All I Want For Christmas Is Your Estate Plan

Posted by on Dec 12, 2017 in Legal News | 0 comments

The holiday season is fast approaching, and deciding what gifts to get the loved ones in your life can be a fun (if not a little stressful!) tradition. If you’re looking to get a unique gift that is long-lasting, beneficial, and durable for your family, think outside the box and consider setting up an estate plan.

Estate Planning

Estate planning is the process by which you decide where your assets will go after your death, what decisions will be made (and by whom) if you are incapacitated, where your debts will be assigned, and many more important decisions. Dismantling and distributing someone’s estate is a process, but it is far easier and cheaper to carry out when you have an estate plan than it is to go to probate court.

Think of probate court as the Abominable Snow Monster. You want to avoid it at all costs because, unlike Bumble in Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, probate court never turns out to be nice. Instead, probate is a lengthy, time-consuming legal affair that distributes your assets and debts with no regard to what is best for your family.

But, don’t worry! In this article, we’ll tell you how to stay out of probate court by detailing what generally goes into an estate plan. (Remember, these are just a few of the many legal tools you can have in your estate plan).

Key Documents in Your Estate Plan

  • Living Will

 

A living will, as you may or may not know, is also called an “advance healthcare directive.” The living will allows you to determine the healthcare decisions that will be made in advance if you are too incapacitated to give directions to the hospital yourself.

 

A living will is useful for anyone over 18 to have because, once you are no longer a minor, your parents cannot give the hospital directives in your stead. It’s important to have a backup plan.

 

  • Living Trust

A living trust details how you want your assets, property, and funds to be distributed after you die. It also will describe who will take care of your minor children (if you have them), as well as any specific instructions you have regarding your assets. The difference between this and your “last will and testament” is that a living trust is not subject to probate.

  • Durable Power of Attorney

A durable POA is a trusted individual that you name in your estate plan. He or she will make financial and healthcare decisions for you in the event that you are incapacitated. By naming the POA yourself, using your own judgment (as opposed to that of a probate court, who does not know your family dynamics), you can rest assured that you have someone who will handle your affairs responsibly.

  • Last Will

Your last will and testament details how you want your assets divided upon your death. This is different from a living trust because this does have to go through probate. Therefore, the last will and testament is mentioned in this list because it can be viewed as an intermediate document until your living will and living trust are set up.

Again, these are just some of the many resources you have that will allow you to avoid the law’s Abominable Snow Monster. You can also set up forms detailing who your beneficiaries are, where your debts will transfer, and other important decisions, all of which wrap up your affairs properly. This Christmas season, give your family the gift of security and peace of mind by scheduling a consult to set up your estate plan.

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Don’t Drop the Ball on Creating Your Estate Plan

Posted by on Sep 16, 2017 in Legal News |

            

Football season is upon us, bringing with it cooler fall weather, pumpkins, warm coffees, sweaters, and many more of the great things we love about autumn. And, as any football fan knows, your favorite team is nothing without their playbook and, stored within it, all their carefully laid out plans. Without a strong playbook, a football team cannot hope to win any games.

Think of estate planning the same way. Estate planning allows you to plan what will happen to your possessions, valuables, business, and loved ones after you pass on. There are many reasons why people may not think to start planning their estate as soon as possible. Whether their hesitancy is because they don’t think they have an estate, aren’t old enough, or don’t know where to begin—these reasons should be cast aside in favor of some solid planning.

What Goes into an Estate Plan?

Much like the X’s and O’s in a football play book, there are key elements to an estate plan that you can expect to see throughout. Here are the three main documents:

  1. Living Will and Testament

If you are incapacitated and receiving medical care, you will still want to make your own decisions, even in your diminished condition. A living will is a document that allows you to manage your healthcare via a directive. You give the instructions in the living will and testament, and these instructions must be followed.

  1. Durable Power of Attorney

With a POA, you are the principal (donor) and, as this principal, you grant someone the capability to act on your behalf legally. If you become unable to make your own decisions, this trusted person can take over for you. If you pick someone you are sure will make good decisions, you won’t have to worry about any issues, even when you are incapacitated.

  1. Health Care Surrogate

Your health care surrogate acts on your behalf in medical situations. Often, after becoming seriously ill, a patient is incapable of making his or her own decisions. Estate planning allows you to maintain control using a trusted decision-maker.

As any sports fan knows, you must have a strong playbook to succeed. Estate planning will ensure that your plans are laid out carefully, allowing you maximum security and peace of mind. Don’t drop the ball—contact an attorney today to get started on or update your estate plan.

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Baby Safety Month: Protect The Ones Who Need You Most

Posted by on Sep 13, 2017 in Legal News |

While the suit-clad, briefcase-toting, fast-talking infant from Boss Baby doesn’t need anybody’s help, your baby certainly does! September is National Baby Safety Month, bringing with it helpful reminders on childcare, parenthood dos and don’ts, and other important safety information that will help keep your kids healthy and happy.

When you think of baby safety, you probably picture cutting up food into tiny pieces and covering your house with (nearly adult-proof) baby gates and locks. However, there is an aspect of infant protection that you may have overlooked: estate planning. Estate planning gives your child the financial security needed to keep him or her safe in the long run.

Estate Planning and Your Baby

There are multiple ways in which you can use your estate plan to protect your children. Here are some of them:

  • A Durable Power of Attorney

If you are incapacitated, a durable power of attorney will act on your behalf, whether these actions include paying bills, managing your business, or taking care of your children. Selecting a durable power of attorney and placing, in writing, your expectations of him or her will allow you peace of mind that, if something were to happen, your POA would make important, responsible decisions regarding those most precious to you: your baby.

  • Funeral Arrangements

Certainly, no one wants to think about their own death. It’s a rather morbid topic, even though Halloween is just around the corner. Spelling out your funeral process beforehand gives your relatives and friends time to manage your funeral without having to go through the anxiety of funeral arrangements in addition to the grieving process.

  • Executors

Choosing a responsible executor of your will ensures that your children are being taken care of by someone who will get things done and put your kids where they need to go in the event of a crisis. Estate planning gives you the ability to select your will’s executor. Choose someone who will advocate for your children’s safety through the will execution process, making sure your kids get whatever they need.

  • Beneficiaries

As you may have guessed, a major way that a will protects your babies is through your ability to name them as the beneficiary of your estate if something happens. You can name your child a beneficiary for different types of assets, and the money management will be handled by someone that can act on behalf of the minors. This way, you will make sure that your kids are settled financially in case anything happens.

If only babies were as competent and corporate-savvy as Boss Baby! But alas, they are not, and, thus, you have to take steps to protect those who are vulnerable and need it most. This National Baby Safety Month, start estate planning to keep your kids secure and protected if something were to happen.

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Hurricane Season: Why an Estate Plan Should Be A Part Of Your Disaster Readiness Kit

Posted by on Sep 13, 2017 in Legal News |

Florida has been hit by almost five hundred hurricanes and tropical storms in the past 170 years. If there is one thing every Floridian knows, it’s hurricane season. Hurricane season divides Florida into two basic groups: people who think the storm “will pass” and aren’t worried about it and people who stay glued in mortal terror to their TV screen. It seems like storms are getting stronger; however, luckily, these storms are easier to track using the latest technology. In addition to packaged food, bottled water, flashlights, and other safety supplies comprising the must-haves on your disaster preparedness list, include estate planning as part of the readiness kit.

Confused? Hear us out.

Estate Planning as Part of Your Hurricane Routine

Estate planning is the ultimate form of disaster readiness because it helps you plan for what might happen if you’re incapacitated or killed in a storm. In Florida, which has survived more hurricanes than almost any other state, it’s commonplace to be unconcerned even by the largest hurricane. However, things happen, and a well-thought-out estate plan can help you prepare for the worst.

Here are several ways in which estate planning helps in a disaster situation like a particularly strong hurricane:

  • Incapacitation or Death (Worst-Case Scenario)

If you are injured or killed, your estate plan will contain several important documents to help you, including a durable power of attorney, living will, and healthcare surrogate. A POA carries out decisions for you in the event that you cannot make them yourself. A living will is a directive that tells people your healthcare decisions if you are unable to do so yourself, and a healthcare surrogate is a trusted person who will act on your behalf in a medical emergency where you cannot make your own decisions.

In the event of major disaster in which you end up incapacitated, estate planning gives specific instructions on how to handle your medical care and other decisions.

  • Property Management

After a hurricane, if you are unable to make your own decisions, your business and assets won’t be cast aside and throw to the government.  Estate planning allows you to dictate where your property goes, as well as to whom.  

  • Funeral Arrangements

If the worst-case scenario occurs, you want to have your funeral prepared via an estate plan. This way, your family has an easier time making the arrangements and can focus on grieving and spending time together.

  • Taking Care of Your Kids

If something bad happens, you’ll need to know that your kids will be taken care of. Estate planning means that you can list your kids as beneficiaries, dictate where they will go in the event of your passing away if they are underage, and make other important decisions pertaining to them. In the event of a life-changing disaster, this will be vital to your family’s safety.

Though you might not think of estate planning as a tool to have in your disaster-preparedness kit, it absolutely should be. Estate planning protects you and your family in the worst-case scenario, such as a major, life-altering storm.

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The Social Networker’s Asset Protection Guide

Posted by on Jun 19, 2017 in Legal News |

What you need to know about “deceased -user policies”

Social networking is its own category of digital assets, as these accounts are more personal to the owner, and often leave behind a surviving legacy. Their value is rarely monetary, but rather sentimental to those the Networker has left behind. When planning ahead, the most important consideration for the Social Networker is the “deceased-user policies” that are agreed to upon creation of the account.

For example, Facebook allows a family member to “memorialize” the account, so that friends can continue to interact with the Facebook wall, in memory of the deceased. Certain access and features are limited to protect the account holder, and the account can be closed upon a formal request that meets certain criteria. Therefore, in your will, you can merely direct your personal representative to close or memorialize the account. This same memorialization can be made for LinkedIn accounts as well.

For Twitter, however, a family member can deactivate the account and receive an archive of the tweets by merely submitting basic information to twitter in a formal request. Therefore, the account holder may not be concerned with leaving provisions for such accounts, beyond an instruction that they merely be closed (or left open). There are some accounts, on the other hand, that will give family member’s access upon a court order. Keep this in mind for accounts that you specifically do or do not want others to have access to. If you do, then provide the username and password. Otherwise, you may want to include express language that prohibits access to these accounts. This will likely prevent a judge from ordering that your account be accessible to family members.

The Social Networker can start planning ahead today with the following steps: (1) make a list of your social networking accounts; (2) designate the accounts you want private verses those you would like passed on to loved ones; (3) read the user agreements for each account, or have an attorney do it for you (as these policies are often buried in legal language); (4) consult your estate planning attorney with your digital asset wishes, and incorporate them into your will &/or trust; (5) rest easy, your digital legacy is now protected!

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Probate: The Good, the Bad and the Just Plain Ugly

Posted by on Feb 7, 2017 in Legal News |

Person Holding Silver Pen Signing Photographers Signature

The probate process is necessary to wind up the affairs the decedent leaves behind. It is necessary whether or not a decedent drafted a will. If someone dies without a will, he or she dies intestate. This means that Florida statutes determine the distribution of assets. On the other hand, a will determines how assets will be allocated to beneficiaries based on the wishes of the decedent. A Circuit Court Judge supervises the probate proceedings. The Last Will and Testament is validated and a personal representative is appointed to administer the estate. Creditors, including the IRS, must be properly paid before any beneficiary gets his or her share. Probate can easily cost between 3% and 7% of the total estate value. A will can also be contested which can delay the distribution for years adding to the expenses of the estate in the form of attorney fees and court costs.

There are some web programs that allow you to make “quick and easy” plans. However, “do-it yourself” wills can cause more harm than good. When it comes to estate planning, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Planning ahead does not mean go to the office supply store and get a “fill-in the blank” will or download it from an unknown source. For a will to be valid, it must adhere to the Florida laws and requirements. There are very specific formalities for properly executing this legal document, such as, who can or should be a witness and, where and when you and your witnesses may sign. Improper execution can also cause a will to be contested. Also, certain family members may have rights given by statute. Minimize the possibility of your will being contested or invalidated by seeking a South Florida Estate Planning attorney. In addition, you may have certain desires that cannot be achieved with a “cookie cutter” document.

Even if you already have an estate plan, making the time to see your probate attorney to review documents is a high priority. Estate planning is not a one time process that is done once and never revisited. It is an ongoing activity because life can be capricious and people change. Don’t be that person who leaves loved ones with the extra burden of straightening your financial affairs. Unforeseen snares lie in wait to snag even the most carefully constructed estate plans. Many circumstantial changes may arise that affect major impact upon your life- without a moment’s notice. Is it not better to take some time to consult your attorney and be safe than sorry? A South Florida estate planning attorney has the requisite training and skill to shield clients against such uncertainties in life and construct a comprehensive plan on your behalf and for the protection of those you love most. Don’t delay and let another minute pass you by. Ward off the potential for disaster by calling your attorney today.

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