LegalJourney Blog

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Day 4: Free Declaration of Preneed Guardian

Day 4: Free Declaration of Preneed Guardian1

The first 3 individuals who contact the LegalJourney Law Firm using the "Contact the Firm" option on www.legaljourney.com will receive a free Florida Declaration of Preneed Guardian.

When included as part of your Estate Plan, the declaration of a preneed guardianship can alleviate the stress involved with determining who will become guardian of a loved ones person and property during incapacity.

The LegalJourney Law Firm’s Declaration of Preneed Guardian free offer includes: an interview with an attorney and a customized Declaration of Preneed Guardian.

To find out additional details, please contact the LegalJourney Law Firm PLLC

Florida Statute Section 744.3045 Preneed Guardian States that “a competent adult may name a preneed guardian by making a written declaration that names such guardian to serve in the event of the declarant’s incapacity… ”

1This offer is available until close of business January 5th, 2012.

 

 


Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Day 3: Free Power of Attorney

Day 3: Free Power of Attorney1

The first 3 individuals who contact the LegalJourney Law Firm using the "Contact the Firm" option on www.legaljourney.com will receive a free Florida Power of Attorney.

The LegalJourney Law Firm’s Power of Attorney free offer includes: an interview with an attorney, a customized power of attorney and notarization of your power of attorney.

To find out additional details, please contact the LegalJourney Law Firm PLLC

Florida Statute Section 709.2101 through 709.2402 (effective date October 1, 2011): Although still effective, everyone with a Power of Attorney (POA) created prior to October 1, 2011 should discuss his or her options with a knowledgeable estate-planning attorney. Issues have arisen in the past with financial institutions not accepting POAs or requiring their specific form to be signed. However, for POAs created under the new Statute, per section 709.2120, F.S., a third person is required to accept or reject a POA within a reasonable time and is not allowed to require an additional or a different POA for authority granted in the present POA. If the third person rejects a POA under the new Statute, they could be held liable for damages and attorney fees.

1This offer is available until close of business January 4th, 2012.

 


Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Day 2: Save $200 on a Will based Estate Plan

Day 2: Save $200 on a Will based Estate Plan1

The LegalJourney Law Firm’s Will based Estate Plan includes: a Will, a Living Will, Health Care Surrogate Form, HIPPA Authorization and Durable Power of Attorney.

1This offer is available until close of business January 13th, 2012.

To find out additional details, please contact the LegalJourney Law Firm PLLC.

This new year, as a way of saying thank you for your continued support of the LegalJourney Law Firm PLLC and as part of the firm's anniversary celebration, the LegalJourney Law Firm PLLC will be offering free and/or reduced estate planning during the first two weeks of 2012 for residents of the state of Florida.

Each day beginning on January 2nd 2012 through January 13th 2012, the LegalJourney Law Firm PLLC will post, via the LegalJourney Blog, daily opportunities to receive either a reduced price or a completely free legal service.

If you are not following the firm online, please visit the LegalJourney.com website and connect with the LegalJourney Law Firm PLLC today.

 

 


Monday, January 2, 2012

Free Estate Planning Offer

A word from Attorney Karnardo Garnett, the founder of the LegalJourney Law Firm PLLC:

Happy New Year and Happy Anniversary to the LegalJourney Law Firm PLLC!

Every New Year begins with reflections on the past year accompanied by resolutions to improve during the current year.

Thank you for making 2011 a successful year for the LegalJourney Law Firm PLLC.

This new year, as a way of saying thank you for your continued support of the LegalJourney Law Firm PLLC and as part of the firm's anniversary celebration, the LegalJourney Law Firm PLLC will be offering free and/or reduced estate planning during the first two weeks of 2012.

Each day beginning on January 2nd 2012 through January 13th 2012, the LegalJourney Law Firm PLLC will post, via the LegalJourney Blog, daily opportunities to receive either a reduced price or a completely free legal service.

If you are not following the firm online, please visit the LegalJourney.com website and connect with the LegalJourney Law Firm PLLC today.

Thank you for allowing me to serve you in the past and I look forward to continuing to provide you "Legal Guidance through Your Life's Journey."

 

 


Monday, January 2, 2012

Day 1: Free Online Will

Day 1: Free Online Will1

The LegalJourney Law Firm will provided a free “Online Will” for the first 3 individuals who sign up for a new online client account via the online legal services link on www.legaljourney.com.

1.     Go to www.legaljourney.com;

2.     Select “Online Legal Services”;

3.     Select “Register for a New Online Legal Services Account today!"

Create a user account and you will be notified within 24 hours if you will be a recipient of todays offer.

1This offer is available until close of business January 2nd, 2012.

 


Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Living Trusts & Probate Avoidance

You want your money and property to go to your loved ones when you die, not to the courts, lawyers or the government. Unfortunately, unless you’ve taken proper estate planning, procedures, your heirs could lose a sizable portion of their inheritance to probate court fees and expenses. A properly-crafted and “funded” living trust is the ideal probate-avoidance tool which can save thousands in legal costs, enhance family privacy and avoid lengthy delays in distributing your property to your loved ones
What is probate, and why should you avoid it? Probate is a court proceeding during which the will is reviewed, executors are approved, heirs, beneficiaries, debtors and creditors are notified, assets are appraised, your debts and taxes are paid, and the remaining estate is distributed according to your will (or according to state law if you don’t have a will). Probate is costly, time-consuming and very public.

A living trust, on the other hand, allows your property to be transferred to your beneficiaries, quickly and privately, with little to no court intervention, maximizing the amount your loved ones end up with.

A basic living trust consists of a declaration of trust, a document that is similar to a will in its form and content, but very different in its legal effect. In the declaration, you name yourself as trustee, the person in charge of your property. If you are married, you and your spouse are co-trustees. Because you are trustee, you retain total control of the property you transfer into the trust. In the declaration, you must also name successor trustees to take over in the event of your death or incapacity.

Once the trust is established, you must transfer ownership of your property to yourself, as trustee of the living trust. This step is critical; the trust has no effect over any of your property unless you formally transfer ownership into the trust. The trust also enables you to name the beneficiaries you want to inherit your property when you die, including providing for alternate or conditional beneficiaries. You can amend your trust at any time, and can even revoke it entirely.

Even if you create a living trust and transfer all of your property into it, you should also create a back-up will, known as a “pour-over will”. This will ensure that any property you own – or may acquire in the future – will be distributed to whomever you want to receive it. Without a will, any property not included in your trust will be distributed according to state law.

After you die, the successor trustee you named in your living trust is immediately empowered to transfer ownership of the trust property according to your wishes. Generally, the successor trustee can efficiently settle your entire estate within a few weeks by filing relatively simple paperwork without court intervention and its associated expenses. The successor trustee can solicit the assistance of an attorney to help with the trust settlement process, though such legal fees are typically a fraction of those incurred during probate.
 

 

 


Thursday, December 15, 2011

Avoid Family Feuds through Proper Estate Planning

A Family feud over an inheritance is not a game and there is no prize package at the end of the show. Rather, disputes over who gets your property after your death can drag on for years and deplete your entire estate. When most people are preparing their estate plans, they execute wills and living trusts that focus on minimizing taxes or avoiding probate. However, this process should also involve laying the groundwork for your estate to be settled amicably and according to your wishes. Communication with your loved ones is key to accomplishing this goal.

Feuds can erupt when parents fail to plan, or make assumptions that prove to be untrue. Such disputes may evolve out of a long-standing sibling rivalry; however, even the most agreeable family members can turn into green-eyed monsters when it comes time to divide up the family china or decide who gets the vacation home at the lake.

Avoid assumptions. Do not presume that any of your children will look out for the interests of your other children. To ensure your property is distributed to the heirs you select, and to protect the integrity of the family unit, you must establish a clear estate plan and communicate that plan – and the rationale behind certain decisions – to your loved ones.

In formulating your estate plan, you should have a conversation with your children to discuss who will be the executor of your estate, or who wants to inherit a specific personal item. Ask them who wants to be the executor, or consider the abilities of each child in selecting who will settle your estate, rather than just defaulting to the eldest child. This discussion should also include provisions for your potential incapacity, and address who has the power of attorney.

Do not assume any of your children want to inherit specific items. Many heirs fight as much over sentimental value as they do monetary items. Cash and investments are easily divided, but how do you split up Mom’s engagement ring or the table Dad built in his woodshop? By establishing a will or trust that clearly states who is to receive such special items, you avoid the risk that your estate will be depleted through costly legal proceedings as your children fight over who is entitled to such items.

Take the following steps to ensure your wishes are carried out:

  • Discuss your estate planning with your family. Ask for their input and explain anything “unusual,” such as special gifts of property or if the heirs are not inheriting an equal amount.
     
  • Name guardians for your minor children.
     
  • Write a letter, outside of your will or trust, that shares your thoughts, values, stories, love, dreams and hopes for your loved ones.
     
  • Select a special, tangible gift for each heir that is meaningful to the recipient.
     
  • Explain to your children why you have appointed a particular person to serve as your trustee, executor, agent or guardian of your children.
     
  • If you are in a second marriage, make sure your children from a prior marriage and your current spouse know that you have established an estate plan that protects their interests.
     

 

 


Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Year End Gifts

If you’re like most people, you want to make sure you and your loved ones pay the least amount of tax possible. Many use year-end gift giving as a way to transfer wealth to younger generations and also reduce the overall potential estate tax that will be due upon their death. Below are some steps you can take to make gifts to your heirs without triggering any gift tax liability. Some of these techniques may also reduce your own income tax liability.

A combination of estate and gift tax exemptions can be used to significantly reduce the overall tax liability of your estate. Upon your death, federal estate tax may be owed. A portion of your estate is exempt from the tax. That exemption amount is set by Congress and can change from year to year. For deaths that occur in 2011, the exemption amount is $5 million and the value of an estate in excess of that amount is subject to estate tax.

Many taxpayers make annual gifts to loved ones during their lifetimes, to reduce the overall value of the estate so that it does not exceed the exemption amount in effect at the time of death. It is important to consider that gifts made during your lifetime are subject to a gift tax (equal to the estate tax). However, certain gifts or transfers are not subject to the gift tax, enabling you to make tax-free gifts that benefit your loved ones and reduce the overall taxable value of your estate upon your death.

The annual gift tax exclusion allows each individual to make annual gifts of up to $13,000 to each recipient. There is no limit to the number of recipients who may each receive up to $13,000 totally tax-free. Married couples may gift up to $26,000 to each recipient without triggering any tax liability. This annual exclusion expires on December 31 of each year, and larger gifts may be made by splitting it up into two payments. By making a payment in December and one the following January, you can take advantage of the gift tax exclusion for both years. Keeping annual gifts below $13,000 per recipient ensures that no gift tax return must be filed, and that there is no reduction in the estate tax exemption amount available upon your death.

Annual gifts may also be made in the form of contributions to a §529 College Savings Plan. These, too, are subject to the $13,000 annual gift tax exclusion. Additionally, such contributions may afford the giver with a state tax deduction.

Payment of a beneficiary’s medical expenses is also excluded from the gift tax. There is no limit to the amount of medical expense payments that may be excluded from tax. To qualify, the payment must be made directly to the health care provider and must be the type of expenses that would qualify for an income tax deduction.

If you have a large estate that may be subject to taxes upon your death, making annual gifts during your lifetime can be a simple way to reduce the size of your estate while avoiding negative tax consequences.

 

 


Thursday, December 8, 2011

Joint Bank Accounts and Medicaid Eligibility

Like most governmental benefit programs, there are many myths surrounding Medicaid and eligibility for benefits. One of the most common myths is the belief that only 50% of the funds in a jointly-owned bank account will be considered an asset for the purposes of calculating Medicaid eligibility.


Medicaid is a needs-based program that is administered by the state.  Therefore, many of its eligibility requirements and procedures vary across state lines.  Generally, when an applicant is an owner of a joint bank account the full amount in the account is presumed to belong to the applicant. Regardless of how many other names are listed on the account, 100% of the account balance is typically included when calculating the applicant’s eligibility for Medicaid benefits.
    
Why would the state do this? Often, these jointly held bank accounts consist solely of funds contributed by the Medicaid applicant, with the second person added to the account for administrative or convenience purposes, such as writing checks or discussing matters with bank representatives. If a joint owner can document that both parties have contributed funds and the account is truly a “joint” account, the state may value the account differently. Absent clear and convincing evidence, however, the full balance of the joint bank account will be deemed to belong to the applicant.
 

 

 


Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Free Online Seminars in January 2012

 

January 14th, 2011: Estate Planning 101 and

January 28th, 2011: Elder Law: Planning for Long Term Care

Register Online Today.

 

 


Tuesday, December 6, 2011

How to Avoid Piercing the Corporate Veil

Many business owners establish corporations to shield themselves from personal liability for business debts and protect their personal assets from creditors of the company. When established and maintained properly, a corporation is treated under the law as an independent entity, with many of the rights afforded to individuals. Such rights include the ability to own and transfer property, enter into contracts, obtain funding and to initiate legal action. A corporation is a separate, distinct entity, apart from its shareholders; as a result, only the corporation’s assets can be seized to pay judgments or satisfy other debts owed by the company.

However, the liability protection afforded by the corporate business structure is only available if the integrity of the corporation as a separate entity is respected by the courts and taxing authorities. Certain corporate formalities must be observed in order to preserve the corporation’s status as a separate entity apart from its owners. Failure to comply with these requirements may permit creditors to “pierce the corporate veil” and seek payment from the individual shareholders directly. To ensure the corporate veil remains intact, the corporation must act like a separate and distinct entity, and the shareholders must treat it as such. If certain corporate formalities are not consistently observed, a court may find that the corporation is merely an “alter ego” of the individual owner(s), and the corporate structure may be “disregarded”. When this occurs, the corporate veil is pierced and the individual shareholders can be held personally liable for the debts of the company.

Formalities that must be observed in order to preserve the integrity of the corporation and ensure the protection afforded by the corporate veil remains intact include:
    
Corporate Records
The corporation’s financial and corporate records must be documented. Most states also require that the shareholders and the directors meet at least once per year. A record of these meetings, in the form of minutes or written resolutions must be properly executed and maintained by the company.

Commingling of Assets
The corporation and the shareholders must treat themselves as separate entities. The corporation should have its own bank and credit card accounts.  Business owners should clearly document and account for expenditures made from corporate accounts if they were for personal benefit.

Capitalization
The corporation must be fully capitalized, or funded. This is typically accomplished by selling shares. Even in a one-person corporation, that individual shareholder must purchase his or her shares of stock in the company.  The corporation should also avoid becoming intentionally insolvent by transferring assets to the shareholders if it is likely that such transfer will inhibit the corporation’s ability to meet its financial obligations.

Failure to Pay Dividends
Payment of dividends is neither required, nor appropriate in every situation. However, if the payment of dividends is appropriate, or required, and the corporation fails to pay them, this could suggest that the corporation is actually an alter ego and not a separate legal entity.
 

Note: LegalJourney Blog posts are designed to provide informational summaries, but do not include all aspects, issues, statutes or legal rulings. If you have additional questions based on what you read on the LegalJourney Blog, please contact the LegalJourney Law Firm or seek the advice of another qualified Florida attorney

 

 


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Attorney Karnardo Garnett represents clients with their Estate Planning, Elder Law and Asset Protection needs throughout the Tampa Bay Area, serving all of the bay area, including but not limited to Tampa, Brandon, Clearwater, St. Petersburg, Gibsonton, Riverview, Oldsmar, Safety Harbor, Hillsborough County, and Pinellas County, FL



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