Tag: estate planning

Going Through a “Gray Divorce” Requires Keeping an Eye on Retirement

We know that going through a divorce can be a traumatic experience for anyone at any age. Younger and middle-aged couples often face the unfortunate challenge of splitting up with children involved. Older couples face their own harrowing challenges, particularly if they have been married for a long time and are beyond their prime working years.

Many older adults no longer possess the desire to climb the corporate ladder or compete in the job market, if they are able to work at all. Further, with their shared nest eggs and investments that can be greatly reduced through a separation, it is recommended that older couples keep an eye on their retirement accounts when going through a “Gray” Divorce.

As always, meeting with an experienced attorney should be one of your first steps if you are considering a divorce. When it comes to separating later in life a consultation with an estate planning and elder law attorney is critical so you may discuss the impact on your long-term care options. Let us share a few tips to help you through this process.

1. Seek wise counsel. Obtaining a qualified attorney is a must, but a financial advisor or attorney with estate planning experience can be an added advantage. They can help organize long-term retirement goals, set up estate documents, and provide information and guidance for negotiating a favorable divorce settlement.

2. Obtain documents. Whether you or your spouse was in charge of your legal, financial, insurance and tax documents, it can be critically important to obtain copies for your divorce negotiations and retirement planning. Think of these items as the bedrock for your financial future.

3. Be financially prudent. It is true that there is more to life than money, as evidenced by the love and compassion that once led to your marriage. Money, however, is an inescapable part of life, and the older one gets the more important financial stability becomes.

4. Make sound financial decisions. This is important throughout the course of a “Gray” Divorce proceeding, as well as, with post-divorce decisions about the lifestyle one can realistically afford. A healthy goal would be the funding a comfortable, long-term retirement and building up from there. It may be easier said than done, but it is not impossible.

Knowing that you are financially supported in your latter, non-working years can bring peace of mind during a difficult time. It may also allow you to live out your golden years with a greater sense of enjoyment amid your new family circumstances. Do not wait to contact us with your questions

Disability estate plan – What you don’t know may hurt you

It can happen when you least expect it. A car crash, a sudden illness or a chronic medical condition means you’re financial plans for the future veer off course. In fact, the centers for disease control and prevention say about one in five American adults reported disability in a given year. And it means hundreds of billions of dollars in disability associated health care costs. Frustratingly, you can’t turn back the clock says attorney Anne Desormier-Cartwright. However you can take meaningful actions to protect your legacy and estate in the wake of your new-found limitation. Desormier-Cartwright recommends working with a qualified estate planning attorney. She says the attorney will make sure you have an authorized person to make your financial and health care decisions. And that you have a people to manage your property, pay your bills, and file taxes. Finally, know the term disability for legal purposes is different from than disability as it applies to financial planning purposes. The professionals at Elder & Estate Planning Attorneys are there for you to answer any questions you may have.

Out of state files – What you must know if you move

The population in Florida continues to grow with over 430,000 people moving to the sunshine state last year, pushing the total number of full-time residents to a new high of over 21,000,000. And another 5,000,000 more people are expected to move here by 2030. While more new businesses and growing universities have brought more young people here, the 80 and over population still saw the biggest jump. Many of those older people have already filed estate planning documents in their prior place of residence, so the question they face is, are those documents still valid? Attorney Anne Desormier-Cartwright, who has spent three decades focused on elder law and estate planning, says, “If they are validly executed in that other state “then they are enforceable here. “However, things may have changed. “For example, maybe you had minor children “when you prepared your previous documents “and now you have adult children, “or maybe you have grandchildren “that you want to provide for.” There are also certain laws, like Medicaid, whose provisions vary from state to state. It is recommended that new residents who filed documents in another state have those files reviewed by a local attorney to determine if they are valid in Florida. Elder and Estate Planning Attorneys are there for you to answer any questions that you may have.

How to protect yourself when life changes

Despite your best efforts, you cannot plan for every emergency. A car accident, sudden illness, workplace injury, or chronic medical condition can force you to reevaluate the core assumptions you used to prepare for your future. However, you can take meaningful actions to protect your legacy and estate in the wake of the changes to your life and livelihood. Anne Desormier-Cartwright of Elder and Estate Planning Attorneys PA offers some insight to that end. She says, “Make sure there’s an authorized person “to make financial and healthcare decisions for you “if you become mentally “or physically unable to do so yourself. “Also, someone must be named to manage your property, “pay your bills, file your taxes, “and handle similar business “if you’re unable to do these tasks.” You also want to establish that your desires for certain healthcare decisions, such as end-of-life care and do-not-resuscitate instructions have been communicated in a legally valid and binding manner. Working with a qualified estate planning attorney can help ensure your wishes are carried out in the event you cannot speak for yourself. Elder and Estate Planning Attorneys PA is a law office small enough to provide personal service, but large enough to handle all of your estate and planning needs.


The Right Time For An Estate Plan

If you care about how your money is spent or not spent, invested, mismanaged, or misused when you’re dead, there are ways to leave your wealth so that your loved ones and chosen beneficiaries benefit from your money, but are not burdened by it. When you pass on, do you want your spouse or widow taken care of to the exclusion of everyone else or do you want your grandkids’ education paid for? Do you want to be able to buy a home for your child? Anne Desormier-Cartwright of Elder and Estate Planning Attorneys PA says that proper planning can make your wishes known. “If you want any control over how your money is spent “after you’re gone, “talk to your Florida estate planning attorney, “someone who prepares Florida wills and trusts “about placing restrictions and guidelines “and instructions on your wealth, “perhaps placing some or all of your assets “in a Florida trust.” She further advises that the time to plan is now, while you’re still living and competent. After you’re gone, you will not have a say in how your money is spent or misspent, used or misused. Elder and Estate Planning Attorneys PA is a law office small enough to provide personal service, but large enough to handle all of your estate and planning needs.

The New Federal Tax Law Offers Plenty of Reasons to Update Your Estate Plan

When Congress passed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, lawmakers included a huge increase in the federal estate tax exemption. It now stands at $11.2 million through 2025, adjusted for inflation. That enormous sum might tempt some seniors to put their estate planning on the back burner, as if they’re now exempt from estate planning unless they have $11.2 million in the bank. This, however, could be a mistake.


First, it’s always a good idea to review your estate plan, regardless of whether federal or state tax laws change. A marriage, a death in the family, or the birth of a grandchild are just a few other reasons to revamp your plan, not to mention if you’ve changed your mind since you last addressed your estate documents. There is also no better time to get started than the beginning of a new year.


That said, wills and trusts are a good place to start. It’s not uncommon for wills and trusts to have inheritance structures tied to the federal exemption limit. If they were established years ago when the exemption limit was much, much smaller, then a major problem could be in the works. Since the IRS automatically exempts spouses from the estate tax, children are routinely set up to inherit the maximum amount allowed under estate laws, with the deceased’s spouse getting the rest. But with such a huge new federal exemption, if the will or trust isn’t updated then the children of the deceased could inherit everything up to the new limit, effectively disinheriting the spouse.


That may be an extreme scenario, but it’s one of many concerns that should light a fire under seniors to update their plans with a trusted estate planning attorney. It’s critically important to craft a legally sound plan to ensure your final wishes are followed, and your loved ones are supported through your lifelong work.


When updating your will or trust documents, it will also be important to update other estate planning items, such as a durable power of attorney. This gives someone else the authority to act on your behalf in the event you become mentally incapacitated. If this includes the ability to make financial gifts to avoid reaching any previous estate tax limits, then it may need to change. Updating your power of attorney could eliminate the potential for senior financial abuse.


If this article raises more questions that it answers for you, please let us know. We are here to help you and your loved ones both now and in the future. Do not wait to contact us with your questions.

Hurricane Preparations for Seniors/Estate Planning

As the summer months start heating up and the threat to South Florida for hurricanes becomes the annual what-if, being informed is perhaps the greatest advantage you can have. Knowledge is power, as the saying goes. When considering the tremendous destructive potential of hurricanes, extra preparation can make all the difference, especially when it comes to planning for the seniors in your life. Attorney Anne Desormier-Cartwright of Elder & Estate Planning Attorneys PA offers some advice. “You should make a list “of how a hurricane may affect your loved ones “and ask if they live in a flood zone. “Are there large branches hanging over their house “that are susceptible to high winds? “What is the quickest path out of their neighborhood? “Is there access to a public shelter and a hospital? “Do they have enough medicine on hand?” Having a disaster plan is an important step for protecting your family. You also need Florida estate planning to ensure that there is a person with legal authority who may act for your loved ones in a crisis. Elder & Estate Planning Attorneys PA is a law office small enough to provide person service, but large enough to handle all of your estate and planning needs.

Why Did Aretha Franklin Choose To Be “Intestate”?

Aretha Franklin, the “Queen of Soul”, passed away on August 16, 2018. The amazing creator of hits such as “I Never Loved a Man” and “Think” left many of her fans saddened that they would never hear another hit from her again.

Perhaps the most perplexing question now is why would this multimillion dollar artist leave her work, her legacy, and her family unprotected? Recent reports have informed us that Aretha Franklin did die without any estate planning in place.

Passing away without an estate plan means that Aretha Franklin’s estate is “intestate”. This means she did not have a last will and testament or trust agreement in place. In some ways, this is not surprising. It has recently been reported that only one in four Americans today have an estate plan in place.

These same reports share that most Americans either do not want to think about a time when they will not be here or simply do not think estate planning is important. Unfortunately, these are dangerous assumptions to make. While there could be an argument that one does not care what happens to his or her money at death, estate planning covers much more. In fact, without estate planning documents in place, such as durable powers of attorney or health care surrogates, there may be no one with legal authority to act for you in a crisis during your life.

In other ways, her decision is surprising. Aretha Franklin is worth over eighty million dollars. We might expect that a person of that net worth would at least have a last will and testament in place. After all, the federal estate tax can be expected to assess forty percent against the amount of her estate over the tax limit. All of us, even if we are not multimillionaires need to plan for estate and gift taxes.

Further, Aretha Franklin left four children behind. One of these children is known to be disabled. The lack of her desire to create a special needs trust for this child is surprising. When you are planning for the future of your disabled child, a special needs trust can ensure that he or she will not be disqualified for any public benefits that he or she would otherwise be entitled to receive.

We know that Aretha Franklin’s choices may leave you with questions. We encourage you to ask us your questions and to plan forward. You do not want to leave your loved ones facing these challenges at a time they will already be facing the loss of you. Do not wait to contact us to get started creating the estate planning you need.

What To Do When a Disability Throws Your Estate Plan Into Chaos

As poet Robert Burns mused centuries ago, “The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” Despite thoughtful effort and a concerted strategy, you cannot prepare for every emergency. A car accident, sudden illness, workplace injury or chronic medical condition can force you to re-evaluate the core assumptions you used to plan your future and set up your legacy.

A 2015 report published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offered this sobering assessment: “In 2013, approximately one in five U.S. adults reported any disability, with state-level prevalence of any disability ranging from 16.4% in Minnesota to 31.5% in Alabama.” The CDC also reported that “annual disability-associated health care expenditures were estimated at nearly $400 billion in 2006, with over half attributable to costs related to nonindependent living (e.g., institutional care, personal care services).”

Frustratingly, you can’t turn back the clock. However, you can take meaningful actions to protect your legacy and estate in the wake of your newfound limitations. Here are some insights to that end:

Work with a qualified estate planning attorney to ensure that:

  • There’s an authorized person to make financial and healthcare decisions for you if you
    become mentally or physically unable to do so yourself.
  • There’s also an authorized person to manage your property, pay your bills, file your
    taxes and handle similar business if you’re unable to do these tasks.
  • Your wishes about health care decisions, such as end of life care and do-not-resuscitate
    instructions, have been communicated in a legally valid and binding manner.

Get a recommendation from your estate planning attorney or your financial advisor, who can help you take additional actions, such as:

  • Ensuring that you have appropriate insurance.
  • Reassessing your investment options and portfolio in light of your new limitations and constraints on your ability to generate income.
  • Making sure that you have a budget that works and that your bills will all get paid on time.

Mind this important distinction:

Be advised that “disability” for legal purposes is different than “disability” for financial planning purposes.

For example, disability for financial purposes might mean you can’t work gainfully anymore because of cancer or a workplace injury. On the other hand, “incapacity” in an estate planning context typically means that a person is no longer capable of making sound decisions, often due to systemic illness or injury.

In other words, you can be “disabled” for financial/insurance purposes and be non-disabled for legal purposes. However, almost anyone who is disabled for legal purposes would also be considered disabled for financial purposes.

Either way, it’s important for us to work together with your financial advisor to make sure you and your family are fully protected.

Take these actions on your own:

  • Pay attention to where your money is going as well as to your long term planning strategy. Your estate planning attorney can help you assess whether your current plans
    are still realistic and, if not, what alternative options you have.
  • Maintain a healthy lifestyle. For instance, cut down on added sugars and refined vegetable oils and be sure to eat enough vegetables, protein, and healthy fats.
  • Get the help you need from trusted professionals. Now is the time to tap your friends and family and network for assistance with the heavy lifting. No single advisor will have
    all the answers. But your team can work in concert to reduce the anxiety and uncertainty and keep you focused on what really matters.

Please reach out to us to assess your long term plans and documents and make sure you are as secure as possible in light of your new challenges.

The content of this article is general and should not be relied upon without review of your specific circumstances by competent legal counsel. Reliance on the information herein is at your own risk, as it expresses no opinion by the firm on your specific circumstances or legal needs. An attorney client relationship is not created through the information provided herein.

5 Tragic Mistakes People Make When Leaving Assets to Their Pets

A pet trust is an excellent way to make sure your beloved pet will receive proper care after you pass on. The problem, of course, is that you won’t actually be there to see that your wishes are carried out. It’s critical to set up a pet trust correctly to ensure there are no loopholes or unforeseen situations that could make your plans go awry. Here are 5 tragic mistakes people often make when leaving their assets to their pets.

1. Appropriating more than the pet could ever need.

The gossip stories about such-and-such celebrity who left his or her entire fortune to a pet are the exception rather than the rule. Leaving millions of dollars, houses, and cars to your pet is not only unreasonable, but it’s more likely to be contested in court by family members who might feel neglected. To avoid this pitfall, leave a reasonable sum of money that will give your pet the same quality of life that she enjoys now.

2. Providing vague or unenforceable instructions.

Too many pets don’t receive the care their owners intended because they weren’t specific enough in their instructions or because they did not use a trust to make the instructions legally binding. Luckily, a pet trust can clarify your instructions and make them legally valid.

If you leave money to a caretaker without a pet trust in place, hoping it will be used for the pet’s care for example, nothing stops the caretaker from living very well on the pet’s money. But when you use a pet trust to designate how much the caretaker receives and how much goes for the pet’s care, you’ve provided a legal structure to protect your furry family member. You can be as specific about your wishes as you’d like, from how much is to be spent on food, veterinary care, and grooming. You can even include detailed care instructions, such as how often the dog should be walked.

3. Failing to keep information updated.

Bill sets up a pet trust for his dog Sadie, but what happens if Sadie passes away? If Bill gets a new dog and names her Gypsy, but he doesn’t update this information before he dies, Gypsy could easily wind up in a shelter or euthanized because she’s not mentioned in the trust. This is a common yet tragic mistake that can be easily avoided by performing regular reviews with your estate planning attorney to ensure that your estate plan works for your entire family.

4. Not having a contingency plan.

You might have a trusted friend or loved one designated as a caretaker in your pet trust, but what happens if that person is unable or unwilling to take that role when the time comes? If you haven’t named a contingent caretaker, your pet might not receive the care you intended. Always have a “Plan B” in place, and spell it out in the trust.

5. Not engaging a professional to help.

Too many people make the mistake of trying to set up a pet trust themselves, assuming that a form downloaded from a do-it-yourself legal website will automatically work in their circumstances. Only an experienced estate planning attorney should help you set it up to help ensure that everything works exactly the way you want.

When attempting to leave assets to your pet, the good news is that with professional help, all these mistakes are preventable. Talk with us today about your options for setting up a new pet trust or adding a pet trust to your current estate plan. We’re here to help.


The content of this article is general and should not be relied upon without review of your specific circumstances by competent legal counsel. Reliance on the information herein is at your own risk, as it expresses no opinion by the firm on your specific circumstances or legal needs. An attorney client relationship is not created through the information provided herein.