Tag: trust

How Errors in Your Florida Estate Planning Documents Can Derail Your Goals

Did you know estate planning is a critical process that ensures your assets are managed and distributed according to your wishes after your passing? It involves the preparation of various legal documents, such as last will and testaments, trust agreements, powers of attorney, and healthcare directives, each serving a unique purpose in safeguarding your legacy and providing for your loved ones. 

What you may not realize, however, is the effectiveness of your estate plan hinges on the accuracy and relevancy of these documents. Errors, outdated information, or non-compliance with Florida-specific laws can lead to significant complications, potentially derailing your carefully laid plans. Critical issues like these can result in increased legal costs, prolonged probate proceedings, unintended tax liabilities, and even disputes among your heirs. Understanding the common pitfalls in estate planning and proactively addressing them with the guidance of an experienced Florida estate planning attorney can help ensure your goals are achieved and your loved ones are protected. We want to dive into them right here on our blog.

  1. Documents not specific to Florida. Estate planning laws vary significantly from state to state. If your documents were created in another state and have not been reviewed or updated since you moved to Florida, they may not comply with Florida law. This can lead to unintended tax consequences, probate issues, or even the invalidation of your documents.


  1. Outdated documents. Estate planning documents that are over ten years old may no longer reflect your current wishes or financial situation. You need to know that changes in your family dynamics, such as marriages, divorces, births, and deaths, can all impact your estate plan. Additionally, the value of your assets may have changed, requiring updates to your distribution plans.


  1. Changes in the law. Laws governing estate planning are subject to change. If your documents have not been reviewed in several years, they may not take into account recent changes in the law. For example, changes in tax laws can affect the tax efficiency of your estate plan, and updates in probate law can impact how your assets are distributed.


  1. Death of a decision-maker. If a person named in your estate planning documents, such as an executor, trustee, or power of attorney, has passed away, your documents need to be updated to appoint a new decision-maker. Failure to do so can result in delays and complications in administering your estate.


  1. Incorrect or incomplete beneficiary designations. Errors in beneficiary designations on accounts like life insurance, retirement plans, and payable-on-death accounts can cause these assets to be distributed contrary to your intentions. Ensure that all beneficiary designations are correctly aligned with your estate plan.

To avoid these common pitfalls, it is essential to work with an experienced Florida estate planning attorney who can help ensure your documents are up-to-date and compliant with current laws. An attorney who specializes in Florida estate planning law will have the expertise to ensure your documents are compliant with state-specific requirements. Your attorney can review your documents, if you have them, and make necessary updates to your documents to reflect changes in your family, assets, or decision-makers.

By taking these proactive steps, you can help ensure that your estate planning documents accurately reflect your wishes and protect your loved ones. We know this article raises 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.

Key Reasons Why You Should Not Trust AI with Your Florida Estate Plan

Are you ready to create your Florida estate plan? Are you thinking about using artificial intelligence (AI)?  We use technology so much in our lives, to communicate with our family, maintain our bank accounts, purchase items or more. But should we really include technology in our legal matters, especially in the creation of our estate plan?  We understand that AI tools may offer convenience and a semblance of efficiency by drafting a simple will or trust agreement, however, that being said, relying only on such technology overlooks the subtle and very personal nature of estate planning. Think about it, individual circumstances, family dynamics, and the intricate web of estate laws are all complex and that makes the role of an experienced Florida estate planning attorney not just helpful but crucial.

Often people use technology, and AI, to create fast and cost-efficient legal documents.  The major drawback to these surface-level documents is that they may cover up the potential for significant legal vulnerabilities and oversights. Be aware that estate planning is more than filling in the blanks on standard forms.  Creating a Florida estate plan is about knowing that your life’s work and wishes are honored through the legacy you want to create. You will be able to protect what matters most to you, both while you are here and long after. The value of personalized, professional advice in creating an estate plan cannot be measured or overstated. When you work with an experienced Florida estate planning attorney you will be given a depth of knowledge and receive an understanding of human complexities brought to the forefront, something that AI simply cannot do. Your estate planning attorney’s involvement will be vital in creating a plan that truly reflects your wishes and protects your legacy. 

Of course, it is tempting and so easy to turn to technology for every aspect of our lives, including legal matters such as estate planning. But it cannot be said enough, while AI tools may be able to draft a simple will or trust document, relying solely on technology can lead to unforeseen complications. You need to  understand the risks of using AI without the knowledge of an experienced Florida estate planning attorney.

As you start, you need to know that estate planning is not merely a transaction, it is a deeply personal process that encompasses the entirety of your life’s work, your family, and your legacy. Your experienced Florida estate planning attorney understands the nuances of personal relationships and can look ahead and see any possible family dynamics that could complicate a straightforward distribution of assets. No matter how advanced AI seems to be it does not have the empathy and understanding required to navigate these complex human elements.

Also, be aware that estate laws vary significantly from one jurisdiction to another and they are subject to frequent changes. In fact, an experienced Florida estate planning attorney stays abreast of these changes and understands how they might impact your estate plan. Their expertise includes not only the drafting of wills and trusts but also considerations around taxes, real estate, and other assets. Once again, AI tools may fall short and might not be updated promptly or might apply a one-size-fits-all approach that does not account for jurisdictional differences.

The most serious issue is that when relying on AI for estate planning there is the potential for errors or omissions that could lead to your estate being distributed under the state’s intestacy laws, which might not reflect your wishes. An experienced estate planning attorney will ensure that your estate plan is comprehensive, leaving no room for intestacy to take effect.

Florida estate planning attorneys know that every individual they meet with is different and their situations are unique. Therefore, there must be a customized approach to estate planning. An estate planning attorney will give you tailored advice that considers your specific family dynamics, financial situation, and long-term care wishes. But if you use AI, it will operate by using algorithms and set parameters that might not capture the subtleties of your unique circumstances.

Often, one of the most challenging aspects of creating an estate plan is navigating the dynamics of the family and spotting any potential conflicts. An experienced estate planning attorney is able to be a neutral third party, offering guidance on how to approach sensitive topics and making sure your plan minimizes the potential for family disputes. Of course, this level of looking to the future is something AI cannot provide.

We know that AI has its place in our digital world, but not with estate planning. It is important to know that creating an estate plan demands a personal touch that technology cannot replicate. We highly recommend using an experienced Florida estate planning attorney because their value cannot be overstated.  The expertise of your attorney ensures that your wishes are honored and your legacy is preserved without leaving anything to chance. In matters of such importance, it is essential to rely on the depth of knowledge and understanding that only a human professional can offer.

We know this article raises 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.

Establishing a Third-Party Special Needs Trust for a Disabled Grandchild

Have you considered creating a special needs trust that can be used to provide financially for a grandchild with special needs without jeopardizing the receipt or continued receipt of government benefits? There are different types of special needs trusts, each better suited to some situations than others. A qualified special needs estate planning attorney can guide you through the options. If you are a grandparent with a special needs grandchild, a third-party special needs trust may be the best choice.

A first-party trust and can be used when the beneficiary of the special needs trust is the person whose assets or property are going to fund the trust. This type is often utilized by a disabled individual in order to allow them to qualify for medical assistance from the state. As the grandparent of the special needs individual, this is probably not the right choice for you. Another type of special needs trust is a third-party trust. A third-party special needs trust can be used when you have decided to fund a trust for another special needs beneficiary, in this case your grandchild. A third-party trust is often also called a supplemental needs trust. This is because the trust is intended for you to provide funds to supplement the needs of your grandchild, rather than provide for all of their expenses or replace any assistance they might currently receive. 

If you decide to set up a third-party special needs trust, the trustee can be you, your spouse, your child (the parent of your grandchild) or another relative or friend. The trustee will be responsible for informing your local authority that the trust exists if your grandchild applies for any type of medical assistance, and the appropriate agency will decide whether it should count when determining your grandchild’s eligibility for services. The existence of the trust should not impact any responsibility of your grandchild’s school district to provide them with services, but it can be important to talk to a qualified attorney to understand the specifics. The main thing to keep in mind may be that, if you are considering leaving money to your grandchild with special needs, creating a third-party special needs trust will likely allow them to use the money you intend to leave them without jeopardizing other assistance they currently receive.

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.

Why You Need An Estate Plan

People try to stay healthy so they can live longer. But since no one lives forever, it’s important to make arrangements for the inevitable. To determine who gets your assets and how they receive them after your death and even what happens to you if you are unable to speak for yourself, you need an estate plan. But what does an estate plan cover and how do you make one? There are some important estate planning issues to consider when you decide what you want. Anne Desormier-Cartwright of Elder and Estate Planning Attorneys PA offers some insight. “Make a will, consider a trust, “establish healthcare directives, “make a financial power of attorney, “protect your children’s property, file beneficiary forms, “prepare for funeral and related expenses, “and make your final arrangements.” You should also plan ahead for your business and store your paperwork so your attorney and executor will have access to these documents. Desormier-Cartwright continues that this is a partial list and the advice of an experienced estate planning attorney will be the guidance you need to have a thorough understanding of a comprehensive estate plan. 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.

Updating Your Revocable Trust: How Many “Tweaks” Are Too Many?

If your life or the law has changed since you signed your trust, it needs to be updated. Updates can be made by way of an amendment – or – a complete restatement. An amendment updates a specific part of the trust; whereas, a restatement, updates the entire trust. You might think that an amendment would cost less than a restatement, but that’s not necessarily true. Let’s chat about which is best for you.

Amendments vs. Restatements: Which Is Better?

Imagine a recipe card you’ve used for years. If one or two provisions have been crossed out and replaced, the card may still be readable. However, if many provisions have been altered, the recipe is likely confusing. If your loved ones can’t read your instructions and determine whether to add a cup of flour or a cup of sugar, your recipe won’t work. You’ve got a 50/50 chance for a great dish – or a complete disaster.

The same can be said about revocable trust. Making one or two amendments is generally acceptable, but when revisions are numerous or comprehensive, your instructions may become confusing and you may be better served with a restatement.

Although amendments are generally used to make smaller changes and restatements are used for larger ones, there’s no bright line rule when it comes to amending or restating a revocable trust. A general guideline to follow is that anytime you’re making more than two changes, restatements are likely better as they:

  • Foster ease of understanding and administration
  • Tend to avoid ambiguity
  • Reduce the amount of paperwork to retain and provide to financial institutions / parties
  • Decrease the risk of misplacement
  • Prevent beneficiaries from discovering prior terms
  • Provide an opportunity to provide other relevant updates, such as changes in the law

In many cases, a restatement may actually be more cost effective than amendments. This is especially true today as computer software allows estate planning attorneys to create and retain documents easily and efficiently. Fortunately, today, you pay for legal counseling, not typing.

Have Questions About Updating Your Trust? We Can Provide Answers

Before deciding whether to amend or restate, it’s important to determine whether previous changes have inadvertently altered your intent or might adversely affect how the trust is administered. We’ll help make your instructions clear.

Have questions? If you do, that’s normal. We can provide you with answers. Whatever your circumstances, rest assured that we can help you to determine the best way to update your trust. Call us today and we’ll help make your instructions are up-to-date and crystal clear.

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.