Estate Planning for the Modern Family

Posted by on Jul 23, 2014 in asset protection, estate planning, Family Law, Probate, tax, Trusts, Wills |

670px-2,675,0,410-Slider-behindthescenesTake a look at how family is often presented in the media. What do we see? It’s a husband, a wife, two or three kids, and probably a pet. The grandparents, still happily married after all that time, stop by for Thanksgiving dinner, pie under their arms. Sounds like something right out of a Publix commercial. If Flintstones and the Jetsons are any indication, this family set-up has been around since the age of cavemen and will be the norm long into the future. Estate planning for such a family dynamic is quite straightforward. But is this family really the norm? With a national divorce rate hovering around 50%, probably not. In actuality, you probably don’t have the “perfect” family set-up of yesteryear’s media; instead, you need estate planning for your modern family. Since we all differences between our family structure, let’s look at some examples from everyone’s favorite Modern Family: the Pritchetts.

            What would happen if Jay were to somehow die without an estate plan? Well, first, let’s first assume that the family has all moved from California to Florida between the seasons and is now domiciled here at the time of Jay’s death. If he has no will, not even one executed in California (Florida would recognize a validly executed out-of-state will), then the Florida intestacy statutes control how the estate assets are distributed. Since Jay would leave behind a surviving spouse and two kids from a previous marriage, his wife Gloria would receive half of the estate. The other half would go to Jay’s descendants in equal shares. How this remaining half of the estate would be divided depends on whether Jay adopted Gloria’s son from a previous marriage, Manny. If Manny has been legally adopted, then he is Jay’s child by law and can inherit. Otherwise, he would receive nothing. Assuming that Jay did adopt Manny, then Mitchell, Claire, Manny, and baby Joe would each receive an eighth of the estate. Intestate succession in Florida is “per stirpes” which means each decedent receives an equal share. How many children a descendant has does not affect the share he or she will receive. This means that if Claire passed away before Jay, her three kids would each receive an equal share of the eight she would have inherited. Mitchell’s daughter would receive his full eighth share.

            But as we all know, Jay isn’t the type of person to let something as important as estate planning pass him by. Rather, Jay likely had an estate plan in place years ago, and has updated it with every major life event since (his remarriage, his son’s adoption of a child, his son’s marriage, and the birth of his new son). Jay, who built his company from the ground up, would likely want to protect and control his assets for as long as he could. Therefore, he would likely use a trust based plan for his estate distribution. A trust based plan would give him multiple advantages over a basic will. First, Jay would want to leave a great deal of money to his wife Gloria. However, Gloria is already on her 2nd marriage and is much younger than Jay and will not stay single for long. If she were to get remarried, a large portion of Jay’s assets could end up with her new husband. A trust fund would prevent anyone other than her and later her children from getting the money. Trust funds would also be the best way to give money to both of his minor sons. Jay could name the trustee of his choice to manage the assets until an age where each son is ready to become their own trustee, such as 25 or 30. Trusts would also allow Jay to give money to his two grown children, Claire and Mitchell, while protecting it from their respective spouses, who Jay is not the biggest fans of.

            Claire and Phil, both successful businesspeople, likely have an estate plan in place as well to protect their three children. With two minor children, the couple would be smart to have guardian designations in their estate plan. The two of them would also likely follow Jay’s lead and have a trust based plan. Haillie has yet to show the necessary maturity to manage her own funds and her judgment with men could be described as questionable. Putting her inheritance in a trust fund and setting an age at which she would have full control over it will help to protect the funds while she becomes responsible enough. The same logic applies to their youngest son, Luke. While middle child Alex has demonstrated responsibility and maturity throughout her teen years, she is still a minor and would need a trustee to manage the funds until she becomes an adult. Phil and Claire could require that the children never get to control their own funds, putting a corporate trustee or even their lawyer uncle Mitchell in charge of distributing the funds. The use of trusts funds allows for maximum inheritance protection, but from outside creditors and from the beneficiaries themselves.

            And what of Cameron and Mitchell’s estate planning? As a same-sex couple, estate planning is especially important. The couple was legally married in California, but Florida does not yet recognize same-sex marriage. Therefore, while the couple can receive federal benefits as a married couple, they do not receive any under state law and will not be viewed as married for state intestacy laws. Cam and Mitchell should follow in what is becoming a family tradition and use a trust based plan, though the reasoning is different for this couple. Wills must be probated in court before estate property can be distributed and are public documents. A trust is private; the court is not involved. Cam and Mitchell would be smart to avoid the risk of having their will in front of a conservative judge. Cam and Mitchell should use what is colloquially referred to as “I love you” trusts, where the decedent leaves everything to the surviving spouse, and down to their daughter Lilly. The trusts mirror each other, maximizing the ease of administration and assuring maximum protection for the beneficiaries. Cam and Mitchell’s estate plan should also name a guardian for Lilly, a minor, in the event that they both pass before she is an adult.

            These are just a few of the many situations that can occur with today’s modern families, but it shows just how intricate estate planning can be. Just within this one family, three different approaches were used. Even though each family ended up in a trust based plan, each plan is different, personalized. And that is what you deserve. Don’t find yourself with an estate planning attorney who only cares about taxes, or one who will just cut and paste your name in a form he’s already used countless times.

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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The Nightmare Worse than Going to School Naked: What You Need to Know About Probate.

Posted by on Jul 15, 2014 in estate planning, Legal News, Probate, Trusts |


What you need to know about Probate:

Probate is topic often disregarded until you have to find out the hard way. In fact most people believe that when they die, their spouse or children will automatically inherit their assets. In a perfect world of rainbows, unicorns and executor who knows exactly what to do, probate seems like a topic that could go under the radar.

While the Wild Felice & Partners of South Florida refrain from being the bearer of bad news, probate, if not handled proactively, can turn into your worst nightmare. Yes, even worse than the nightmare of you walking the hallways of your high school naked.  

Before we explain why you should avoid probate, let us explain what probate is.

What is Probate?

Probate is a court-supervised process for identifying and gathering the assets of a deceased person, paying the descendant’s debts, and distributing the descendant’s assets to his or her beneficiaries.

First, the descendant’s assets are used to pay the cost of the probate proceeding and then any outstanding debts. The remaining assets are distributed to the descendant’s beneficiaries.

Why should I care about Probate?

Whether you are young or old, sick or healthy, rich or poor, it is wise to avoid

probate. Why? Take the story of Mary…

Mary recently suffered the loss of her mother. Unfortunately, her mom did not have a living trust in place prior to her death. Mary and her siblings could undergo the following hassles:

  • They will have to wait for the courts to settle their mother’s estate before they can take possession of her assets. This can take up to a year.
  • The assets of your mother are now public, allowing anyone to see her financial standing. Now, Mary’s ex-brother-in-law is quite interested in obtaining some inheritance.
  • Total strangers have access to her mother’s financial information, leaving Mary susceptible to being scammed for money.

Why would you wish to experience a legal battle while handling an emotional battle as well? Rather than grieving for her mother, Mary is spending all her time and her money to handle something that could have been avoided.

How to avoid probate?

It is important to create an estate plan that uses a trust to pass assets to the chosen beneficiaries. When you have a revocable living trust, you avoid probate and provide detailed instruction on how you wish to handle your assets in case of illness or death.

This is a very emotional and difficult time, we recommend making the transition seamless and effortless.

Avoid probate of your loved ones and contact Wild Felice & Partners of South Florida in Plantation to learn more.

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Game of Estate Planning

Posted by on Jul 10, 2014 in Legal News |

game-of-thrones-poster_85627-1920x1200HBO’s Game of Thrones has made quite the cultural impact, resonating with both fans and critics alike. Aside from a rabid fanbase (who are still crying over The Red Wedding), the show sat atop the Emmy throne this morning after earning 19 nominations, including Best Drama Series, Writing, and Direction. Westeros is a land of dueling kings, giants, and even dragons, but what it lacks is estate planning. Given the amount of characters who have died unexpectedly, an estate planning attorney could really have helped settle this game of thrones. (Spoilers to follow for the first 4 seasons.)

Robert Barratheon was too much of a drunk to ever do estate planning, and his deathbed attempt at a last will and testament wasn’t enough to get his wishes followed. If Robert had planned ahead better, he could have essentially made honorable Ned Stark the “trustee” of Joffrey, or if he knew how awful little Joffrey was, he could have devised the crown to his other son, Tommen. If Robert had used a trust, he could have passed his estate while avoiding probate. Probate in Westeros involves significantly more beheadings than Florida probate, but it is still a process you want to avoid if you can.

The cunning Lannisters always pay their debts and are the family that exercises estate planning tendencies. Patriarch Tywin Lannister is constantly figuring out how to protect the family’s riches through the generations. Whether through marriage or just taking it, Tywin is constantly concerned with his family’s lands and vast wealth. Through his Westerosi estate planning, he’s also able to keep his least favorite son Tyrion from inheriting part of his estate.

The family most in need of estate planning is the Starks, since they’re being wiped off the map at a rapid rate. Following Ned’s shocking beheading, the estate passed likely how Ned would have wanted, with his oldest son Robb taking control of almost everything. However, Robb quickly followed in his father’s footsteps, with who controls Winterfell up for grabs. Since Ned’s daughters are now the Starks in Winterfell, all the families are trying to marry them in hopes of controlling the North. If Nedd had just put his estate in a trust, he could control what happens to it across generations, keeping Sansa and Arya protected and making sure that their inheritance could not be affected by marriage or divorce. (Sorry Little Finger.)

But you don’t live in Westeros; you live in Florida, where the estate planning firm of Wild Feliz & Partners can help you be prepared for any situation. Whether it is creating a trust to protect your assets across generations or just having a will so that you and not the state controls what happens, our experienced attorneys will work with you to make estate planning a painless process and make sure you and your loved ones are protected. Because if Game of Thrones has taught us anything, you need to expect the unexpected.

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 Be Derailed By Your Estate Plan

Posted by on Jul 8, 2014 in asset protection, estate planning, Probate, tax, Trusts, Wills |

corkscrew-roller-coasterAmusement parks and roller coasters are a mainstream of American culture. The ups, the downs, the rush of adrenaline. However, roller coasters aren’t always the fun ride we hope for. Yesterday, occupants at Six Flags Magic Mountain found themselves in an precarious position after a fallen tree branch derailed their car, leaving the riders stuck for hours. Don’t let a metaphorical branch derail your plans. Have your estate plan done by the South Florida law firm of Wild Felice & Partners.

The largest obstacle that could affect your estate is if you die without a will. If you die without a valid will in Florida, the state’s intestacy laws control how your property is distributed. Depending on your marriage and child situation, your spouse would get as little as one half of the estate and as much as the entire estate. Intestacy can be especially troublesome for same-sex couples, since Florida does not recognize same-sex marriage. Even if you are legally married in another state, Florida will not consider your same-sex partner as your spouse, and he or she would receive nothing under the statute.

The next obstacle that could affect your estate is probate. Probate is a process in which your will is submitted to the court for validation and then ownership of assets your estate to your beneficiaries. Assets in probate are tied up, with accounts frozen. This process usually lasts about six months for simpler estates, but can last a few years for complex estates. Probate can be avoided by using a trust based plan instead of a will based plan. Trusts can make sure that your beneficiaries get their assets quicker, allowing them to return to a sense of normalcy as soon as possible.

The third obstacle that you want to prepare for is creditors. Creditors can affect your estate in a variety of ways. One of the major creditors (and one you can’t protect from) is the IRS. While most estates will not have to pay an estate tax, the estate is still responsible to file an income tax for the year the decedent dies. Other creditors include private creditors that the decedent had during his lifetime. Those debts can attach to the estate and must be paid before the estate assets can be distributed. Depending on the size of the debts, this may greatly decrease the estate’s worth. The third type of creditors are creditors of the beneficiaries. Your beneficiaries may lose their entire inheritance if they have debts at the time they receive the assets. As previously mentioned, you can’t avoid the IRS but a trust can be used to protect from the other two types of creditors. If you put all your assets in a revocable trust during your life, you are taking them out of your estate. When creditors try to get money out of your estate when you die, there won’t be anything in the estate for them to get. In terms of your beneficiaries, giving their inheritance in a trust will protect the assets while still allowing them to benefit from them. If your beneficiaries have creditors waiting for trust distributions, you can instruct the trustee to pay for things for the beneficiary, so the money is never actually in their possession and the creditors can not get to it.

The final obstacle we’re going to discuss to today is failure to update. Whether you choose a trust or a will to distribute your property, you must take care to update the instrument, preferably every three to five years. This will help to protect you against any changes in the law that may affect your plan. Also, change your estate plan after any major life event: birth, marriage, divorce, death. If you get divorced, but don’t update your plan, your ex may find themselves an unexpected beneficiary of your estate.

While there are too many other obstacles to enumerate in a post, our South Florida estate planning attorneys can help you plan for all of them. Keep everything on track and make sure poor estate planning doesn’t derail your life.

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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Celebrate Your Freedom By Getting an Estate Plan

Posted by on Jul 7, 2014 in asset protection, estate planning, Probate, Trusts, Wills |


As Americans make their way back to work after a July 4th weekend full of beaches, beer, and burgers, we can take a moment to think about what we were actually celebrating. We live in a country that prides itself on freedom and one of those freedoms is the right to devise, to decide what happens with your property once you die. However, this right is one you must take active participation in for it to apply. In fact, if you do not exercise your freedom and execute a valid estate plan, then the state will decide how your assets are distributed.

About 70% of people in the state of Florida do not have an estate plan currently in place. If you die without a will, the rules of intestate succession determine how your property is distributed. These rules are designed to distribute your property how the state believes most people would distribute their property. If you are married and have minor children, your entire estate would go to your wife. This might be what you wanted anyway, but what happens if your wife remarries? A large portion of your estate could go to your new husband when she passes or if they get divorced. And this is just one example where intestacy laws could lead to a bad situation. Put simply, do not let the state decide when you have the ability to decide for yourself.

Once you’ve decided that you are going to exercise your right to devise your property, the next issue is what type of plan will you use: a will based plan or a trust based plan. When most people think of estate planning, they think of wills. Wills are a valid way of transferring ownership of property at your death. However, wills have a few drawbacks. The first is that a will must be probated. Probate is the processof a validating a will and distributing the estate’s assets. Ownership of property can not be transferred from the deceased to the beneficiary without probate and during this extended process, the future owners will likely not have access to the property. Bank accounts are frozen, shares of stock tied up, etc. The second drawback is that a will is a public document, meaning everyone would be able to see your distributions. The third drawback is that the only control you have over the asset is the first bequest. After that, the assets belong to the beneficiary and they can do whatever they want with it.

When discussing trusts, it is important to first dispel the notion that trust funds are only for the wealthy. This is not true. Trust funds have a variety of advantages over a will and are suitable for almost all estate plans. First, a trust avoids probate, the benefits of which have already been enumerated. Secondly, a trust offers more control than a will does. With a trust, you can control an asset for multiple generations, such as to your children for their lives and then to their grandchildren; you cannot do this with a will. Third, the trust offers creditor protection for your beneficiaries’ inheritance. Because each beneficiary receives their inheritance in a trust fund, the assets will be unaffected by creditors or divorce.

Don’t just celebrate your freedom by grilling out or hanging by the pool. Talk to an estate planning attorney today about exercising your freedom and getting an estate plan in place 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.

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

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