What is Probate?

Posted by on Jul 22, 2015 in asset protection, corporate formation, estate planning, Family Law, Legal News, Probate, Real Estate, tax, Trusts, Wills |


The death rate in Florida is 100%, which means NO ONE can completely avoid the probate process. The term probate generally refers to the method by which your estate (the totality of the assets in your personal name at death) is administered and processed through the legal system after you die.  The probate process helps you divide and assign parts of your estate in an orderly and supervised manner. Your estate must be divided according to the specifics of your Will, if you die with a Will, or according to statute if you die intestate or without a Will. (Your debts and taxes must be paid before your beneficiaries receive their inheritance, for example).

If you have creditors at death, those debts must be satisfied before dividing the remainder of your assets, additionally there may be taxes due and those must be paid before distribution as well.  This means that the process of finding your creditors and paying those debts can take months and the distribution of the remainder to your heirs may become complicated.  There are legal methods that allow a person to make the process of distributing assets after death more efficient and less costly, which is an advantage to your family and loved ones and a wise investment.  Planning for the future will save your family members additional grief and possibly avoid conflict among family members and other beneficiaries.

Having a Will is a solid first step in the right direction to ease the probate process, but that is not all you need.  Placing your property in Trust to protect it from creditors, drafting a Power of Attorney, a Living Will and a Designation of Healthcare Surrogate are other methods to ensure that nothing is left to chance, that your family will be protected and that somebody you trust will make legal decisions for you when you are no longer able to make them yourself.

An attorney that specializes in estate planning can help explain the legal tools that are available to each individual depending on their financial situation and their specific needs.  Common methods that are utilized to avoid probate are Revocable Trusts which allow your property to be protected from creditors and susceptible to probate.  By scheduling a consultation an attorney can better explain the additional benefits of creating a revocable trust and how this can save you time and money in the long run.

It is important to note that you do not have to have a large estate to take advantage of the benefits of having your assets in a trust or any other legal estate planning tools.  This is a common misconception, but having an estate plan is something that everyone should give serious consideration to.  Additionally, it is also important to mention that although having an estate plan may not seem like a priority to most people, you need to be prepared for any eventuality.

Nobody likes to think about death or incapacity, but these are facts of life and it can happen to any of us at any given time.  If you have a family and if you have small children you should plan for their care in case you can no longer care for them and this is something that an estate planning attorney can help you with.

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

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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The Professional’s Asset Protection Guide

Posted by on Jul 21, 2015 in asset protection, estate planning |


A new lawsuit is filed every 30-seconds, and 16 million lawsuits are filed in the U.S. each year. It is clearly a Wild world out there, but there are ways that you can protect your assets from your not-so-friendly next door lawsuit opportunist. You are an especially viable target if you have something worth taking. There is no need to be alarmed, just prepared! An LLC or LLP can be your ultimate armor in protecting yourself from such lawsuits.

An LLC & LLP allows you to use and control an asset, yet you will not own the asset in your name. Rather, it will be owned by the LLC or LLP. Therefore, by separating your assets into several LLC’s, you are safeguarding them from being pulled into a lawsuit brought against you (or one another), as they are owned by the LLC.

An LLC is a “Limited Liability Company.” It provides the desirable liability features of a corporation, without all of the extra hassle (paperwork, etc.). Lets say you have a boat. So you give it a clever and punning name, and put it in an LLC. A judgment against you is not valid against the LLC and the asset it holds (the boat). Furthermore, lets say you have an investment property (a high risk lawsuit property), and tenants injure themselves on the property, and commence a lawsuit. They can only sue the LLC. Your home and other assets (bank account, etc.) may not be touched, because you do not own the property, thus you are not personally liable. It is like being a stockholder in a corporation.

Due to the fact that there are several requirements to properly forming an LLC, you may want to seek an attorney (that has a thorough understanding of asset protection) to assist you in ensuring that the LLC is valid; otherwise, your safeguarding efforts will be futile. Also, keep in mind that the timing of the asset transfer cannot be done to actively avoid a present creditor, as it may be considered a “fraudulent conveyance.” Therefore, it is important to partake in these asset protection strategies prior to any legal or financial problems. The early bird gets the worm!

Enjoy the fruit of your labor, but don’t own it; control it!

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While Independence Day Is Behind Us, The Lessons From Our Forefathers Still Ring True

Posted by on Jul 21, 2015 in estate planning, Probate, Trusts |


We are all familiar with our country’s most important holiday, Independence Day, commonly known as the Fourth of July. After a grueling period of ups and downs, on July 4th, 1776, the United States adopted the Declaration of Independence, finally declaring independence from Great Britain. If you know anything about the term probate, you know that the process can feel a lot like the grueling encounters that the thirteen colonies fought back in the 1700’s. If you are not familiar with the phrase, in South Florida, probate is the legal process of distributing the estate of a Florida decedent to the intended beneficiaries or heirs. If a will is drafted, a probate judge will determine its validity, make sure all debts are resolved, and then distribute property according to the wishes of the decedent. The issues include prolonged waiting time for final estate resolution and additional administrative and legal fees.

If you remember correctly, the thirteen colonies didn’t gain independence for four hundred forty-two days after start of American Revolution. Probate can feel very similar; it takes forever. The deceased individual’s property must be properly inventoried and identified. All necessary appraisals of any properties involved must be completed, and debts will be paid off. The estate needs to be distributed. If the deceased owned property outside of Florida, then the entire process may have to be repeated in the proper jurisdiction. With a smaller estate worth just a few hundred thousand, the proceeding might last around 6 months. With an estate under $1 million, where conflicting interests of family members are present, the process might take up to 18 months. However, for more complex estates, it may take a few years before final resolution.

Probate is also extremely expensive. Living in South Florida, you can expect to pay about three to seven percent of the total estate value in addition to court fees, personal representative fees, attorney’s fees, accounting fees, appraisal and business valuation fees, bond fees, and anything else that may come up along the way. The validity of a will is often questioned, and creditors can stake a claim on the estate. This can prolong the process for years resulting in additional legal fees. Finally, there are forthcoming estate taxes that will leave your legacy in disarray.

Continue the legacy of this great nation, and gain independence against the grueling process and hefty costs that are hindering your estate – declare your freedom from probate!

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An Estate Planning Guide for Newly Weds

Posted by on Jul 13, 2015 in asset protection, estate planning, Wills |


First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes estate planning.

Between booking a venue, finding a dress, and planning the honeymoon the last thing on your mind is estate planning. Why would you plan for the demise of a relationship before it has even begun?

We hate to be the rain on your… wedding day, but life happens.

Here are four estate planning essentials for newly weds:

  1. Designate a beneficiary:Couples need to change the beneficiary designation of their retirement accounts to their spouse. It is undoubtedly better to have the beneficiary designations accurately reflect the spouse so that there are no delays or issues in having the benefits paid.
  1. Create a will:Without a will, state law decides who gets what assets and how much. Not all laws leave 100% of property to the spouse. We suggest meeting with an estate-planning attorney to help execute a basic will.
  1. Appoint a Power of Attorney: In an event of incapacity, where your spouse is unable to make medicallegal and financial decisions, it is important to designate a power of attorney. This will provide them with the ability to make decisions for one another. It is also important to name an alternate person in the event of an accident where both parties are injured. In fact, most young couples travel together, increasing the possibility of an accident involving both parties.
  1. Home Ownership Documents:To avoid probate and add creditor protection, it is very beneficial to have the home ownership as a joint property rather than being owned by only one of the newly weds.  Married couples should consider Tenants by Entireties form of ownership (TBE). TBE property can protect both parties from an individual spouse’s creditors. For example, if one spouse injures a third party in a car accident, the injured party will not be able to take the TBE account into a lawsuit.

So before you start hearing wedding bells, you need to hear Michael Wild explain all the ways to protect your property and assets. To learn more about estate planning, probate and asset protection, visit our website at www.wfplaw.com

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When Relationships End

Posted by on Jul 9, 2015 in asset protection, Family Law, Legal News, Real Estate, tax, Trusts |

Broken Heart

When Relationships End…

Over the Fourth of July weekend we found out that it’s over for Scott Disick and Kourtney Kardashian.  Kardashian, 36, and Disick, 32, shared nine years and three children together despite the fact that their relationship was frequently strained by Disick’s drinking problem, partying ways, and his regular stays in rehab including one earlier this year. I bet we all saw that one coming!

The early stages of a romantic relationship and marriage are usually of joy and happiness.  When a couple gets married there is little time to contemplate the possibility that maybe someday the relationship may fail, but it can! (Just ask Kourtney Kardashian). Nobody likes to think about that possibility and for the most part, couples trust each other with everything including their assets, even when those assets that are non-marital, that is, the spouse owned the asset before entering into the marriage.  The act of mixing non-marital and marital assets (like joint accounts or transferring title of solely-owned property to the marriage) is called “co-mingling”.

The problem that arises when one co-mingles marital with non-marital assets is that in the event that the relationship does fail, equitable distribution may be required and this may mean that a person who did not intend to give up ownership of non-marital assets may end up losing half of their interest in them because he or she failed to keep them separate.  Don’t make this rookie mistake!

Failing to keep non-marital assets free from mixing with marital assets creates a presumption that a gift was intended to the other spouse and the burden is on the person that co-mingled non-marital funds to overcome this presumption.  Establishing a trust and transferring to it assets that are non-marital, is a great way to keep them protected from the reach of an ex-spouse and by managing it in such a way that marital assets are never transferred into the trust. A Prenuptial Agreement is another commonly used and effective method to protect non-marital assets.

There are other alternatives to ensure that your non-marital (and marital) wealth is protected, but you must seek legal counsel to make sure you can take advantage of all the options available to you. Our firm specializes in wealth and asset protection and can help by providing you with more detailed information and tailored strategies to meet your individual needs.

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

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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