average cost for a private room in a nursing home facility is over $100,000.00 per year. Although nursing home care can be incredibly expensive, there may be ways that you can help ensure that the assets of your parents are protected and that they do not lose all of their savings paying those exorbitant nursing home bills.   

There may be a variety of ways in which you can help protect your parents by planning for nursing home care payments. Long-term care insurance plans can be an affordable option to offset the costs of care, especially if your parents are young enough and healthy enough to qualify for the best rate. Veterans benefit programs, if available to your parents, can help cover the costs of nursing home care. Medicare also provides coverage in limited situations. Primarily, however, people depend upon Medicaid coverage to pay for nursing home care. Access to Medicaid coverage, however, requires that the nursing home patient fall below a certain asset and income threshold. An elder law attorney can help you and your parents understand what benefits and coverage options are available and ensure your parents are protected.

Even if you do not think your parents would qualify for Medicaid with their current assets and income levels, it may be important that you contact an elder law attorney because there are many strategies that can be employed to protect your parents’ assets and still allow them to qualify for Medicaid coverage. Because May is National Elder Law Month, now may be the perfect time to do so and help your parents take this significant step towards protecting their future. 

Do you have questions? Please contact our law practice to learn more. We are here for you. Elder and Estate Planning Attorneys PA is a law office small enough to provide personal service but large enough to provide service in Palm Beach, Martin, St. Lucie and Indian River Counties.

5 Tips For Caring For Aging Seniors During National Elder Law Month

Did you know that May is both National Elder Law Month and Older Americans Month? It is a month in which we celebrate our seniors and those who assist seniors in navigating their planning needs. Caring for your senior loved one can be stressful and difficult at times, but also very rewarding. Let us take a look at five tips to employ when you are caring for your aging senior to make your life, and his or her life, a little bit easier:

1. Be organized. When caring for your senior loved one you may find the amount of assistance that is actually needed, overwhelming. In addition to ensuring that your loved one’s medical needs are attended to by the appropriate healthcare professionals, you may also need to provide your loved one with assistance in regular daily tasks like getting dressed, eating meals, and taking medication. Creating schedules and to-do lists can help you make sure you are able to keep everything on track

2. Be patient and flexible. The needs of your loved one, and his or her condition, may be ever changing and it can be important to help ensure that he or she understands that you are there to provide support, no matter what. 

3. Be consistent. Keeping bedtime, mealtimes, activities, and social events as consistent as possible can provide structure and help you and your senior loved one create expectations for each day.

4. Share caregiving responsibility. If all of the caregiving falls on your shoulders, you may burn out quickly. If possible, share the caregiving responsibilities with relatives or friends so that you are not solely responsible for all tasks.

5. Seek the advice of an elder law attorney.  You should also contact an elder law attorney to discuss how to best plan for your senior loved one’s long-term care. Care for our seniors can be very expensive, but there are a variety of state and federal programs in place that may help alleviate a lot of the financial burden.

Do you have questions? Please contact our law practice to learn more. We are here for you. Elder and Estate Planning Attorneys PA is a law office small enough to provide personal service but large enough to provide service in Palm Beach, Martin, St. Lucie and Indian River Counties.