Tag: estate planning attorney

3 Ideas for Including a Pet Trust in Your Florida Estate Plan

Do you have a pet or pets? You know how hard it is when the pet you have loved and cared for and who has been with you for a long time passes away. However, It may be very possible that your pet will outlive you. Are you an aging adult or do you have a pet that has a longer than average lifespan? You may want to consider a pet trust to ensure your pet is cared for after you are gone. We would like to share with you more about a pet trust and give you three A, B, C, thoughts to consider in regard to a pet trust being in your estate plan.

1. Aim for the right caregiver. You know your pet best. When you set up your pet trust, you will be able to name the right person to care for your pet. Now, your adult child may feel it would be his or her responsibility to take your pet. However, your adult child does not have the right circumstances at home to do so, perhaps because of having very young children or already having pets of his or her own. By choosing a different friend or relative you can ease the pressure on your adult child and it gives you the chance to make that choice yourself, rather than having it be decided under stressful circumstances later on.

2. Be sure to provide financial support for your pet. In most states, when you create a pet trust, you are permitted to instruct the trustee, the person in charge of handling the money in the trust, to make distributions to your pet’s caregiver on a monthly or annual basis. This can be done for either the remainder of your pet’s life or for 21 years, whichever is shorter. In some states, the cut-off is simply for the remainder of your pet’s life. This can be an important point if you have a less common type of pet, like a bird or lizard, who could live beyond 21 years after your death because their breed has a longer-than-average lifespan.

3. Comfort of your pet is important. Like many humans, your pet may have special medical needs, or personal preferences. You are allowed to put as many specific instructions as you wish into a pet trust. For example, you can state that the pet needs to see a certain veterinarian, for as long as that person is practicing, or that the pet needs to be seen two, three, or four times per year. You can also leave funds for a more expensive brand of food if your pet needs that brand. This can be important for many pet owners who want their companion to be comfortable after they are gone.

Are you interested in establishing a pet trust? Elder and Estate Planning Attorneys, PA, is a law office small enough to provide personal service but large enough to provide service in Jupiter, as well as Palm Beach, Martin, St. Lucie, and Indian River Counties in Florida. Our law firm will guide you through legal challenges involving elder law, estate planning, trusts, veterans benefits, real estate, and more. We encourage you to contact us and schedule a meeting with our attorneys.

Tips for Creating a Loving Legacy for Your Children This Valentine’s Day

Do you enjoy giving your adult children gifts on Valentine’s Day? Most of us do. This year, though, are you trying to look for a gift that will show them how much you love them and care about their future?

A gift that will show your love and concern for their future can be accomplished in many ways. As we move forward through the month of February and beyond, we would like to share a few ways that you can plan to protect your family and create a loving legacy that will provide for them in the future, especially this Valentine’s Day.

1. Put a plan in place to protect your legacy from long-term care costs. The cost of long-term care for Older Americans is expected to rise. It is, therefore, important that you be prepared now to afford the long-term care that you may need in the future. This is critical so that your spouse and children are not left struggling to find answers or to have to pay the long-term care costs. Floridians must realize that the failure to plan can cost them their goals for the legacy they create for their children.

We encourage you to develop the planning needed with your loved ones and discuss shared goals for long-term care. A vital next step in the development of your plan is to meet and speak to an experienced estate planning attorney. Most estate planning attorneys are also knowledgeable about elder law issues, and will understand your goals and needs and can help you prepare the appropriate planning documents.

2. Planning to retire soon? You can still start right now to leave a legacy for your children. As you consider the legacy you want to leave behind, find out whether retirement will impact your legacy and also how your long-term care plan could be affected.

Retirement can bring you and your loved ones many changes. Creating an estate plan is one of the best ways to ensure that your children have a clear understanding of how you want to use your retirement savings, as well as how you want it to provide for them and their families in the future. This is the way you can begin to create your legacy, which is how you will both protect yourself and your family’s future. Plan now, not later, to create a legacy for your children so that they are protected in the event something happens to you.

3. By creating your planning documents early you can define your legacy and discuss it with your loved ones. Do you want to ensure your loved ones are well taken care of in the event of your passing or sudden incapacity? Create an estate plan! In addition, it is a way to prepare for your own care as you get older. With your estate plan your family will know the legacy that you have created.

We urge you to not be like so many others and put off this type of planning until it is too late. Be very aware that without the ability to make decisions, you cannot be involved in any planning for yourself or create your own documents. By choosing to not move forward with your planning you may leave your family vulnerable in a crisis. Further, it is not enough to simply make your estate plans, your planning needs to be discussed with your loved ones. This will give them the peace to know that you have an estate plan and now they know what you want for the future.

These are just a few of the ways you can plan to protect your family and make the plans you need to provide for them when you are gone. As we reflect on Valentine’s Day and show those in your life the ways you love them, now is the time to get started. Preparation is key to successful planning and to help you accomplish your goals. Elder and Estate Planning Attorneys, PA, is a law office small enough to provide personal service but large enough to provide service in Jupiter, as well as Palm Beach, Martin, St. Lucie, and Indian River Counties in Florida. Our law firm will guide you through legal challenges involving elder law, estate planning, trusts, veterans benefits, real estate, and more. We encourage you to contact us and schedule a meeting with our attorneys.

Is Protecting Your Digital Assets a Key New Year’s Resolution?

When you made your New Year’s resolutions did you include understanding how to protect your digital assets? Digital assets are a hot topic and data security is in the headlines.  In addition, digital privacy is on the mind of many Floridians making this month a perfect time to be sure that our digital assets are secure now and in the future, including after we pass on. 

As you create or update your Florida estate plan, did you know that digital assets can be included in your plan? One aspect of securing your digital assets in the future can be accomplished while creating or updating your estate plan. We would like to share some  guidelines that may assist you in understanding how to include digital assets in your estate plan while keeping them secure in the meantime.

A critical first step in addressing the security of your digital assets is to preserve and protect your passwords. Most of us protect our digital assets with passwords. That being said, it is often tough to keep track of all of the different passwords you use to access different accounts on a frequent basis.  In fact, you may have resorted to using a memory or list feature on your computer or on your cell phone to keep track of all your passwords. Saving to some type of device is, unfortunately, not the most secure of practices.  Remember, it is important to choose strong passwords that cannot easily be guessed, and to change them frequently, even if only once a year. Always check frequently to be sure that your passwords have not been compromised. Update them immediately if they have!  We suggest that you keep track of your passwords by making a written list and keeping it in a locked desk drawer or safe deposit box. Wherever you keep this list it should be somewhere you can access frequently, so that you can make updates to the list.

What assets can become part of your estate plan?  Financial digital assets, like a digital Paypal, Venmo, or bitcoin account. Also, sentimental digital assets, like a collection of photographs or videos of your children and grandchildren. With any and all assets like these, someone needs to be able to access these assets after you pass away.  How do you accomplish this?  You may want to consider picking a “password person” who can be trusted with this information and keep him or her informed of where you keep your password list so it can be accessed if and when the time comes. As stated previously, when you create or update your estate plan you may also wish to detail who should have access to your digital assets or leave your personal representative instructions with respect to your passwords. 

We know this article may raise more questions than it answers. Elder and Estate Planning Attorneys, PA, is a law office small enough to provide personal service but large enough to provide service in Jupiter, as well as Palm Beach, Martin, St. Lucie, and Indian River Counties in Florida. Our law firm will guide you through legal challenges involving elder law, estate planning, trusts, veterans benefits, real estate, and more. We encourage you to contact us and schedule a meeting with our attorneys.

6 Questions to Ask When You Update Your Estate Plan in the New Year

The New Year is here and the holidays are coming to an end. As the month of January gets underway, we know many Floridians are focusing on how they will reach the resolutions they set. What are your resolutions? Did you focus on work? Or health? Or family?

No matter what you choose, we want to let you know that one of the most important New Year’s Resolutions you can make this year is to create your Florida estate plan. Your estate plan can protect you both during life and at the time of your death. During your life, you can work with your attorney to create a plan that ensures your choices for your health care and finances are honored by your chosen decision maker. Your attorney will also show you how you can ensure that your family will be provided for when you are no longer here with them.

Already have an estate plan? While this is great news, if you already have a plan in place, time is of the essence to ensure it reflects your wishes for yourself and your loved ones. Many changes can happen within your family, your business, and your finances in a year. It is important to make sure your estate plan remains effective in not only encapsulating the desired future for you and your loved ones, but also has the best tools in place to accomplish those goals.

How do you get started? Let us share six questions to ask yourself and your Florida estate planning attorney as you work on your Florida estate plan in the new year.

1. Should I update my plan if my immediate family members have changed? Yes! When there is a birth, death, divorce, or other life update, you should make it a priority to work with your attorney to determine if your estate plan needs any updates or significant changes.

2. Have the laws changed? This is an important question to ask your attorney. She stays up to date with all the latest information that could impact your legal planning and can make recommendations if your current plan needs to be changed.

3. Am I really unprotected if I do not have a Florida estate plan? You most certainly are. In the event of a crisis or death, there will be no guidance for your family, your bank, your friends, or the court system. When we do not take the time to create an estate plan the court in Florida may be required to in order for there to be legal authority for another to act on your behalf. This can be time consuming, costly, and public, and can be avoided by completing your estate planning while you have the capacity to do so.

4. What does a Florida estate plan really do? A Florida estate plan employs a variety of legal planning tools to address how your assets will be managed and distributed in the event of your death or incapacity, among other things.

5. When should I get started with creating a plan or updating it? As soon as you possibly can. To maximize the potential benefits a Florida estate plan has to offer, it is important to put the plan in place sooner rather than later.

6. What will my Florida estate planning attorney discuss with me? She can discuss with you the importance of lifetime planning using tools such as the durable power of attorney for your finances. She can help you choose your decision maker, as well as back up decision maker, for times of crisis. She can also discuss with you the difference between will based estate planning and trust based estate planning.

We know this article may raise more questions than it answers. We want to help you achieve the New Year’s Resolution of having a Florida estate plan that can meet your needs. Elder and Estate Planning Attorneys, PA, is a law office small enough to provide personal service but large enough to provide service in Jupiter, as well as Palm Beach, Martin, St. Lucie, and Indian River Counties in Florida. Our law firm will guide you through legal challenges involving elder law, estate planning, trusts, veterans benefits, real estate, and more. We encourage you to contact us and schedule a meeting with our attorneys.

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.

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.

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.

What are the Different Types of Trusts to Use in Estate Planning?

Trusts are an estate planning tool created for the management of assets, both during your life and after your death. Are there different types of trusts to use in estate planning? Yes, there are several types. They can, however, be divided into a couple of categories, which may make them much easier to understand. 

First of all, trusts can be either living or testamentary. Living trusts, also known as inter vivos trusts, are created while the trustor is still living. There are also testamentary trusts, which are created by a trustor after his or her death. 

Secondly, trusts are either revocable or irrevocable. In simplest terms, this speaks to whether or not they can be changed or revoked after they are created. There can be important legal implications of choosing between revocable or irrevocable. 

A revocable trust is created by a trustor, who also remains as the beneficiary until his or her passing, and then passes onto the successor trustee and beneficiaries. The easiest way to envision a revocable trust may be one created by a married couple, who remain as both co-trustors and co-beneficiaries until their passing and then, an adult child becomes the successor trustee and their other children, and possibly grandchildren, become the successor beneficiaries. A revocable trust can be revoked or changed at any time prior to the original trustor’s death. Accordingly, there are no tax benefits. Essentially, the revocable trust can function as a means of distributing assets to beneficiaries while avoiding the timely and costly probate process. 

As the name implies, once an irrevocable trust is created it cannot be changed, except under rather limited circumstances. Once the assets are transferred to the trust, they are no longer considered to be the property of the trustor, but rather, are the property of the trust. The benefits include limiting or eliminating both income and estate tax and usually the trust property cannot be reached by the trustor’s creditors. Another key draw of the irrevocable trust may be because the assets of the trust are no longer the property of the trustor, they are not considered, when determining the trustor’s eligibility for government programs, such as Medicaid, which can make them an integral tool in long-term care planning. Along the same lines, a special needs trust, which is most typically created to provide for an adult disabled child following the passing of their parents is most usually irrevocable, assuring the disabled child remains eligible for government programs. 

Now that you have an understanding of the fundamentals of trusts, it is a great time to meet with an estate planning attorney to discuss how best to meet your estate planning goals. 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.

Choosing the Right Estate Planning Attorney in Your Area

Does choosing the right estate planning attorney to help you create an estate plan seem like an overwhelming task? It can be understandable to feel like this. With these tips, however, it can be easier to narrow your choices to a few qualified attorneys in your area. Let us discuss these tips for choosing the right estate planning attorney in your area.

You might want to first start your search by asking your accountant or financial planner for recommendations. Estate planning can be a critical part of financial planning and money management. Drafting a will, a health care proxy, or power of attorney, as well as creating a trust, and maximizing your loved ones’ inheritances by minimizing taxes can all be important financial matters that often benefit from the specialized knowledge of an estate planning attorney. If your financial advisor and accountant have not already brought up estate planning, ask them who did their estate plan, and whether they would recommend their estate planning attorney.

You could also ask other attorneys for recommendations. You may have already worked with an attorney on another matter, perhaps setting up a business, buying a home, or reviewing a contract. Lawyers are often happy to refer their clients to other lawyers who practice in other areas of expertise, and they will want to refer you to good attorneys so that you will trust them again when you next need their assistance. Ask your former attorney who did his or her estate plan, and for references, so you can choose the right estate planning attorney in your area.

Contacting the state or local bar association may also be a good idea. State and local bar associations offer referral services or a searchable directory of attorneys with their practice areas. These services can make choosing the right estate planning attorney in your area as easy as a Google search. 

Your friends may also act as a solid referral source. While a staggering number of people do not have estate plans, there are many who do. Ask your friends if they have a will or a trust, and if so, who the attorney was that drafted it. Let friends know that you want to choose the right estate planning attorney in your area, and that you want to know if they worked with a great 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.