99 Problems But Probate Ain’t One

Posted by on Jun 30, 2014 in Probate, tax |

o-BEYONCE-ON-JAY-Z-facebookJay-Z and Beyoncé kicked off their “On the Run” tour last week in Miami, delivering a combination of each of their hits. Among the massive 42-song set list the couple performed was Jay-Z’s Grammy winning song “99 Problems.” While you hopefully have less than 99 problems, probate should never be one of them if you have the right Florida probate attorneys to guide you through the process.

Generally, probate is the process of validating the will and transferring ownership of estate assets to the beneficiaries, and is a requirement under Florida law whenever the estate is over $75,000. This process is opened by presenting the decedent’s death certificate to the court. From there, the judge appoints a personal representative and gives him or her the letters of administration that gives the authority to act on the decedent’s behalf. Probate usually takes at least six months, but with larger estates, can take a few years. The complexity of the estate, the level of assets involved, and the number of beneficiaries can all lead to an extended probate period.

Given the responsibilities that fall on the personal representative, holding the position can be a stressful and daunting task. A personal representative can also be subjected to liability, leading to increased costs to the estate or even personally. Luckily, with the assistance of our experienced probate attorneys, you can avoid the typical problems associated with probate administration. There are many pitfalls that may not be apparent to someone untrained in the duties of the personal representative and these mistakes could lead to increased cost and time. Our attorneys will prepare and file the United States Estate Transfer Tax Return, the Florida Estate Tax Return, the decedent’s final United States Individual Income Tax return, and the United States Fiduciary Income Tax Returns. Once the distributions are made to the beneficiaries, we will then prepare the final accounting of the personal representative, making sure to obtain receipts and releases so that the personal representative is discharged. This will help to prevent the personal representative from being sued later for issues arising from the estate administration.

Handling the probate of an estate can be a time consuming and expensive process. Let us handle it for you and make sure it’s not one of your 99 problems.

For more information on successful Florida probate administration, 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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A Reason to Celebrate and Prepare

Posted by on Jun 26, 2014 in asset protection, estate planning, Family Law, Legal News, Probate, Trusts, Wills |

gay-pride-1009-1280x960Yesterday, one day before the anniversary of the Supreme Court’s DOMA ruling, we saw more steps toward marriage equality, with judges in both Indiana and Utah ruling in favor of same-sex marriage. A federal judge found Indiana’s ban on same-sex marriage to be unconstitutional, while a federal court of appeals in Utah upheld a previous ruling that the state’s ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional. While both of these rulings represent a continued trend toward marriage equality (all federal district courts have ruled the same way on the subject) and are cause to celebrate, Florida still does not recognize same-sex marriage. This stance makes it of particular importance for same-sex couples to prepare and create a comprehensive estate plan to make sure that their partners are taken care of and afforded all the possible rights under the law.

The estate of any resident who dies in the state without a last will and testament will be distributed according to Florida intestacy laws. While this is never the ideal way to distribute estate property, it is particularly troublesome for same-sex couples. Florida law says that the estate goes first to the surviving spouse. Since Florida does not recognize same-sex marriage, the estate would go to family members instead of your partner. Having a will can assure that your assets go to your partner as you say, rather than to who the state says.

A trust based estate plan is always a favorable option, given its control flexibility, creditor protection, and ability to avoid probate. Trusts may be even more important to same sex couples in that they are private documents and they do not have to go in front of a judge (given the state’s stance on same-sex issues, avoiding the court as much as possible is ideal.) Not only does a trust based estate plan assure that your partner receives his portion of your estate just as with a will, it gives you more control over who gets your assets than just the first disposition. With a trust, you can give everything to your partner, and then control where it goes after that. Sadly, we’ve seen cases where family has not been accepting of the relationship. With a trust, you can make sure that instead of your assets going to a relative you are not close with, it can go to close friends, other family, or even the charity of your choice. A trust will also make sure that the assets your beneficiaries receive are protected from creditors.

Another pressing issue for same-sex estate planning in Florida is guardianship. Since 2010, same-sex couples are now able to adopt children in Florida. All couples in the state with minor children should designate in their will or in a guardianship form filed with the state who the child’s guardian should be. Absent a guardian designation, the courts would determine who the child’s guardian will be. Don’t leave such an important decision up to anyone but you and your partner; make sure your estate plan names a guardian if you have a minor child.

Finally, you should be sure to designate a healthcare surrogate and power of attorney to make medical and financial decisions for you in the event of incapacitation. To assure that your medical surrogate can make the most informed decisions regarding your health, you should also sign a HIPAA release form that allows your partner (or whoever your surrogate is) to see your medical records.

As more and more states recognize same sex marriage, we hope that Florida soon follows suit. Until then, make sure that you have a proper estate plan in place from a firm that works with same-sex planning.

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.

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Don’t Be Like Mike

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

Today marks the five-year anniversary of Michael Jackson’s death. Though the King of Pop left a huge mark on the music industry, with 13 Grammy awards and a record setting 26 American Music Awards, he will also be known in legal circles for the mistakes he made with his estate planning. As far as celebrities go, Jackson did more estate planning than most. He had a will and he also set up a living trust. However, Jackson failed to adequately fund the trust, meaning he did not transfer his assets into it. You can think of a trust like a safe. It doesn’t matter how great the safe is if you don’t put anything in it. The funding caused an issue for Jackson’s estate as it created ambiguity in ownership, allowing the usually private trust documents to become public record in probate court.

 Since he is gone, Jackson will never have the chance to fix his mistakes and change his estate planning. You, however, are lucky. You don’t have to be a megastar like the King of Pop to benefit from estate planning, and looking at where Jackson went wrong, you can learn from his mistakes. When done properly, a will and living trust pair well together. As previously stated, a trust is a private document, but a will is not. Therefore, the use of a pour-over will can be used to maximize your privacy while assuring that all your assets make it into your trust. By making sure that your trust is properly funded with an assignment of property and a pour-over will, you will be able to avoid probate (in turn keeping your estate matters private) and provide asset protection to your beneficiaries.

Jackson’s trust mistake also led to the question of who owned the estate’s share of the business that owned many of The Beatles’ songs. If you own a business, business succession planning should be part of your estate plan. Through a combination of life insurance, business forms, and agreements, you can plan for exactly what happens to your business at your death and help to make sure that the business lives on after you are gone (or that your beneficiaries are compensated, depending on your goals.)

One thing Jackson did right that all estate plans with minor children should have is that he named a guardian. When you and your children are older, a guardian isn’t important, but it could change the life of a minor child. If you and your spouse were to die on the way back from a nice dinner or on your way to an anniversary trip, who would look after your children? This is a major reason why younger people should take the time to look into an estate plan now.

Michael Jackson is one of many celebrities who have made mistake planning mistakes, but you don’t have to follow them. Look at proper estate planning today.

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.

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Opt In To Estate Planning

Posted by on Jun 24, 2014 in estate planning, Probate, Trusts, Wills |

lebron-james-thumbs-up-miamiIn what team president Pat Riley called an unsurprising move this morning, four-time MVP LeBron James opted out of his current contract with the Miami Heat. Before you let the panic you see from some on your Facebook feed overwhelm you, and before you buy into Knicks fans’ claims that LeBron is leaving South Florida for the bright lights of New York City, take a moment to think about the situation. If LeBron and the rest of the Big Three opted in to their current contracts, the Heat would have over $60 million worth of salary on the books. With a salary cap for the next season protected at $63 million, that would not give the Heat much room to work with. What LeBron appears to understand is that long term planning is the key to success. You too can plan ahead by “opting in” to an estate plan.

If you die without an estate plan, the intestacy laws of Florida will determine who gets your property. Depending on your marriage situation, this can lead to a distribution that does not meet your wishes. Most people think that a will is the best way to distribute your assets. While a will is certainly a way to legally distribute your assets, a will must be probated before the assets get to your beneficiaries. The probate process can cost you a great deal of both time and money, leaving your beneficiaries without the assets for an extended period of time. A will gives complete control of distributions at the time of your death, but that is where the control ends. Once the assets are distributed to the beneficiaries, they become the owners and can do with them what they please. This can unfortunately lead to situations where they lose their entire inheritance, either through divorce, remarriage, or creditors.

A trust based estate plan can be used to avoid probate while also allowing you to control your assets from beyond the grave and protecting them from creditors. A living trust allows you to still use your assets during your life and then keep whatever you give to your beneficiaries protected. Unlike a will, assets in a trust based plan will be kept in trust, meaning each of your beneficiaries will receive a trust fund that is protected from creditors, lawsuits, and divorce. A trust also allows you to leave to later generations without gifting them outright. For example, you can leave money in trust to your children for their lives, and then the remainder to your grandchildren. A trust based estate plan provides you the opportunity to look ahead to the future while also making sure you get to enjoy everything while you are still alive.

While the future of LeBron James, the Big 3, and the hearts of South Florida basketball fans still have to wait to see what the future holds, you can be prepared for whatever comes your way by opting in to an estate plan today.

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.

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Spain’s Dreams Dashed

Posted by on Jun 20, 2014 in Legal News |


Spain, the winner’s of the last world cup, saw their dreams of repeating the feat die on Wednesday with a 2-0 loss to Chile. With their second consecutive loss they have been mathematically eliminated from the tournament; the defending champions weren’t even able to make it to the knockout rounds/playoffs.

We will all eventually suffer the same fate, no one makes it through life alive and there will always be an end. When that end does come it is likely that all of the material things that survived you will have to go through a process in Florida known as probate. This process can be stressful, complicated, and an overall burden on your loved ones. Probate is the process by which the court system determines a personal representative which is then responsible for distributing the assets of the estate. Personal Representatives are put in charge of paying any taxes on the estate, paying creditors, and paying the beneficiaries.

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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