New Year, New Tax Bill

Posted by on Jan 9, 2018 in estate planning, Legal News, tax |

New Year, New Tax Bill

Unless you’ve been living somewhere with no internet and no cable for the past few months, you’ve probably heard about the new tax bill, which was recently passed by the Senate. It seems like everyone is debating it; and, from pundits to politicians, everyone has something to say, us included. In this article, however, we will be cutting through the vast melting pot of opinions to give you the information you need about how the tax code will affect important areas of your personal and business life.

There’s a lot to cover, so let’s get started!

The 2018 Tax Code: What’s Going On?

What is going on? That is the question on almost everyone’s mind. Well, when it comes to the estate and gift tax, the answer is: a lot.

In 2018, the estate tax is more of a concern than ever before. This tax hasn’t been talked about much until just recently, but its changes will affect many people. Here’s a rundown of how the 2018 tax code will affect your estate tax.

The Estate Tax

If you own an estate, you are probably familiar with the estate tax. The estate tax and income tax are not to be confused, as the former is paid on the transfer of assets from the decedent to heirs and beneficiaries, whereas the latter is the tax on the income that the decedent’s estate generates. Essentially, the estate tax is a tax on your right to transfer your property post-mortem.

In order to calculate this tax, the IRS takes an accounting of everything you own or have an interest in at the date you die. The tax has a high exemption amount, which means that really only the wealthiest top less-than-one-percent of Americans pay it. However, this tax is going to undergo some changes, thanks to the new bill.

First, you should know that in 2024, there will not even be an estate tax. In 2018, however, the estate tax is still live. There is an $11 million estate tax exemption per person ($22.4 million for a married couple). You may be thinking that you’re in the clear for the estate tax in 2018 if you have under that magic $22.4 million number. However, this depends on what year you die. In addition to this info, you should also know what a gift tax is, as that can further decrease the amount of taxes you pay.

The Gift Tax

The gift tax is pretty simple to understand. This tax is executed when there is a transfer of property after someone dies. This differs from the estate tax in that the transfer of property is not paid for, meaning that there is no consideration (money or something equivalent) received in exchange. It is, simply, a gift.

The gift tax exemption is often unified with the estate tax exemption. This means that you can give away up to $22.4 million in 2018 without being hit with any gift or estate tax. If the exemption grows to a larger amount, you can give more away. A piece of good news is that even if the exemption amount shrinks, you won’t lose the amount you’ve given because there is no penalty. So, the question becomes: are you taking advantage of all you can give away in 2018?

In your estate plan, you decide what to do with your assets. Consult an estate planner to make sure that you’re using these estate and gift exemptions to their full potential. There is a lot of opportunity to decrease the amount of taxes you pay, and with the upcoming tax bill, some big changes are on their way.



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It’s Beginning to Look A Lot Like Probate

Posted by on Dec 25, 2017 in Legal News |

“It’s beginning to look a lot like…probate!” This grim twist on a classic holiday song is just what will happen if you don’t take the precautions necessary to protect your family after you have passed on. If you don’t know what probate is or if you’re not sure why it’s such a legal boogeyman, this article will help clear that up.

What is Probate?

Consider this scenario. Your close relative passes away. In the midst of the grief and dealing with funeral arrangements, you learn that she didn’t have an estate plan. Now, with all the other burdens that come with losing a loved one, you have to go to court and endure a lengthy, time-consuming process to have a judge (who doesn’t know your family) divide up your relative’s assets and even saddle you with some debt, if he or she chooses. Sounds awful, right?

It is. This process is called probate. The probate court handles estates whose dispersals have not been planned after the death of the owner. The probate court divides up assets and debts, distributing the estate in the way that it sees fit. This winding up is not always done with the best interests of your family in mind—not because of bad faith on the part of the court, but because it doesn’t know your family well enough to know exactly where everything should go.

To avoid this, you should engage in a process known as estate planning.

Estate Planning 101

Estate planning is also a process, except, in this case, it is one that will help your family. When you are planning your estate, you decide many important things, such as where your property will go, who will take care of your children, who your Power of Attorney will be if you’re incapacitated, and more.

With estate planning, among many legal devices, you set up a living will and trust, and leave health care directives for hospitals and doctors in the event you’re incapacitated and unable to make decisions for yourself at that time. Through estate planning, you are able to avoid probate court by making the decisions that are best for your family.

I have a last will and testament. Is that enough?

A common misconception is that a last will and testament is enough to keep you out of probate court. In fact, when people think of estate planning, they probably just assume it’s making a will and shoving that document in the drawer until you die. However, that’s not what estate planning entails. The process is much more detailed and safeguarded.

Your last will and testament is still subject to probate. You won’t get out of probate court that easy. Many experts look at last wills as an interim measure until your living trust and living will are set up.

A last will and testament is not enough. To make sure you are 100% in the clear, with no probate court on your horizon, set up an estate planning consultation.

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All I Want For Christmas Is Your Estate Plan

Posted by on Dec 12, 2017 in Legal News |

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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