Trick-Or-Treat: Which One Will You Leave For Your Family?

Posted by on Oct 19, 2017 in estate planning, Family Law, Probate | 0 comments

Some of the best Halloween memories come from trick-or-treating with your friends and family. When you go up to someone’s door and say, “Trick or treat!” you know that they will almost always give you candy, never a “trick” (unless you count getting raisins as a trick). When it comes to your family, you never want to leave them tricks either, but, unfortunately, that’s just what will happen if you die without an estate plan.

Probate court is the ultimate “trick,” and making your family go through that is not a fun surprise whatsoever. In this article, we’ll talk about what probate court is and how to avoid it, ensuring that your family will not get a nasty surprise after you die.

The “Tricks” in Probate Court

Estate planning has many benefits. It gives direction on where your assets should go when you pass on, and it allows you to take advantage of tax deductions and benefits so that you don’t saddle your family with the twin evils that are creditors and taxes.

Probate court is what happens when you die without an estate plan. The court manages the distribution of your assets and debts, often selling the former to pay the latter. Your family does not get anything and, if they do, they’re likely to not get it in the way in which you would prefer. Your creditors receive whatever it takes to pay off the debts. The point of probate court is to wrap an estate up by paying off debts, and it does so through an arduous, costly, and time-consuming process.

There is always the chance that the government will get your things as well, meaning that the state now owns your property and will likely sell it. These scary alternatives are what happens when you don’t have an estate plan.

Ramifications on Your Family

You may be wondering why you should care. You’ll be dead and won’t have to worry about any of this stuff; why not let the court just do it?

That’s where you’re wrong.

Your family and loved ones will be dragged into the probate process and saddled with court costs. Whoever is deemed administrator will be in charge of the process, which can take a long time. If you want to make sure that you don’t leave your family with a nightmare, create an estate plan that will give clear directions on how to manage your property, assets, and healthcare when you are incapacitated or dead. Save the tricks for Halloween, not your family.

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Real Monsters: Taxes, Creditors, and the Government

Posted by on Oct 9, 2017 in asset protection, estate planning |

When you leave the theater after seeing the latest scary movie, you can rest assured that none of those monsters actually exist in real life (or at least, we hope not). However, taxes, creditors, and the government do exist, and they will make your life a real nightmare if you don’t take the proper steps to avoid them. If you don’t want your loved ones to have to go through a horror movie of their own, you will need to make an estate plan.

In this article, we will discuss what taxes, creditors, and the government do with your property if you pass on without an estate plan.

But First, what is an Estate Plan?

After reading the above section, you may be wondering what an estate plan is. An estate plan is a set of documents and legal tools that aid in the distribution of a person’s assets and property during their life (when they are ill) and after their death. An estate plan usually contains three main documents, though there may be others. These three documents are a living will, power of attorney for healthcare, and a power of attorney for financial matters. These three will help you manage your healthcare when you are sick, your finances when you are incapacitated, and your property and assets after you die.

Some people choose not to plan their estate because they feel like it is too much work or unnecessary. They couldn’t be more wrong. Failure to plan your estate will result in probate court, which be a million times more work for your family, who is already grieving after your death (for more information on probate court, see our article: The Terrifying Truth About Probate Court).

What Do the “Real Monsters” Do?

Let’s say you don’t take our advice and, like every horror movie victim ever, make the wrong decision to not plan your estate. There are three boogeymen who are going to get you: taxes, creditors, and the government.

  • Taxes. You can reduce taxes when you plan your estate. There are many different tax deductions and financial maneuvers you can engage in that will make the tax burden on your loved ones far less heavy. If you die without an estate plan, however, probate will take over and they will not care how many taxes your family is stuck with (and it will likely be a lot).
  • Creditors. Creditors take over collection of your debt. If you die without an estate plan, your case will go to probate court. The main goal of probate court is to pay off creditors. Your family will get nothing, and your creditors will get everything. If you want to creditor-proof your estate, avoid probate.
  • The government. If you die without an estate plan and don’t have decedents, beneficiaries, and other individuals listed, there is a good chance that the government will get at least some of your property.

Hopefully, this article has given you some insight into who the real monsters are and where they are hiding. The clown in It may have been lurking in the sewers, but taxes, creditors, and the government are hiding in probate court.

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Are You Digging Your Own Financial Grave?

Posted by on Oct 9, 2017 in estate planning, Trusts, Wills |

When you think of October, you might think of witches, warlocks, pumpkins, and cooler weather. However, what you may not know is that October is also Financial Planning Month, during which you can make a commitment to getting your affairs in order and tidying up your finances.

You can dig your own financial grave by doing nothing. You don’t even have to pick up your metaphorical shovel. Simply sit back and make no estate plan, and you will have dug your own financial grave, along with your family’s. In this article, we’ll talk about how you can commit to financial peace this October.

Estate Planning: The Horror Movie Antidote

The real monsters are taxes, creditors, and the government, and they all are lurking at probate court. If you die without an estate plan, your case will go to probate court. Probate will pay off your creditors and saddle your family with estate taxes in the event that they distribute your property to them. The process is lengthy, time-consuming, and expensive. October may be the month for scary surprises, but let’s avoid the unwelcome surprise that is your family having to go to probate court.

Estate planning will safeguard you against the horrors of probate court. Here is a brief overview of estate planning:

What to Know about Estate Planning

An estate plan allows you to decide where your assets will be distributed. It also gives directives on how to manage your care and finances if you are incapacitated. Here are the main documents included in an estate plan (though by no means is this list exhaustive).

  • A living will. If you become incapacitated, chances are you don’t want the state to make your decisions for you. The government might not make the right choice when it comes to pulling the plug or not. A living will gives the hospital healthcare directives and information on your care that doctors can follow. Even if you are unable to give these directions yourself, the living will tells them how to manage your care.
  • A financial power of attorney. If incapacitated, you will also want to ensure that your finances are managed appropriately. Appointing a financial power of attorney means you can pick someone you trust and know is responsible to be in charge of your money when you are unable to do so.
  • A power of attorney for healthcare. A power of attorney for healthcare will also help you make healthcare decisions when you are unable. If your living will doesn’t cover something, this person (who you also pick), will be assist in making these decisions.

While estate planning isn’t the most Halloween-ish topic to discuss, it certainly is spooky to think about what happens if you don’t have a plan. Hopefully, this brief overview helped you to get a sense of what estate planning is and the many benefits that come with it.

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Estate Planning Is A Women’s Issue

Posted by on Sep 25, 2017 in estate planning, Probate, Wills |

            As Beyoncé told us, girls run the world! And Business Women’s Day is one of several holidays reminding us of that fact. Women have come a long way in the workforce. In 1950, one in three women were part of the labor force. By 2016, that statistic was three out of five, and, today in 2017, even more gains have been made in women’s leadership. While we still have some ways to go to make sure that the workforce is equal, particularly for women of color, there have been a lot of improvements. We don’t want to squander what our foremothers gave us, and estate planning is a women’s issue because it allows us to protect our hard-won assets.

Estate Planning and Women

To understand why estate planning is a women’s issue, it’s important to realize how little of an “estate” women were historically “allowed” to have. Even just up until forty years ago, women were still not given the abilities men had to control their own money. It wasn’t until 1969 that a U.S. court definitively ruled that labor jobs couldn’t not only be given to men, and firing women from factory work simply because of their gender was illegal.

Estate planning allows you to direct where your assets will go and how your healthcare decisions, financial choices, and other important directives are to be made in the event of incapacitation or death.

Here are some of the ways in which estate planning benefits women:

  • Agency and Control

Things happen, and you want to be able to keep your property and assets where you want them, without being forced into a decision that would cause a loss of property. Estate planning gives you agency over your healthcare choices and financial decisions. There is no better way to be secure that what you’ve worked hard for won’t be for nothing.

  • Peace of Mind

In the event of incapacity or death, the documents contained in an estate plan will give you a trusted person to make decisions for you. Your living will also contains directives that will tell the hospital and other personnel how to manage your care.

  • Longevity

If you want, you can ensure that your money and property are invested or put into a trust fund that will keep them around for a long time to benefit your daughters and granddaughters.

Estate planning is a women’s issue, and, this September, make sure that you retain control over your assets and finances by creating an estate plan.

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Planning For Everyone In Your Life—Even Your Pet

Posted by on Aug 14, 2017 in estate planning, Trusts |

Everyone loves their pets. In 2012, the American Veterinary Medical Association estimated that a little more than 70 percent of Americans have a pet. Even though most pet owners would like to believe they will always be around to take care of their pets, often this is not the case because of death or incapacity. Therefore, many people may want to leave something behind to ensure that their pet is taken care of in the event something happens.

Usually, an animal cannot inherit money, property, or an estate. Therefore, a pet could not be the beneficiary of a trust. Thus, even when someone would try and leave something behind for their pet, the Florida probate courts were unable to enforce the provisions.

However, in 1990, the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws changed the Uniform Probate Code (UPC) to allow for the creation of pet trusts. Florida has since then adopted the UPC and has made pet trusts valid for the lifetime of the pet.

These pet statutes provide ways for the courts to distinguish the pets, uphold the trust, and decide the sensibility of assets. If the trust has been established to care for more than one animal, the trust will remain in effect until the death of the last animal. However, when creating a pet trust, testators should consider other factors, like arrangements for alternate caregivers, the day-to-day care requirements for the animal, including emergency care and the final disposition of the pet.

There are also other important considerations when establishing a pet trust, like determining whom the pet caregiver will be. The pet caregiver should be a person or organization that is actually willing to provide for the animal once you are gone. Therefore, it is best for a testator to speak to the potential caregiver before nominating them to ensure that they are willing to accept this responsibility. The pet owner should also consider whether the potential caregiver has the physical accommodations to provide for the pet. For example, if the pet owner has a dog or cat, the pet owner should consider whether the potential caregiver lives in a building that permits animals. Even though everyone would like to take care of their pets after they are no longer able to, it is best to consult with an estate planning attorney because drafting the proper document can be complex.

Whether your priority is your children, your pet, or just preserving your legacy, estate planning is important for everyone.  Don’t delay call today for your free consultation.

For more information on Estate Planning, Asset Protection, and Probate administration visit our website at www.wfplaw.com

It’s A Wild World. Are Your Protected?

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Respect Your Elders, Help Them Set Up an Estate Plan

Posted by on Aug 8, 2017 in Elder Law, estate planning |

couple, elderly, man

Respect your elders.” This is a phrase we’ve all heard a million times, and for good reason. However, respecting your elders doesn’t just include thanking your grandma for the extra $20 she slips you when you visit her. You can truly help the elderly by assisting them in setting up an estate plan. Senior Citizens’ Day is coming up on the 21st, and there is no better gift than the peace of mind an estate plan brings.

Senior Citizens’ Day was first scheduled on August 14th, which is the date FDR passed the Social Security Act. In 1988, Ronald Reagan, officially moved the observance to the 21st, and it remains in place to raise awareness for issues affecting senior citizens. One such issue is seniors’ need for an estate plan, if they do not have one already.

Important Things to know About an Estate Plan

Elderly people should set up an estate plan containing three key documents: a health care surrogate, living will and testament, and durable power of attorney. These documents, among other elements of the estate plan, have many benefits, one of which is that they allow you to designate who will make medical and financial decisions on your behalf.

Here is a quick overview of the three:

  1. Health Care Surrogate. If you become unable to make medical decisions for yourself due to illness or injury, this person will make them on your behalf.
  2. Living Will and Testament: This written statement is a healthcare directive that allows you to manage your healthcare, even if you become incapacitated.
  3. Durable Power of Attorney: This document gives someone authorization to act on your behalf legally, with whatever range of control you, the principal (donor), give them.

While there are many more facets of an estate plan, these three are the big ones to know.

How Estate Plans Help Our Seniors

Concrete plans for the future. When you think of the future, you might feel a sense of nervousness. No one wants to leave their loved ones behind to face a legal mess in probate court. Through estate planning, your affairs are well-organized and your legacy kept intact, just the way you want it to be.

Tax advantages. As the old saying goes, two things are unavoidable: death and taxes. Luckily, estate planning concerns both, and taking advantage of US tax laws by giving gifts is a way to lessen the size of your estate and reduce your estate tax.

Funeral arrangements. Although it may be morbid to think about, preplanning your funeral will give your family peace of mind. They will be grieving, and it is burdensome to plan a funeral while you’re in mourning. Making funeral arrangements beforehand allows you to have the funeral service you want, while also taking the weight off your family’s shoulders.

Knowing you’ll be in good hands. When deciding your healthcare surrogate and POA, you will want to pick the most responsible people in your family and discuss it with them to make sure they are up to the task. We all have “that” cousin or sibling we wouldn’t want handling anything even remotely important— it is a relief to know that you are in the hands of the competent people you’ve chosen.

Estate planning is so vital to maintaining an organized future. Help a senior citizen today by encouraging them to set up an estate plan.

If you would like more information on how Wild, Felice and Partners, P.A can help with protecting your asset, providing plan for your family and building your estate plan,  please call 954-944-2855 or visit us today at www.WFPLaw.com.

 

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