Tag: estate 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.

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.

Why a Florida Prenup Should Be at the Top of Your Estate Planning To Do List

Were you aware that a Florida prenup can be a useful tool in estate planning? While most people assume that prenuptial agreements are only used to protect assets in the event of divorce, this is far from the only reason why many engaged couples choose to create one. 

Couples can use a Florida prenup to designate which assets should be considered separate property, and which are community or shared property. Making this distinction before marriage can prevent separate assets from being wrongly classified as community property when a spouse dies. This may be particularly useful for second or subsequent marriages, or for those who are marrying later in life or who have accumulated significant assets prior to the marriage. In some states, marriage entitles each spouse to a share of your estate (between a third to a half, depending on where you live). If you intend to leave less than that amount to your spouse, he or she has the power to request a higher percentage, which can leave your intended beneficiaries with less. 

Another reason why many couples choose to have a prenuptial agreement is to avoid disputes about money or property during the marriage. For a prenuptial agreement to be valid and legally binding, both parties must fully disclose their assets, properties, and debts in the agreement. Due to their financial picture being clear, there are fewer disagreements about how to manage their assets. 

Another common instance where a Florida prenup may be useful may be in the case of a closely-held family business. Often, business owners require only family members to be owners of the business and its holdings. If during a divorce, the business is determined to be partially owned by both spouses, the non-familial spouse could end up being an owner. In order to alleviate that situation, restrictions could be placed in the business’s agreements, or by transferring ownership of the business to a trust. A prenuptial agreement that describes the business as separate property and sets forth the rights and restrictions on ownership, however, would be another layer of protection for the business. 

Do you have questions on a Florida prenup and using it in your estate planning? 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.

 

Three Key Veterans Benefits to Know About This November

With Veteran’s Day, November is a great opportunity to set aside time to honor our veterans and thank them for all they have done for our great nation. One way the U.S. tries to give back to veterans is through veterans benefit programs. Did you know, however, that veterans benefits can be very complicated and many veterans may not even be fully aware of the wide range of benefit programs available to them? Let us take time to review three key veterans benefits to know about this November.

First, there are several education benefits offered through the VA. In addition to the GI Bill offering credits to use towards a college degree, it also provides coverage for training certification courses and vocational training programs. The fact that the GI Bill offers these kinds of training opportunities makes it ideal for those veterans who are seeking a career change that does not require a college degree. Veterans can also participate in free coding bootcamps and comparable software training and technology programs through the VET TEC program.

Second, veterans have the option of getting life insurance through the Servicemembers’ and Veterans’ Group Life Insurance program. Through this program, veterans may be able to receive up to $400,000 in life insurance. Not only does this program offer competitive premium rates, but it can allow veterans a chance to gain life insurance where they may find it difficult to find it otherwise. Many veterans face difficulties in getting traditional life insurance and this can be particularly true if they have suffered a service-related injury.

Lastly, veterans should be aware of the long-term care benefits they may be eligible to receive. For instance, the VA Pension with Aid and Attendance benefits program offers qualifying veterans financial assistance in order to cover the cost of a nursing home and other long-term care facilities. In fact, the program means that couples may receive upwards of $25,000 a year in benefits to help with long-term care costs 

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 Awareness Week: How to Prepare for COVID-19 Continuation

Estate planning can be important for a number of reasons. Did you know that the U.S. House of Representatives even designated the third week of October as National Estate Planning Awareness Week? The week is an opportunity to recognize and raise awareness as to the many things that can be accomplished through a strong estate plan. The protections put in place by a comprehensive estate plan seem especially important during the Covid-19 pandemic.

When developing an estate plan, you should consider including:

1. A Durable Power of Attorney: A durable power of attorney is a legal document that gives an agent the authority to carry on your financial and legal affairs and protect your property by acting on your behalf when you are incapacitated. The power of attorney can give the agent the ability to do things like pay bills, write checks, make deposits, sell or purchase assets, and sign tax returns.

2. Health Care Planning Documents: These documents empower you to select a trusted individual who will be given the authority to make health care decisions on your behalf if you are incompetent or incapacitated.

3. A Living Will: A living will allows you to indicate what kinds of end-of-life care you do and do not want when you are in a terminal medical situation. Without this document, your family will be uncertain about what types of care you would want, decisions which are often fraught and stressful.

4. A Will: This is possibly the most common legal document in estate planning. It can be used to direct the distribution of your property at the time of your death. It also allows you to appoint a personal representative to oversee the distribution of your assets. Additionally, it allows you to appoint a guardian to take care of minor children.

5. A Revocable Trust: This is a tool that can be used both for incapacity planning and for your estate after you pass away. This can be a great tool for maintaining privacy, and ensuring that your wishes are followed both during end-of-life and after you pass.

We know you may have questions. Let us help. Please contact us today to discuss the tools you need in your estate plan.

Estate Planning Lawyer: 4 Key Questions To Ask At Your First Estate Planning Meeting

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Have you scheduled your first meeting with your estate planning lawyer?

You may have questions about what to expect in this meeting. What is expected of you? What should you share about yourself, your family, your business, and your personal information? Even though you selected this attorney and may have received initial information, for many of us, the first meeting with an attorney can make many of us a little nervous.

The first step is to not be nervous. This relationship is about you and making sure that you and what you care about most, is always protected. The initial estate planning conference with your attorney is very important. This is when you explain to your attorney your estate planning goals, as well as, your assets and liabilities. This can also be a time when you also ask his or her advice on whether an estate plan can be established to meet your specific goals. 

Your first meeting is also when a confidential relationship is first established between the estate planning lawyer and the client. This relationship remains confidential, even if you do not hire this attorney. Let us share four key questions with you that you may ask your attorney in your first meeting.

The first question focuses on his or her experience in planning for an estate plan that meets your goals. Attorneys have experience in different types of planning. Many attorneys do not specialize in certain estate plans that are designed to meet the legal needs of a certain type of client. For instance, the majority of your assets may be invested in individual retirement accounts. In that event, your attorney needs to be experienced in drafting specialized IRA trusts that are designed to distribute these unique assets in a manner that does not give rise to tax issues at your death. 

The second question you may want to ask your attorney, or the staff when you are scheduling the appointment, is the cost of the initial conference you are requesting. Abraham Lincoln coined the phrase, “A lawyer’s time is his stock in trade.”

While the question of cost for the first meeting may seem offensive, it is not fair to the attorney to have him or her invest his legal time discussing your plans if you cannot pay for the first meeting. While the attorney may not be able to give you an exact amount for your whole estate plan, as you have not met yet, the cost of the consultation may be discussed upfront and the attorney will not be offended by your question.

A third question to ask your estate planning lawyer involves probate. You need to ask him or her what asset may need to be probated and what assets can pass to a surviving beneficiary without probate. The next extension of this question would be to logically ask how could probate be avoided. Your attorney will be able to provide solutions to you on how to both protect your estate during life or incapacity, and then at death by avoiding the probate process.

The fourth question to ask is when should your newly signed will or trust be reviewed by the attorney for updating. This can depend on a number of factors, such as your own family situation or what new laws have been passed that could improve or enhance the estate plan. 

Our goal is for you to have the most successful first meeting possible. Creating the right estate plan for you is critical to protecting you, your loved ones, and the legacy you wish to create. We encourage you not to put off planning as there is never a wrong time to create an estate plan. Do not hesitate to contact our office and schedule your first meeting with our Estate Planning Lawyer.

Helping Your Loved One Plan After a Chronic Condition Diagnosis

Did you know that approximately 60 percent of Older Americans live with a chronic condition? Conditions such as arthritis, asthma, and diabetes can require frequent medical treatment, close monitoring, and costly medications. As such, your loved one may feel overwhelmed with the increasing cost of care and new challenges he or she may be facing. One of the best ways to put your loved one’s mind at ease is to help him or her with the planning process. To help get you started, let us share with you a few tips for helping your loved one plan after a chronic condition diagnosis.

Perhaps the most important first step is to talk to your loved one about his or her diagnosis. Your loved one may be uncertain about the impact this could have on his or her life. To help educate you both about the condition in question, we encourage you to take some time to research the condition together. Be sure to determine the symptoms your loved one may present and the challenges he or she may face as a result of the condition. You may also wish to research treatment plans that may help make your loved one more comfortable as the condition progresses. 

Once you and your loved one have a better understanding of your loved one’s condition, it is important to review any planning he or she has already completed. Evaluate whether his or her current estate plan has protections in place, right now, for this type of unexpected situation, including any long-term care plans. Some important components to look out for include your loved one’s health care coverage, insurance, and whether he or she has a durable power of attorney.

Above all, do not hesitate to speak with an experienced estate planning attorney to help guide you and your loved one through this challenging time. Further, an estate planning attorney can advise you on the steps you could take to plan for a loved one with a chronic condition and account for his or her specific needs.

If this article raises more questions than it answers for you, do not hesitate to ask us your questions. Your loved one’s safety is important to us, and we are here to be a resource for you. We look forward to discussing your questions and supporting you with your particular needs.