Tag: estate planning

Tips and Pointers on Where to Keep Your Original Florida Estate Planning Documents?

As a senior adult, are you like many Americans, still keeping your important paperwork and valuables at your bank? Do you believe a safe deposit box is the best place for storing important documents? After all, is it not logical that renting a safe deposit box is a much safer bet than keeping everything at home? These are all good questions and we would like to address them in our blog.

Now that you, together with your experienced Florida estate planning attorney, have created your documents for your Florida estate plan, you may be thinking about keeping your documents at your bank. However, you may be surprised to learn that there are pros and cons to this plan. We would like to share more on this topic so you can make a decision and, as always, do not hesitate to ask us your questions.

Interestingly, many estate planning attorneys may urge their clients not to keep the original copies of their estate planning documents in a safe deposit box. Let us share four tips and pointers as to why: 1. The bank is only open on certain days and at specific times. 2. Access to safe deposit boxes is limited to the owner or owners. 3. If you are the sole owner of a safety deposit box, your family and/or the personal representative(s) of your estate may need a court order to get your documents. 4. There can be ways around this, such as adding additional owners to the box, but you may not want to or forget to use them. We recommend you speak with your attorney because you can designate access to your safe deposit box in your durable power of attorney. A word of caution, though, banks do not always honor these documents when the time comes. Further, they cease to work upon your passing.

Where should you put your original estate planning documents, other papers and valuables? Instead of putting your original estate planning documents in a safe deposit box, consider these tips and pointers: 1. A fireproof and waterproof lockbox at home. 2. A home safe. 3. A secure container on an upper shelf of a closet or cabinet.

No matter where you decide to keep your original documents, remember to make copies. You can safely take copies of your documents with you to any professional visits you need to make, for example, your physician. Your original estate planning documents need to remain safely stored away so that there will be no challenges in the future for your needs, the needs of your family and your legacy. Be sure to discuss this now with your experienced Florida estate planning attorney.

As always, we are here to answer any of your questions and help address your concerns. You are welcome to ask us about storing your original estate planning documents, or about any estate planning matters, at any time. 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.

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.

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.

The Best Gift You Can Make This Holiday Season

Have you realized that in just a few short weeks, it will be 2022? Even with the persisting pandemic adding a layer to our plans, for most of us, we are busy finalizing our end of the year plans, purchasing last minute holiday gifts, and making plans to spend time with family. This is the perfect time to take stock of what has happened this year, as well as reflect on your goals for the coming year. For example, what went well and what could we improve on.

As we reflect on the past year and look to the future, do you have goals for yourself, your loved ones, and your legacy? We encourage you to take the time to not only think about the immediate actions that must be completed before the end of the year, but that you also think about what the future may hold for you. While you may be rushing to complete a shopping list of holiday gifts for your family, consider that completing or updating your Florida estate plan may be the best gift you can give them.

Do you have a current Florida estate plan? As a Florida senior, you may have many questions. For instance, who will make your decisions if you are not able to make them for yourself? If you are in a car accident, who will have the legal authority to pay your bills? Who could handle your business affairs if you could not? Should both your adult children be in charge of your finances? Will your retirement plans be able to support you as you age?

We hear questions like these, and more, from our clients and their family members each day. Remember that old adage: an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure? Based on our experience, when it comes to Florida estate planning, you need to know your plan will work when you need it to. This holiday season, a completed Florida estate plan is quite possibly the best gift you can give to your loved ones.

In addition, while Florida estate planning is a critical part of your health and well being, we want you to know that there is a second planning component that needs to be addressed and completed as well. It is your elder law planning, which includes long-term care. After they reach the age of 70, the majority of Americans will need some form of long-term care. Much of this care is not covered by Medicare and will fall on the Florida senior to pay for out of pocket. With prior planning we can assure you it does not have to be this way. We can work with you to not only create an estate plan but also a long-term care plan that can protect the estate plan you are putting in place and allow you to be able to leave a legacy for your family, no matter what the future holds.

We know this article may raise more questions than it answers. You are welcome to contact our law practice now, or at any time throughout the year, and schedule a meeting to make sure you have the Florida legal planning you need to accomplish your goals.

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.

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.