Tag: last will and testament

Could You Be Headed To A Will Contest In Florida?

Have you created a solid Florida estate plan?  Did you try to create a Florida estate plan that can give legal authority to another person of your choosing? Your decision to choose this person is very important because he or she will now have the ability to make your decisions should something happen to you resulting in your inability to make decisions during your lifetime. However, this lifetime protection is just one part of the equation.

Legacy planning is also important to many people. People want to decide now what to do with their hard earned assets at the time of their passing. By creating a legacy through their estate plan they will be able to provide for their intended beneficiaries, not just in the present but often for years to come. We know how important a solid future for the loved ones of our clients is.

However, what happens when all your planning is not well received? What happens if the work you and your Florida estate planning attorney thoughtfully created for your legacy comes under attack from third parties? Who could these third parties be? They could be creditors, business partners, relatives, and even your own children, who do not agree with what you intended, created and planned. So how do you prevent your careful planning from coming under attack and potentially being undone? In fact, could you be headed to a will contest in Florida?

As Florida estate planning attorneys we understand your concerns and know what to do. We would like to share with you some ways to potentially limit the likelihood of a will contest, and ultimately be successful.

  1. Take the time to identify potential complications early and share them with your Florida estate planning attorney if you want to avoid any potential contests in the future. Do you have anyone in your life that you do not want to inherit from you? Do you have business partners or employees who do not want to be included if you are no longer here?  Do you want your business to continue without you? Could you sell your business? Is there anyone in your life, including an adult child, who you absolutely do not want to be making your decisions at the time of your incapacity or death?  
  2. It is very important that you do not risk your Florida estate planning, either in the creation or in the updates or amendments, with a do-it-yourself or internet estate plan! Be aware that there are strict laws to be followed when you want your Florida estate plan to work. While you can read about signing provisions, execution, requirements, notarization requirements, and much more, your best defense to potential legal challenges is the experience of a Florida estate planning attorney who you choose to work with. Your Florida estate planning attorney will understand your goals, your values, what you do and do not want, and will be able to support you both in life as well as at the time of your passing, especially if any challenges arise.
  3. It is acceptable that you consider letting others know your wishes for your legacy. We do have many of our clients choose to keep their Florida estate planning goals and choices confidential, but you do not have to. Communication is key in all situations, especially with the understanding of what you want for your legacy. Letting vital decision makers, and even beneficiaries, know your wishes early may be a critical step in helping them understand why you did or did not make the choices they believed were in their best interest. However, before taking this step, discuss the pros and cons with your Florida estate planning attorney.
  4. Consider trust planning, not just will planning, as a part of your estate plan. Unfortunately, despite much public misinformation, a Florida last will and testament does not avoid the probate process. Instead, the last will and testament ensures that a probate may be needed. Probate is a public proceeding and can give a forum for challenges to your Florida estate plan. With most Florida trust planning, however, the probate process can be avoided, and your trust administration process can be kept private.
  5. Most importantly, it is highly recommended that you hire an experienced Florida estate planning attorney. There is absolutely no substitute for experience in this area. Your Florida estate planning attorney, with years of experience and training, will be able to help you navigate these challenges both while you are creating your Florida estate plan as well as being available for your decision makers in the event of your incapacity or death. Be sure to discuss any and all concerns you have related to potential conflict at the time of your passing with your Florida estate planning attorney so you can receive guidance on what the best course of action is. Secrets, uncertainty, or surprises, in this area do not benefit anyone and in fact can damage your planning if they are not disclosed in full when you meet with your Florida estate planning attorney.

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.

How a last will and testament can help you communicate your final wishes

The time to plan for what you want to happen after your death is now. A Last Will and Testament is a legal document that allows you to communicate your final wishes to loved ones and outlines your directions for distribution of your property and possessions to individuals and charities, known as beneficiaries.

“A person writes a will while they are alive, and its instructions are carried out once the individual passes away. The will names a still-living person as the executor of the estate. The probate court usually supervises the executor to ensure that wishes specified in the will are carried out.” says Anne Desormier-Cartwright of Elder and Estate Planning Attorneys, PA.

A last will and testament is not only a financial document. It also provides your directions for the care of your children and assigns guardianship, according to your wishes.

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 importance of wealth preservation

You’ve worked hard for everything you have. So, it’s not uncommon to want to protect what you’ve earned for yourself and future generations. Since the global financial meltdown, you may be more sensitive and aware of the need to protect your assets. “Asset preservation isn’t as simple as looking at “current and projected market volatility, “interest rates and your own retirement, and desire “to leave funds to succeeding generations. “It’s about figuring out which goal means the most to you.” says Anne Desormier-Cartwright of Elder and Estate Planning Attorneys PA. If you’re investing your money for the future, you need to be aware that caution can reduce a potential upside. Some investments are designed for risk mitigation rather than capital appreciation. A qualified financial adviser and estate planner will be able to guide you through the process of what will work best for you and your goals. 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.

Common Myths about Estate Planning

No matter what your age, Estate Planning is essential to distributing assets according to your wishes and not that of the government’s laws and statutes. Estate Planning is very complicated where myths abound and they can be harmful to you and your loved ones. Below is a list of common myths about estate planning.


If I have a valid and thorough Last Will and Testament, probate will not be required, and my assets can be transferred immediately to the beneficiaries of the Will. In fact, having a Will forces probate in most circumstances and the assets may not be transferred to the heirs for months or years. Most importantly, depending how title is held, real estate must be transferred through a probate and generally is not a good idea to add your children to your deed unless they live with you, are adults and you intend them to inherit the property to the exclusion of others.


Probate is a proceeding involving the court which forces the transfer of title from the decedent’s name to your living beneficiaries. Probate is filed in county in the state of your legal residence as well as any state where you own real property. The length of time to complete probate varies from state to state, but can take six months to two years, on average. At a time of emotional trauma from the death, probate adds confusion and frustration to the heirs and is public record which means available for review by anyone, not just your heirs.


I do not need a Last Will and Testament if I have a small estate. Many people also believe that if there is no Will, all the decedent’s assets will be distributed to the surviving spouse. In Florida, if you die without a will, your spouse gets the first $60,000 and the statutes dictate where the rest of your assets go and who will administer your estate. That means Florida Statutes may not distribute your assets to the people you want to have them.


If my assets do not exceed $600,000, I will avoid probate. The law used to be your asset was taxed 55% for any assets exceeding $600,000.00 for Federal estate tax purposes. This is old law. However, the law was amended late last year changed the limits again. First, as the law stands now, if you die in 2010, there is no Federal estate tax but there is a modified step up in basis of assets inherited. That is how the several billionaires who have died this year have transferred assets without Federal estate taxes but the heirs inherit assets without the benefit of the step in basis (which used to be the value of the asset at the time of death). Therefore selling inherited assets that have increased in value since purchase will now be subject to a 15% capital gains tax in 2010 and 20% (or more) if sold after 2010. But the law which was passed earlier this century sunsets (ends) on December 31, 2010 which means the law is set to change in 2011. For those persons dying on or after January 1, 2011 there is no Federal inheritance tax for the first million dollars of assets but for each $1 above 1 million, heirs are taxed at the 55% tax rate. The unlimited marital deduction will still exist so married couples can transfer assets between spouses without Federal estate tax but the assets are taxed when the last spouse dies. If you die in the year 2010 under the current law, you can transfer an unlimited amount of assets to your heirs (does not have to be spouse) and the transfer is not subject to estate tax. However if you die after December 31, 2010, your heirs will taxed at the 55% tax rate.


Most importantly is to understand what assets are included in your estate for Federal estate tax purposes and what is transferred without probate. Generally, assets owned even held jointly with another person are considered in the taxable estate even though the assets may pass by operation of law (without further legal action or probate). In addition, you must consider and plan for the way in which taxes are paid if due. If estate taxes are due, typically your heirs must liquidate the very assets they are inheriting to pay the estate taxes so you are not transferring the assets you want them to inherit. No matter where you stand economically, you need to plan your estate to take advantage of estate planning vehicles to limit the exposure to estate inheritance tax and transfer the assets to whom you want to transfer. We should recognize all of us will die someday; we do not know what day that will be. For now, because the law will revert back to pre 2001 tax levels and rates, if you have over $1,000,000 in assets, your estate will taxed unless proper planning is in place.


A Will covers all my assets. Wills do not cover assets held as joint tenants with right of survivorship, retirement plans, annuities, life insurance, and other financial accounts with payable on death or transfer on death designations and named beneficiaries.


I can do my own estate plan. Estate planning is more than just creating documents. It requires understanding the whole picture and how legal documents work in concert with the assets at the time they are needed and what form documents do not contain. And you should not allow a minor to inherit assets outright because that may require a court supervised guardianship.


Only the wealthy need to worry about estate taxes. In fact, in Florida, any estate exceeding $1 million is subject to estate taxes as of January 1, 2011.


I do not need estate planning because I hold all my assets jointly with another. In fact, this is one of the worst ways to plan you estate. The asset may be exposed to estate and gift taxes; it does not avoid probate, just delays it until the last owner’s death; it may result in estate, gift and capital gains taxes; it is subject to the creditors of all owners except a home if the other owner claims it as their homestead; and it will result in the transfer of the property to the joint owner when one owner dies, even if that was not intention.


You cannot afford to rely on myths when it comes to your estate. Talk to a lawyer who practices in estate planning and knows how the laws of inheritance work and how to avoid the unintended consequences. Investigate the law and how it affects your facts, plan carefully and execute a plan to provide you with peace of mind and security for your loved ones.