What is a Special Needs Trust and Why Do I Need It?

Posted by on Jul 31, 2014 in Family Law, Special Needs Trust |


A special needs trust is designed for beneficiaries who are disabled, either physical or mentally. It is often viewed at as a stand-alone document that can be included in a Last Will and Testament or a Revocable Living Trust.

Special Needs trusts can provide benefits far beyond a traditional trust, addressing the specific needs of that disabled family member. Some of these benefits include supplemental security income, Medicaid, vocational rehab, and subsidized housing to name a few.

If the beneficiary lacks the legal capacity to handle his/her finances, an administrator, whether a private trust run by family members or by trustees appointed to the court, can hold and manage property intended for the beneficiary. In additional to the unlimited amount of assets a Special Needs Trust can provide, it can also protect your beneficiary should they encounter a lawsuit. Trust funds are not subject to creditors or seizures, and are not subject to judgment.

It is important to keep in mind that when a child turns 18, they are presumed to have the legal rights of adults, no matter their condition.  Therefore, parents and guardians should make a valiant effort to learn about all the different options for their beneficiary and seek legal counsel. It is important to remember that if you wish to set up a special needs trust, you need to do so with an attorney familiar with this area of law. A poorly written trust can be ineffective if not written properly.

To learn more about special needs trusts or discuss other estate planning options, contact Michael Wild of Wild Felice & Partners in Plantation for a free consultation.

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A Bar Exam Nightmare

Posted by on Jul 30, 2014 in asset protection, estate planning, Legal News, Probate, tax, Trusts, Wills |

No15-20030429_test_lgAs if the bar exam isn’t stressful enough for test takers, hopeful future lawyers across the country found themselves unable to upload their first day exams after the ExamSoft servers were apparently unable to handle the massive traffic. While the issue appears to be on its way to resolution, test takers were still subjected to a tremendous amount of stress before the second part of the test. ExamSoft had years to prepare for this level of traffic and yet the system was not ready and many students suffered unnecessary stress. This situation mirrors what your loved ones will go through if you do not have a proper estate plan in place at your death, especially if your estate has to go through probate.

Probate is the mandatory process in Florida of validating a will (if there is one) and distributing the assets to the beneficiaries. This process usually lasts at least six months and can take substantially longer depending on the size of the estate or complexity of the assets. While the probate is going on, the estate assets are frozen while they are marshaled and prepared for distribution. Creditors are also paid off out of the estate before distribution. During this time, the presumed beneficiaries do not have access to the estate property. This can lead to financial hardship and liquidity issues for the surviving family members. Furthermore, probating an estate is costly, which continues to decrease the inheritance the beneficiaries will receive.

Whether you die with a will or not, you will still have to probate your estate if your probatable estate exceeds $75,000 (Florida’s probate limit.) A will alone is not a sufficient device for avoiding probate. The benefit of having a will is that you can decide who gets what from your estate, and you can also name a guardian, but a will does not avoid probate. To effectively avoid probate, a trust based estate plan should be used. A trust based plan avoids probate by transferring ownership from you as an individual to your living trust. You will be able to use all your assets in the exact same way, but when you die, your estate will pass to your beneficiaries without going through probate. In addition to the benefit of avoiding probate, a trust based plan also gives you as grantor increased control over who gets the assets down the road and creditor protection for your beneficiaries.

For more information on successful Florida estate planning and asset protection techniques, please contact the South Florida law firm of Wild Felice & Partners, P.A. at 954-944-2855 to schedule your free consultation.

It’s a Wild world. Are you protected? SM

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Don’t Get Struck By Probate

Posted by on Jul 29, 2014 in asset protection, estate planning, Probate, Trusts, Wills |

This weekend, fourteen Venice Beach patrons were injured, with one fatality, when lightning struck near the pier. This was a rare occurrence and was not something the beachgoers were prepared for. Lightning strikes can be a lot like a probate hitting your family. Not only will they be dealing with the passing of a loved, they will have to deal with the long and complex process of probate.

In Florida, probate is the mandatory process of validating a will and distributing estate assets to the beneficiaries. During this time, accounts are frozen while the personal representative marshals the assets and prepares to distribute. Probate usually lasts at least six months and can last considerably longer depending on the size an complexity of the estate. Probate can lead to periods of illiquidity for beneficiaries as they wait for accounts to be unfrozen and distributions to be made, putting in dire financial situations.

The best way to avoid the hassles of probate is to use a trust based estate plan. With a trust based estate plan, a living trust is formed in your name and is funded using an assignment of property. Essentially, all of your property becomes property of the trust. While this might sound scary at first, it really isn’t. Because you are the grantor, trustee, and beneficiary of the living trust, you retain complete control over all your property and can do with it everything you could as an individual.

In addition to passing your property outside of probate, trusts provide creditor protection for your beneficiaries and give you as grantor an increased level of control from beyond the grave. Once you pass, your living trust will create individual irrevocable trusts for all of your beneficiaries. As grantor, you can name the trustee of each of these trusts and the contingent beneficiaries. If you have a child who is not fiscally responsible, you can name a trustee other than them who will manage the trust for the benefit of your child while making sure that your child doesn’t waste the money. If you have a child who is married to a spouse you don’t trust, you can make sure that the trust money passes to your grandchildren and not the spouse. Because the inheritance will be held in a trust, creditors will not be able to reach the money either.

Under a trust plan, a will is still used, but it is used as a funding document, rather than a distribution document. This type of will is referred to as a “pour-over will.” Pour-over wills act as a safety net, or a funnel, and makes sure that any property that you forgot to put in the trust (if you had just moved homes and not retitled for example) ends up in your trust. This property would still have to be probated, but only this property would have to be; all the property in your trust would pass outside probate as originally intended. After the probate, the pour-over will gives the property to the trust and it will receive all the benefits of all your other trust property.

For more information on successful Florida estate planning and asset protection techniques, please contact the South Florida law firm of Wild Felice & Partners, P.A. at 954-944-2855 to schedule your free consultation.

It’s a Wild world. Are you protected? SM

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You Can’t Holdout On Life

Posted by on Jul 28, 2014 in estate planning, Probate, Wills |

NFL: Divisional Round-New Orleans Saints at Seattle Seahawks

With football season around the corner some superstars are holding out of training camp in an attempt to get a better contract. Marshawn Lynch, Running back for the Super bowl Champion Seattle Seahawks, is currently attempting this shrewd negotiating tactic. No sports analyst can say with certainty whether this type of tactic works, sometimes the players can get more money or extend the term of their contract and sometimes the team owners play hardball and trade or refuse to re-sign the player. One thing is certain, negotiating the time one has on this planet is non-negotiable; nobody gets out alive. And if you’re a multimillion dollar value NFL superstar or part of the working class when that fateful day comes and goes you will need the expertise of a probate attorney to help guide your loved ones through the court mandated process of distributing the assets of the person known as probate.

Let us handle all the stress associated with probate and guide you through the delicate process of probating your loved one’s estate. Our attorney’s experience in these matters will give you the peace of mind you need and deserve.

Find the right attorney to manage and avoid the pitfalls and problems associated with probate! For more information on successful Florida estate planning and asset protection techniques, please contact the South Florida law firm of Wild Felice & Partners, P.A. at 954-944-2855 to schedule your free consultation.

It’s a Wild world. Are you protected?SM

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Estate Planning for Real Housewives (& You)

Posted by on Jul 25, 2014 in asset protection, estate planning, Family Law, Trusts, Wills |

real-housewives-of-miami-season-2-bravoWith most major TV shows off the air until the fall, viewers have been forced to find escape with other programs. Whether you’ve watched with a significant other or its your guilty pleasure, all of us have seen some incarnation of The Real Housewives. Aside from being an opportunity to watch older women get drunk and yell at each other and occasionally throw a prosthetic limb across the table (as happened on this week’s New York finale), these Bravo soap operas demonstrate various situations in which estate planning & asset protection are needed, because sometimes, life resembles a soap opera more than we’d like to admit. Although only one of the many Housewives series occurs in Florida, all the situations will be discussed through the lens of the relevant Florida law because that is what concerns you.

While estate planning is often about who gets what after you are gone, it is also about protecting your assets for your beneficiaries and for yourself during life. Take Real Housewife of New York Sonja for example. Due to a series of events not worth enumerating here, Sonja has found herself in bankruptcy, with a trustee now in control of her assets, including her home. While Sonja would likely have homestead protection in Florida, there are other steps she would be able to take to protect some her assets as well. Retirement plans, such as IRAs and 401Ks are creditor protected, as well as assets owned jointly by husband and wife (assuming the debt is only against one of the parties.) An irrevocable trust is also a way to protect your assets, but in exchange for such protection, you are required to give up control over the assets. In fact, this is what allows you to protect the assets because they are no longer yours. Irrevocable trusts allow you to give assets to your kids or other descendants and protect those assets from creditors.

Trusts are primarily used in estate planning for the two main reasons of avoiding probate and protecting assets, but trusts can also serve specific purposes, such as in the situation of a special needs trust. On Real Housewives of Miami, viewers were saddened by the news that Alexia’s son suffered a traumatic brain injury following a car accident. Thankfully, he has made great strides in his recovery, but he continues to require therapy in order to overcome the injury. A special needs trust can be intimidating because of the name, but clients should not let that deter them. Special needs trust can either be first party or third party trusts and serve two major purposes: protecting and controlling assets for those who can not make their own financial decisions, and allowing the beneficiary to still qualify for government benefits if they need to. Do not use an attorney who does not have specific experience with special needs trust. Our attorneys have drafted many special needs trust and can work with you to make sure the trusts achieves everything you desire.

The series demonstrating the biggest need for estate planning and asset protection is The Real Housewives of New Jersey, with tabloid celebrities Theresa and Joe Guidice. Like Sonja, the Guidices face bankruptcy, but they also face numerous fraud charges. Because of this, the typical asset protect techniques would not work. The Guidices situation is one that requires more bankruptcy and tax attorneys than Sonja’s case, but where the Guidices do need estate planning is with their young daughters. Both Theresa and Joe are facing jail time and should therefore make a guardian provision for their daughters. Hopefully you are not facing jail time or deportation, but so long as you have minor kids, you should do a guardian provision. This allows you to decide who will take care of them should anything happen to you and your spouse. Even if you are using a trust based estate plan, a will allows you to include the guardian provision in addition to funneling your rema

For more information on successful Florida estate planning and asset protection techniques, please contact the South Florida law firm of Wild Felice & Partners, P.A. at 954-944-2855 to schedule your free consultation.

It’s a Wild world. Are you protected? SM


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