LegalJourney Blog

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Beware of “Simple” Estate Plans

“I just need a simple will.”  It’s a phrase estate planning attorneys hear practically every other day.   From the client’s perspective, there’s no reason to do anything complicated, especially if it might lead to higher legal fees.  Unfortunately, what may appear to be a “simple” estate is all too often rife with complications that, if not addressed during the planning process, can create a nightmare for you and your heirs at some point in the future.   Such complications may include:

Probate - Probate is the court process whereby property is transferred after death to individuals named in a will or specified by law if there is no will. Probate can be expensive, public and time consuming.  A revocable living trust is a great alternative that allows your estate to be managed more efficiently, at a lower cost and with more privacy than probating a will.  A living trust can be more expensive to establish, but will avoid a complex probate proceeding. Even in states where probate is relatively simple, you may wish to set up a living trust to hold out of state property or for other reasons.

Minor Children - If you have minor children, you not only need to nominate a guardian, but you also need to set up a trust to hold property for those children. If both parents pass away, and the child does not have a trust, the child’s inheritance could be held by the court until he or she turns 18, at which time the entire inheritance may be given to the child. By setting up a trust, which doesn’t have to come into existence until you pass away, you are ensuring that any money left to your child can be used for educational and living expenses and can be administered by someone you trust.  You can also protect the inheritance you leave your beneficiaries from a future divorce as well as creditors.

Second Marriages - Couples in which one or both of the spouses have children from a prior relationship should carefully consider whether a “simple” will is adequate. All too often, spouses execute simple wills in which they leave everything to each other, and then divide the property among their children. After the first spouse passes away, the second spouse inherits everything. That spouse may later get remarried and leave everything he or she received to the new spouse or to his or her own children, thereby depriving the former spouse’s children of any inheritance.  Couples in such situations should establish a special marital trust to ensure children of both spouses will be provided for.

Taxes - Although in 2011 and 2012, federal estate taxes only apply to estates over $5 million for individuals and $10 million for couples, that doesn’t mean that anyone with an estate under that amount should forget about tax planning. Many states still impose a state estate tax that should be planned around. Also, in 2013 the estate tax laws are slated to change, possibly with a much lower exemption amount.

Incapacity Planning – Estate planning is not only about death planning.  What happens if you become disabled?  You need to have proper documents to enable someone you trust to manage your affairs if you become incapacitated.  There are a myriad of options that you need to be aware of when authorizing someone to make decisions on your behalf, whether for your medical care or your financial affairs.  If you don’t establish these important documents while you have capacity, your loved ones may have to go through an expensive and time-consuming guardianship or conservatorship proceeding to petition a judge to allow him or her to make decisions on your behalf.  

By failing to properly address potential obstacles, over the long term, a “simple” will can turn out to be incredibly costly.   


Tuesday, September 27, 2011

6 Events Which May Require a Change in Your Estate Plan

Creating a Will is not a one-time event. You should review your will periodically, to ensure it is up to date, and make necessary changes if your personal situation, or that of your executor or beneficiaries, has changed. There are a number of life-changing events that require your Will to be revised, including:

Change in Marital Status: If you have gotten married or divorced, it is imperative that you review and modify your Will. With a new marriage, you must determine which assets you want to pass to your new spouse or step-children, and how that may relate to the beneficiary interest of your own children. Following a divorce it is a good practice to revise your Will, to formally remove the ex-spouse as a beneficiary. While you’re at it, you should also change your beneficiary on any life insurance policies, pensions, or retirement accounts. Estate planning is complicated when there are children from multiple marriages, and an attorney can help you ensure everyone is protected, which may include establishing a trust in addition to the revised Will.

Depending on jurisdiction, this may also apply to couples who have established or revoked a registered domestic partnership.

If one of your Will’s beneficiaries experiences a change in marital status, that may also trigger a need to revise your Will.

Births: Upon the birth of a new child, the parents should amend their Wills immediately, to include the names of the guardians who will care for the child if both parents die. Also, parents or grandparents may wish to modify the distribution of assets provided in their Wills, to include the new addition to the family.

Deaths or Incapacitation: If any of the named executors or beneficiaries of a Will, or the named guardians for your children, pass away or become incapacitated, your Will should be revised accordingly.

Change in Assets: Your Will may need to be changed if the value of your assets has significantly increased or decreased, or if you dispose of an asset. You may want to modify the distribution of other assets in your estate, to account for the changed value or disposition of the asset.

Change in Employment: A change in the amount and/or source of income means your Will should be examined to see if any changes must be made to that document. Retirement or changing jobs could entail moving to another state, thus subjecting your estate to the laws of that state when you die. If the change in income modifies your investing, saving or spending habits, it may be time to review your Will and make sure the distribution to your beneficiaries will be as you intended.

Changes in Probate or Tax Laws: Wills should be drafted to maximize tax benefits, and to ensure the decedent’s wishes are carried out. If the laws regarding taxation of the estate, distribution of assets, or provisions for minor children have changed, you should have your Will reviewed by an estate planning attorney to ensure your family is fully protected and your wishes will be fully carried out.

Contact the LegalJourney Law Firm today to schedule a consultation with an Attorney to discuss your Will.


Wednesday, September 21, 2011

5 Key Asset Protection Exemptions for Florida residents

  1. The Florida Homestead:  no dollar limitation, if within municipality ½ acre; outside municipality 160 acres. Fla Const. Art X, Sect 4
  2. Life Insurance: The cash surrender value of policy is exempt from insured’s creditors. Note: Without the proper planning death benefits may be reached based on how the proceeds are dispersed. Fla. Stat. § 222.14
  3. Annuities: The cash surrender value of policy is exempt from insured’s creditors. Fla. Stat. § 222.14
  4. Qualified Plans, IRA’s and Pension: Fully exempt if federal requirements are meet. Fla. Stat. § 222.21. Note: Fla Stat § 222.21 is being updated to also protected inherited IRAs
  5. Prepaid Tuition and Medical Savings Accounts: Fla. Stat. §222.22.

For a complete list of exemptions contact the LegalJourney Law Firm or visit the Online Sunshine.

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.


Monday, September 19, 2011

Why it may be a good idea to revisit your Power of Attorney (POA)

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 their 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.

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 seek the advice of a 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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