real-housewives-of-miami-season-2-bravoWith most major TV shows off the air until the fall, viewers have been forced to find escape with other programs. Whether you’ve watched with a significant other or its your guilty pleasure, all of us have seen some incarnation of The Real Housewives. Aside from being an opportunity to watch older women get drunk and yell at each other and occasionally throw a prosthetic limb across the table (as happened on this week’s New York finale), these Bravo soap operas demonstrate various situations in which estate planning & asset protection are needed, because sometimes, life resembles a soap opera more than we’d like to admit. Although only one of the many Housewives series occurs in Florida, all the situations will be discussed through the lens of the relevant Florida law because that is what concerns you.

While estate planning is often about who gets what after you are gone, it is also about protecting your assets for your beneficiaries and for yourself during life. Take Real Housewife of New York Sonja for example. Due to a series of events not worth enumerating here, Sonja has found herself in bankruptcy, with a trustee now in control of her assets, including her home. While Sonja would likely have homestead protection in Florida, there are other steps she would be able to take to protect some her assets as well. Retirement plans, such as IRAs and 401Ks are creditor protected, as well as assets owned jointly by husband and wife (assuming the debt is only against one of the parties.) An irrevocable trust is also a way to protect your assets, but in exchange for such protection, you are required to give up control over the assets. In fact, this is what allows you to protect the assets because they are no longer yours. Irrevocable trusts allow you to give assets to your kids or other descendants and protect those assets from creditors.

Trusts are primarily used in estate planning for the two main reasons of avoiding probate and protecting assets, but trusts can also serve specific purposes, such as in the situation of a special needs trust. On Real Housewives of Miami, viewers were saddened by the news that Alexia’s son suffered a traumatic brain injury following a car accident. Thankfully, he has made great strides in his recovery, but he continues to require therapy in order to overcome the injury. A special needs trust can be intimidating because of the name, but clients should not let that deter them. Special needs trust can either be first party or third party trusts and serve two major purposes: protecting and controlling assets for those who can not make their own financial decisions, and allowing the beneficiary to still qualify for government benefits if they need to. Do not use an attorney who does not have specific experience with special needs trust. Our attorneys have drafted many special needs trust and can work with you to make sure the trusts achieves everything you desire.

The series demonstrating the biggest need for estate planning and asset protection is The Real Housewives of New Jersey, with tabloid celebrities Theresa and Joe Guidice. Like Sonja, the Guidices face bankruptcy, but they also face numerous fraud charges. Because of this, the typical asset protect techniques would not work. The Guidices situation is one that requires more bankruptcy and tax attorneys than Sonja’s case, but where the Guidices do need estate planning is with their young daughters. Both Theresa and Joe are facing jail time and should therefore make a guardian provision for their daughters. Hopefully you are not facing jail time or deportation, but so long as you have minor kids, you should do a guardian provision. This allows you to decide who will take care of them should anything happen to you and your spouse. Even if you are using a trust based estate plan, a will allows you to include the guardian provision in addition to funneling your rema

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