Stuart, FL: Why Should You Try to Avoid Probate?

Have you heard that you should avoid probate but aren’t sure exactly why? Or are you new to estate planning and not even sure what probate is? You’re definitely not alone! As an elder law firm dedicated to making life easier for families on the treasure coast, we’re here to support your estate planning process.

Keep reading to understand why avoiding probate might make sense for you and how to prevent the probate process in Stuart, FL.

What is Probate?

Probate is the court-supervised process of settling a deceased person’s estate and distributing his or her property to the intended heirs. Because a deceased person can’t own property – any property that is not in the name of the heirs will need to go through probate in order to pass to the rightful heir, says LegalZoom. Probate also oversees any necessary paying off of debts.

Have you heard horror stories about the probate process? Or maybe you’ve heard that it isn’t something to fear? Probate is one of those things that can go very badly or quite well. It can end up being a nightmare, or it can also be just a slight inconvenience. But better safe than sorry.

In some cases, your estate might not even need probate. And there are many ways to plan your estate to avoid probate. We’ll get to that in a minute.

Why Is Probate Undesirable?

There are two basic reasons to avoid probate: time and money.

Probate doesn’t always live up to its nightmarish stigma, but it does open the door for negative issues. If probate is necessary, it has the potential to cause significant problems and stress for your loved ones. Let’s take a look at some of the reasons why it’s better to avoid probate if possible:

  • Probate can temporarily prevent your loved ones from accessing their inheritance. While the estate is in probate, heirs will not be able to access a penny. This might not always be a problem, but it can cause your loved ones considerable stress and headache if they need to foot funeral expenses and probate costs without their inheritance money to help. Probate is especially a problem if your spouse doesn’t have a separate income or significant assets. Without being able to touch the money that is rightfully theirs but not in their name, your spouse might be unable to pay basic living expenses.
  • Probate is time-consuming, demanding, and inconvenient. Probate can take anywhere from a few months to a few years! The probate process requires your loved ones to juggle lots of deadlines, paperwork, legal rules, and appointments.
  • Probate can be expensive! It doesn’t seem fair to have to pay money to access money, does it? The legal fees associated with probate will cut into your family’s inheritance and could cause unnecessary stress.
  • Probate can result in an invasion of privacy and related anxiety. Estate planning can already be an emotionally charged aspect of life, and you want to cause as little anxiety as possible to your loved ones after you are gone. Probate opens up all of your estate plans to the public eye – and could cause ensuing jealousy, embarrassment, or tension. If you want to keep your financial affairs private – including the details of what you are leaving to which family member or loved one – it’s best to avoid probate.

How to Avoid Probate

Normally, proper planning can prevent your estate from going through probate. To avoid probate, you will need to make sure that your assets pass directly to your heirs. One of the ways to do this is to create a living trust. A living trust means that you can manage your assets until your death and also ensure that the assets pass seamlessly to your heirs after your death. With a trust, you’ll appoint a trustee to help manage your affairs and distribute assets upon your death. LegalZoom notes some other ways to avoid probate, such as:

  • Holding property jointly so that the other owner takes full ownership upon your death
  • Designating beneficiaries on life insurance and retirement accounts
  • Designating beneficiaries on pay-on-death (POD) bank accounts or transfer-on-death (TOD) investment accounts.

Do You Want Support?

Are you wanting to avoid probate but not sure the best way to do it? Or maybe you aren’t sure if taking measures to avoid probate is necessary for your estate. We’re here to support you – not just by answering questions but by guiding you through your legal needs with compassion and dedication. Our elder law attorneys care about making your estate planning a success – for you and for the generations to come. Let’s talk about your best path forward. Contact our Stuart office at 772-261-8556 or online.

Serving treasure coast seniors and those who love them.

 

The Estate, Trust, and Elder Law Firm, P.L.

Fort Pierce (Main Location)

2940 S. 25th Street

Fort Pierce, FL 34981

772-828-2588

Stuart

772-828-2588

850 NW Federal Highway, #1004

Stuart, FL 34994

772-261-8556

Port St. Lucie

1860 S.W. Fountainview Blvd. Suite 100

Port St. Lucie, FL 34986

772-878-7271

Vero Beach

IRC Chamber of Commerce 1216 21st Street

Vero Beach, FL 32960

772-410-5156

Okeechobee

402 NW Third St,

Okeechobee, FL 34972

863-261-8603

Fort Pierce, FL: Caring for Special Needs Loved Ones in Your Estate Plan

If you have a special needs loved one and you want to make them an heir to your estate, you will need to become familiar with “special needs planning.”

What is Special Needs Planning?

Special needs planning is all about the wellbeing of your heir. With special needs planning, your estate can include ways to:

  • Provide money management for your special needs child
  • Protect your special needs child’s eligibility for government benefits
  • Prepare a solution in case your child’s benefits should ever be cut off or decreased.

When creating your estate plan to include a special needs child, your best courses of action will depend on many factors, including:

  • Is the special needs heir a minor or an adult?
  • Will the special needs beneficiary be receiving special needs-based public benefits?

You Have a Special Needs Child, What Are Your Options?

There are several options for how to address leaving an inheritance to a special needs child or other loved one. As an estate planning law firm that is deeply concerned with the best interests of you and your family, we are here to help you understand the advantages and disadvantages of each option and how to move forward in the way that you desire. Some common solutions include:

  1. Disinherit your special needs child. While this is perhaps the least complicated option, it doesn’t fit into the goals of special needs estate planning – to provide optimal care and wellbeing to your special needs child after your death.
  2. Leave your estate to your other children. Depending on the relationship you have with your children and the relationship they have with each other, you might consider leaving your inheritance to your other children, with the understanding that they will use part of that inheritance to care for their special needs sibling. It’s important to note that this path doesn’t protect the assets intended to help your special needs child from creditors, divorced spouses, bankruptcies, or even just mismanagement on the part of your other children.
  3. Leave an inheritance to your special needs child. While this might seem desirable, remember that leaving an inheritance outright to a special needs child could require them to forfeit government benefits. If your child is receiving government benefits, then one key focus of special needs estate planning is making sure that the inheritance that passes to them upon your death will not be legally considered “available assets.” Why? Because too much monthly income, or too much cash, could put your child’s benefits at risk, as the Special Needs Alliance warns.
  1. Create a special needs trust. While this might seem complicated, it is generally the most recommended option for those wanting to ensure that their special needs child is cared for. And don’t stress about the complexity, you have a team of legal professionals ready to take that load off your shoulders with a simple trust planning process!

What Goes Into a Special Needs Trust?

Should you decide to create a special needs trust, we’re here to support you every step of the way. Creating a special needs trust will involve some key decisions, such as:

  • Who should be the trustee? A trust needs a trustee! Choosing who you want to administer your trust can be a difficult decision, but we’re here to help if you have questions about the best choice.
  • Should you create a living trust or a testamentary trust? A testamentary trust is one that goes into effect when you pass away. A living trust goes into effect upon its creation, while you as the estate owner are still living. Each choice has its pros and cons, but a living trust is often desirable for reasons including:
    • Avoiding probate, allowing other family members to contribute, giving a co-trustee practical experience in administering the trust before your death.
  • Should you create a revocable or irrevocable trust? There’s not a simple answer. It depends on your estate and what you want.
    • Revocable trusts are usually the better fit for those who want more control over their trust and those who are not concerned with income tax.
    • Irrevocable trusts might be more desirable if you have income tax considerations or concerns about federal estate taxes and gift taxes.

Ready To Get Started?

Whether you have a direction in mind, or you feel a little overwhelmed after hearing all this information, we’re here to help. Crafting an estate plan that is aligned with your wishes and the best interests of your loved ones can be tricky, but with extensive experience in Florida’s estate planning laws and cases similar to yours, the team at The Estate, Trust & Elder Law Firm, P.L is a choice you can trust! Contact our Fort Pierce office at 

772-828-2588 or online.

Serving treasure coast seniors and those who love them.

 

The Estate, Trust, and Elder Law Firm, P.L.

Fort Pierce (Main Location)

2940 S. 25th Street

Fort Pierce, FL 34981

772-828-2588

 

Stuart

772-828-2588

850 NW Federal Highway, #1004

Stuart, FL 34994

772-261-8556

 

Port St. Lucie

1860 S.W. Fountainview Blvd. Suite 100

Port St. Lucie, FL 34986

772-878-7271

 

Vero Beach

IRC Chamber of Commerce 1216 21st Street

Vero Beach, FL 32960

772-410-5156

Okeechobee

402 NW Third St,

Okeechobee, FL 34972

863-261-8603

Do You Really Need An Elder Law Attorney in Okeechobee?

When it comes to issues like Medicaid qualification, tax strategies, guardianships, charitable gift planning, power of attorney, and more, many individuals and families try to handle things on their own. While this is sometimes possible, it comes with the risk of making mistakes that negatively impact your family’s future.

If you’re on the fence about working with an elder law attorney in Okeechobee, consider some of the top reasons families choose to rely on an experienced, qualified legal team like The Estate, Trust & Elder Law Firm, P.L.:

  • Knowledge of interwoven, complex areas of the law. Many areas of the law can impact your situation and you want to make decisions accordingly. An elder law attorney can give you a holistic viewpoint on how laws you never even considered might influence your circumstances for better or worse.
  • Florida Bar Board Certification. The Florida Bar has a rigorous examination process with periodic peer review, insurance requirements, and ethical standards. Michael D. Fowler, J.D., LL.M is Florida Bar Board Certified in both Elder Law and Wills, Trusts and Estates – a rare distinction that allows clients additional assurance of competency.
  • Protection against legal malpractice. If you don’t have a Florida Bar Board certified lawyer, what recourse do you have if you need to file a complaint? Many non-lawyers who sell professional Medicaid planning or other types of legal advice do not have “errors and omissions” insurance to protect their clients. With a Florida Bar certified attorney, you do have an entity to fall back on should you suspect malpractice.
  • Help avoiding unnecessary taxes. Tax law is complex and constantly changing. If you make decisions without a thorough understanding of Florida and federal tax law, you might pay high taxes that could have been avoided.
  • Decades of experience. Michael D. Fowler, J.D., LL.M has over 36 years of experience in elder law.
  • Unbiased advice. With so much experience dealing with all the aspects of family dynamics, we know how complicated your decisions can be. Often, family members are divided when it comes to decisions regarding aging or disabled loved ones. An experienced family law attorney can offer advice that isn’t influenced by personal conflicts, emotions, or family dynamics.
  • More financial security. When it comes to your assets or your future planning, inaccurate or incomplete legal advice can cost you a fortune!
  • Long term perspective. Elder law attorneys can help you develop a plan based on the future. When you’re making decisions that deal with your loved ones or your estate, it’s hard not to be caught up in present emotions or concerns. An attorney can help you consider the long term, and also advise you based on similar situations with other clients.
  • Preparation for life’s surprises. An elder law attorney helps you make sure your plans don’t just stand the test of time, but also account for the unexpected. From Alzheimer’s and chronic illnesses, to new developments in tax or estate law, you want to consider the twists and turns that life can take.
  • Protection against exploitation. When it comes to your assets and your human rights, it’s tragically easy to be taken advantage of. “Protecting [your] assets from dishonest predators is essential,” says A Place For Mom. “An elder law attorney can report potential criminal activity or fraud.” An elder law attorney can give you in-depth insight into your rights as a senior citizen.
  • Advocacy for present and future wellbeing. Elder Law attorneys work to help you preserve your money, income, and assets so that they can benefit you both while you’re still alive and for the generations to come. We can also help with current legal concerns like assisted living and life planning, says FindLaw.
  • Accurate answers. If you have a question about your estate plan, your power of attorney, or your Medicaid spend-down strategy, etc, don’t count on the internet to give you helpful or even correct information. An elder law attorney can look at your unique situation and give you personalized advice that is not only accurate but influences your life for the better.
  • Efficiency, convenience, and peace of mind. When you need to accomplish a task related to estate planning, durable power of attorney, health care power of attorney, financial planning, advance directives, and more, you can have the assurance that the paperwork and legal process will be handled quickly, thoroughly, and without the risk of costly mistakes. An elder law attorney can take a weight off your shoulders when it comes to both your to-do list and your peace of mind.

Are you ready to incorporate over three decades of experience, double board certification, and personalized legal insight into your family’s needs? Contact our Okeechobee office at 
863-261-8603 or online.

Why An “I Love You Will” Might Not Be Very Loving

Most people plan their estate as a way to care for their loved ones beyond the grave. However, some common estate planning elements can actually do more harm than good. In this article, we’ll look at the typical “I Love You Will.” It turns out that this isn’t always the best way to express your love. Keep reading to understand the problems with this common estate planning move, and how it can be improved upon in your Vero Beach estate plan.

An “I Love You Will” Defined

An “I Love You Will” is a type of last will and testament that is mostly used by married couples where a spouse leaves their entire estate to the other spouse and usually to their children as well. According to LegalZoom, these wills usually contain language similar to “Upon my death, I leave my entire estate to my spouse, and upon the death of my spouse, our assets go to our children.”

Many people believe that this is the best way to express their love for their spouse and care for their spouse’s wellbeing. However, as we’ll see in this article, this isn’t always the case.

Why “I Love You Wills” Miss The Mark

Let’s take a look at the disadvantages of this estate planning choice:

  • It doesn’t help your spouse avoid taxes. You can eliminate or reduce taxes by setting up a trust.
  • It doesn’t protect your estate in the event that your spouse remarries and then divorces without prenuptial planning. For example, your spouse could remarry and then the assets you left to your spouse could be subject to loss in a divorce if your spouse didn’t adequately strategize pre-nuptials. With the right kind of trust, you can help ensure that what you leave to your spouse will not be lost in a divorce.
  • It could cause your children to lose their inheritance. For example, you might intend for your assets to pass to your surviving spouse and then later to your children when your spouse passes away. But if all you have is an “I Love You Will,” your spouse might remarry, and create another “I Love You Will” which could (intentionally or unintentionally) leave everything you left in your will to your spouse’s subsequent partner or even that partner’s children. If you want to ensure that your assets are kept in the family, an “I Love You Will” probably isn’t the best option.
  • You have less control over how your assets are used. For example, without a trust, your spouse could decide to leave the assets to a charity which you didn’t believe in, etc.
  • It doesn’t prevent your surviving spouse from having to go through the probate process. Probate opens everything about your estate to the public eye and allows anyone to find out what your surviving spouse received. If you have a trust, everything can remain private.
  • In a Medicaid planning context, “I Love You Wills” can create a big problem. Sometimes in Medicaid planning, assets are transferred to the caregiver spouse to allow the other spouse to receive government benefits. But then if the caregiver spouse leaves a will to the other spouse that then transfers all the assets back, and the caregiver spouse predeceases, the government benefits will cease. A better option that will not disrupt Medicaid benefits for the surviving spouse is to plan for the assets to go into a special needs trust. This protects the Medicaid spouse for life and doesn’t prevent them from receiving government benefits.
  • It sets up your heirs for asset protection issues. If your assets become the property of your beneficiaries through direct inheritance, then anything they own can be lost to creditors, divorcing spouses, bankruptcy losses, and more. An “I Love You Will” doesn’t protect your estate from creditors and lawsuits.
  • It doesn’t protect against incapacity issues. Let’s say your surviving spouse develops a health issue such as dementia. Their whole estate – including the assets they inherited from you – could be left to the whims of a guardianship or conservatorship court.

In short, an “I Love You Will” is often too simplistic to be an effective and holistically beneficial estate planning strategy.

Want A Stronger Alternative For Your Estate?

Do you want to create an estate plan that truly accomplishes your wishes? Do you want to rest assured that your estate plan will stand the test of time? Do you want to provide a stress-free future for your loved ones?

Let’s get started today! Whether you’re new to estate planning and want to know where to start or you are interested in improving a pre-existing estate plan, The Estate, Trust & Elder Law Firm, P.L can help! Contact our Vero Beach office at 772-410-5156!

Serving treasure coast seniors and those who love them.

 

The Estate, Trust, and Elder Law Firm, P.L.

Fort Pierce (Main Location)

2940 S. 25th Street

Fort Pierce, FL 34981

772-828-2588

 

Stuart

772-828-2588

850 NW Federal Highway, #1004

Stuart, FL 34994

772-261-8556

 

Port St. Lucie

1860 S.W. Fountainview Blvd. Suite 100

Port St. Lucie, FL 34986

772-878-7271

 

Vero Beach

IRC Chamber of Commerce 1216 21st Street

Vero Beach, FL 32960

772-410-5156

Okeechobee

402 NW Third St,

Okeechobee, FL 34972

863-261-8603

4 Strategies For Securing Your Estate During COVID-19 In St. Lucie, FL

Estate planning is built around the hope that you can maximize your life earnings and assets in a way that not only benefits you but makes life better for the future generations of your loved ones.

But with all the uncertainty, economic fluctuations, and predictions of deflation happening in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, you might be wondering how to move forward with confidence in St. Lucie, Florida? After all, many estates thrive on the assumption that their values will increase over time. In other words, many estates rely on the hope that their investments will be worth more in the future than they are today.

From the 1930s until today, this assumption has been a reliable guiding light for estate planning. However, the recent outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic has thrown everything up in the air.

Many economists are predicting that deflation could be looming on the horizon, but it’s difficult to say when exactly and what aspects of the economy will be hit hardest.

Planning for both possible deflation and inflation

When planning for the unknown, the key is flexibility. And thankfully, there are a lot of options to work flexibility into your estate planning. Ideally, your estate will be protected and prepared enough to stand the tests of time, whatever happens. And because deflation and inflation are both possible variables, it seems as if estate planning today must account for both inflation and deflation. But how? How can you plan your estate in such a way that you minimize the risk of being hit by deflation but also prepare to benefit from inflation if possible? Experts at Forbes offer the following tips:

  • Strategy 1: Gifting tax-free assets now. Try to choose assets that will not be affected by deflation. Forbes suggests gifting a diverse stock and bond portfolio and making your selection based on how likely they are to recover their value after falls in the recent market.
  • Strategy 2: Using flexible trusts. Having a trust with flexible provisions means you can recover assets you need if your estate’s value begins to decline, but also retain the income from the assets excluded from your estate. You can do this through a specialized disclaimer that instructs a trust protector or other officer to direct the asset back to you as the donor. Another option is to use a Qualified Terminable Interest Trust (QTIP) for the gift. This means you will have until the date the gift tax return is filed (plus extensions) to decide if you will keep the assets in your estate or not.
  • Strategy 3: Gifting through trusts that remain flexible. When gifting through a trust, the disclaimer referenced above can be utilized to permit you to substitute property (of either equal or greater value) for assets in the trust. This strategy can come in handy if (or when) assets decline in value.
  • Strategy 4: Freeze your estate’s value. If done properly, this strategy can still allow you some return. If you make a gift as a Grantor Retained Annuity Trust (GRAT), you can gift assets and receive annuity for a set time. If values increase during the GRAT, the appreciation is passed to the beneficiary tax-free. If value declines, it returns to you. Another option is selling the assets to a grantor type trust and taking back a promissory note. This will count as a completed transaction for gift tax purposes, but not income tax purposes. This path allows you to recover the current value of assets in the future if you need to. If you own residential property, you could make a gift to a Qualified Personal Residence Trust (QPRT). This means you have the right to live at the residence (rent-free) for a set time period. When the term runs out, you will have the option to purchase the property back from the trust if you wish to continue living there.

Getting started

Planning your estate in St. Lucie can be challenging even in times of much greater certainty and stability than we are facing now. With so many decisions and variables, creating a strong estate plan can feel overwhelming. If you want help evaluating the best decisions for your estate, our legal team is available to assist with your best interests in mind. If you’re concerned about meeting in person due to COVID-19, we are happy to offer video consultations for your health and convenience. Our motto is “Serving Treasure Coast Seniors and Those Who Love Them” and you’ll see that promise come to life with our dedicated service, personal attention, and commitment to the wellbeing of you and your loved ones.

 

Get started today by calling our St. Lucie office at 772-878-7271 or messaging us online.

Your Guide to Guardianship in Stuart, Florida

One of the most essential parts of estate planning is to provide for your loved ones in the event that you no longer can. Knowing your family’s best interests are set in writing brings peace of mind and helps you face the unknown with greater confidence.

While we never want to think about the worst happening, it’s important to consider what would happen to your minor children if you died or lacked the capacity to care for them.

Appointing a guardian for your children is a critical part of organizing your estate plan. Even if you are young and in good health, don’t procrastinate on solidifying your guardianship wishes. Without guardianship written into your will, it’s up to the courts to appoint someone to care for your children. Instead of leaving it to chance, why not appoint a guardian you’ve carefully considered as being the best option for your kids?

Who Should You Appoint as Guardian?

Whoever you appoint as guardian will be legally responsible for the day to day care of your minor children. Their responsibilities include providing a home and supervision for your children. In addition to food and clothing, the guardian will ideally be responsible for providing love and emotional support for your children. Essentially, a guardian steps in to take the place of a deceased parent until the children reach adulthood.

Choosing a guardian is one of the most important decisions you can make. While choosing someone might feel overwhelming, it might help you focus to consider these tips:

  • Consider immediate family, extended family, and close friends – who would best love and care for your child?
  • Choose someone with values similar to your own – because these values are most likely the ones you want imparted to your child.
  • Remember not to choose someone based on their current marriage or relationship. If this relationship changes, it might change how you would view them as a potential guardian. For this reason, Forbes suggests choosing individuals over couples. Consider your guardian’s partner and children if applicable – would they contribute to your child’s wellbeing?
  • Raising children takes a lot of work and dedication. Choose someone you believe is up to the challenge.
  • Choose someone who is financially stable.
  • Choose someone who you believe is emotionally and physically healthy.
  • Try to imagine your child fitting into your guardian’s life or family. Can you see your child being happy? Would it be similar to their current lifestyle?
  • Remember that Florida law requires guardians to be 18+ and to have never been convicted of a felony.

How To Appoint a Guardian in Florida

Once you’ve chosen a good fit, the rest is relatively easy. You just need to write your child’s guardian into your will. If you need assistance or advice preparing your will or other estate documents, our legal team is at your service with locations across the Treasure Coast. Call our Stuart, Florida office at 772-261-8556 or send a message online.

Serving treasure coast seniors and those who love them.

 

The Estate, Trust, and Elder Law Firm, P.L.

Fort Pierce (Main Location)

2940 S. 25th Street

Fort Pierce, FL 34981

772-828-2588

 

Stuart

772-828-2588

850 NW Federal Highway, #1004

Stuart, FL 34994

772-261-8556

 

Port St. Lucie

1860 S.W. Fountainview Blvd. Suite 100

Port St. Lucie, FL 34986

772-878-7271

 

Vero Beach

IRC Chamber of Commerce 1216 21st Street

Vero Beach, FL 32960

772-410-5156

Okeechobee

402 NW Third St,

Okeechobee, FL 34972

863-261-8603

Probate: The Pros and Cons

For some people, probating an estate has a negative connotation. Some financial planners even aggressively recommend against it. Most experts will agree that probate can be either a positive or negative experience for the heirs of an estate. LegalZoom advises that under ideal circumstances, the probate process is smooth, quick, and helpful. In the worst cases, probate evolves into a drawn-out legal nightmare for loved ones.

Probate law was established to protect the intentions and property of both a deceased person and the deceased person’s heirs. Whether you’re planning your estate or dealing with an estate left behind, you’re probably wondering if probate is necessary. So let’s take a closer look at the pros and cons of probate.

What is Probate?

LegalZoom defines probate as the court-supervised process of distributing a deceased person’s assets after their death. In theory, the process is simple. In order to probate a will or an estate without a will, the probate court assigns a representative to gather and list the deceased person’s assets, pay any outstanding debts, bills, taxes, and fees, and then distribute assets to the intended beneficiaries according to probate law. A probate attorney is often retained to help guide the representative through the probate process.

Probate is essentially the government stepping in to make sure your assets are allocated properly after you die, according to HG.org. Probate can significantly affect how your estate is handled after your death. Depending on the circumstances, probate can mean the difference between a stress-free or emotionally draining process for your loved ones after you are gone.

The Pros

  • If no will was left, probate law can prevent problems down the road by helping to ensure that all assets are distributed according to state law.
  • Probate helps provide peace of mind that there is a trustworthy procedure in place for distributing assets.
  • If there was a will left, probate reinforces the intentions and wishes of the deceased, ensuring that the will is carried out properly – especially if there is a dispute among family members and heirs.
  • If there is a will left, but not all assets are included in the will, probate can help lawfully distribute the assets excluded in the will.
  • Probate helps provide heirs and family members with peace of mind by ensuring that all necessary debts and taxes are properly paid on the estate.
  • If the deceased was in debt, probate provides only a brief window for creditors to file a claim, which normally results in increased debt forgiveness.
  • Probate can be helpful for distributing smaller estates in which previous estate planning was unaffordable.

The Cons

While probate does have its benefits in some situations, there might be other situations where probate is necessary or even undesirable.

  • Probate is a lengthy process – typically taking about seven months to a year to complete. During that time, family members must spend time and energy to attend court proceedings, gather paperwork, and meet with an attorney.
  • Probate prevents the distribution of assets until the probate process is complete.
  • Probate means personal family and financial information goes on public record and becomes public knowledge.
  • Probate can be costly, requiring court, attorney, and executor fees, all of which get deducted from the value of the estate. org estimates that the entire probate process can cost anywhere between 4% and 10% of the value of the estate in question. If you’re planning your estate, you might consider doing everything in your power to avoid probate so that money can be passed on to your heirs instead of going towards the probate process.
  • Probate can be complicated and stressful for everyone involved.

What Now?

Are you looking to help avoid probate for the sake of your loved ones? We are here to help. Remember that simply having a will does not automatically mean your estate will avoid probate. According to HG.org, a skilled estate planning attorney can develop a strategy to help you avoid probate and make life easier for the next generation.

Are you just starting your estate planning? Or maybe you’re already in the middle of the process? Either way, we can help ensure that all of your intentions are adhered to – including peace of mind for both you and your loved ones, cost-efficiency (for both you today and your loved ones after you are gone), and flawless distribution of your assets.

On the other hand, if you are an heir or a family member considering whether probate is necessary or beneficial, we can give experienced insight. Maybe you know that probate is unavoidable? We can help make the probate process as smooth and simple as possible.

Serving Treasure Coast seniors and those who love them. Call our Okeechobee office at 
863-261-8603 or message us online.

 

The Estate, Trust, and Elder Law Firm, P.L.

Fort Pierce (Main Location)

2940 S. 25th Street

Fort Pierce, FL 34981

772-828-2588

 

Stuart

850 NW Federal Highway, #1004

Stuart, FL 34994

772-261-8556

 

Port St. Lucie

1860 S.W. Fountainview Blvd. Suite 100

Port St. Lucie, FL 34986

772-878-7271

 

Vero Beach

IRC Chamber of Commerce 1216 21st Street

Vero Beach, FL 32960

772-410-5156

Okeechobee

402 NW Third St,

Okeechobee, FL 34972

863-261-8603

Children Change…and Your Estate Plan Might Need to Change With Them!

Have you been meaning to review your estate plan, but keep procrastinating? Maybe you haven’t even thought about it. You’re not alone. Reviewing your estate plan can be confusing, and sometimes it feels easier to leave it for another day. However, regularly updating your estate plan ensures that your desires are met – especially considering all the changes that life brings.Forbes states that “there are two widespread errors in estate planning. One error is not to have a will or other key elements of a plan. The other error is to fail to update the will and estate plan.”

One of the most common (and important!) reasons to review your estate plan is to make updates regarding your beneficiaries. Beneficiaries – usually your children – change as they grow, and it might be time for your estate plan to adapt to those changes.

Why Review Your Estate?

For parents with young children, a key decision in estate planning is appointing guardians. But even once guardians are no longer essential, you’ll want to consider questions such as:

  • Is your child married?
  • Is your child financially responsible?
  • Are you leaving assets to your children in a trust?
  • Does your child have children?

Many trusts distribute assets as children reach certain ages. A common plan might be to distribute one-third of assets once a child is age 25, then one-half of the remaining assets when they turn 30, and so on. However, if your child has now reached these milestones, they will receive distribution of part or all of the trust assets outright and free of trust once you (and your spouse, if you are married) pass away.

Besides perhaps not wanting to have your beneficiaries receive such a large lump sum at once, you may also now feel differently about your children receiving the same amount of assets you originally intended.

Common Reasons to Adjust the What, When, and How of Your Children Receiving Assets

  • You might feel differently about your child’s ability to handle a large inheritance.
  • You might have good reason to believe that large sums (especially if received as a lump sum all at once) might be used imprudently.
  • Your child might be married now, meaning that an inheritance could be easily commingled with the spouse’s assets. As Fidelity points out, this means that if your child gets a divorce, the assets from your estate might be distributed equally between your child and their ex-spouse.
  • One of your children has been financially successful while another has not.
  • You might have initially desired that your assets be equally divided among your children but this desire might have changed over time depending on a variety of circumstances.

Even if you still want your child to receive the same amount of assets that you originally intended, you might wish for the way that they receive the assets to be different. You can write restrictions into your estate plan that determine how and when your child can use the assets you give to them.

Other Reasons You Should Review Your Estate Plan Once the Kids are Older

While the above situations are common, it’s also very possible that you do not wish anything to change regarding your beneficiaries, how much of your assets they receive, and when and how they receive the assets. However, as your children grow up, you still need to continually review your estate plan for a number of reasons.

  • In some cases, beneficiaries named on retirement accounts and life insurance policies may not be in line with the trusts created for children under a will or revocable trust.
  • According to Fidelity, minors do not typically need health care powers of attorney, living wills, or advance health care directives, since their parents or guardians are legally responsible for them. But once children become adults, it’s wise to consider them having these important documents in their own right.

It is vital to revisit all the ways assets are being left to your children, taking into account their current ages, maturity levels, and your own wishes.

If you want help making sure that your estate plan is completely in line with your current desires, it might be time to talk to an experienced legal team. At The Estate, Trust, and Elder Law Firm we truly care about making your estate plan clear and simple – for you and your beneficiaries. We understand that what you want concerning your estate can change over time, and we’re dedicated to making the legal implications of your estate consistent with those changes. We serve the treasure coast seniors and those who love them. If it’s time to update your estate plan with confidence, contact our Port St. Lucie office online or at 772-261-8556.

 

The Estate, Trust, and Elder Law Firm, P.L.

Fort Pierce (Main Location)

2940 S. 25th Street

Fort Pierce, FL 34981

772-828-2588

 

Stuart

850 NW Federal Highway, #1004

Stuart, FL 34994

772-261-8556

 

Port St. Lucie

1860 S.W. Fountainview Blvd. Suite 100

Port St. Lucie, FL 34986

772-878-7271

 

Vero Beach

IRC Chamber of Commerce 1216 21st Street

Vero Beach, FL 32960

772-410-5156

Okeechobee

402 NW Third St,

Okeechobee, FL 34972

863-261-8603

What Is Durable Power of Attorney?

If you’ve spent any amount of time looking into estate planning, you’ve likely come across the term “durable power of attorney.” In this article, we’ll look at what durable power of attorney is, why you need it, and how to include it in your estate planning.

Durable Power of Attorney Defined

A durable power of attorney authorizes someone to act in a wide range of legal and business matters. The document is also known as a durable power of attorney for finances and under current Florida law must  take effect immediately.  Pre-2011 powers of attorney may have been appropriately drafted to  take effect only if you are incapacitated. However, the advantages of a post-2011 power of attorney in full conformity with the Florida law are very significant.

LegalZoom notes that the purpose of durable power of attorney is to plan for medical emergencies, cognitive decline later in life, or other situations where you’re no longer capable of making financial and legal decisions.

It’s important to note the difference between an ordinary power of attorney and a durable power of attorney. The former will expire if you become mentally incapacitated, while the effectiveness of the latter is durable through any future incapacitation.

The person you appoint is known as your agent, or attorney-in-fact, although the individual or company doesn’t have to be a lawyer. In fact, the person appointed does not have to be a relative. However, you should very carefully choose the person appointed because it is a very powerful document.

You might also want to consider a healthcare power of attorney. Generally in Florida we use instead a designation of health care surrogate. This document names someone to make medical decisions any time you are unable to do it yourself, even if you are expected to make a full recovery and generally is talking about more routine health care decisions you are unable to make yourself. Such a document differs somewhat from a living will, which details the treatment you want if you are at the end of your life and can no longer communicate.

Why You Might Need these advanced directives

A durable healthcare power of attorney or health care surrogate designation is useful when a medical emergency leaves you unconscious or otherwise unable to make choices about your care. It appoints someone else to communicate with doctors and make medical decisions for you.

A durable power of attorney for legal and financial issues can handle many types of transactions, including:

  • Buying and selling property
  • Managing bank accounts, bills, and investments
  • Filing tax returns
  • Applying for government benefits

How to Include Durable Power of Attorney in Your Estate Plan

While you can find DIY durable power of attorney forms online, it’s helpful to talk to an attorney so they can recommend the documents that will work best for your particular needs. As a general rule, elder law attorneys naturally work more with the use of powers of attorney when the grantors health has declined and long-term care planning is necessary. It is many times at this point that it is critical to have a robust power of attorney in full compliance with the Florida law.

Can You Remove Power of Attorney?

As long as you’re mentally competent, you can revoke your power of attorney at any time. The revocation should be done in writing. If you aren’t authorized to revoke a loved one’s power of attorney but you feel that the authority is being abused, contact an elder law attorney right away and/or contact the statewide Elder abuse hotline.

Next Steps

Are you looking to create an estate plan that can hold up to the unexpected twists and turns of life? We’re here to help. We offer video call consultations for your convenience, so why wait to get started? Contact our Ft. Pierce office at 

772-828-2588 or online.

Serving treasure coast seniors and those who love them.

 

The Estate, Trust, and Elder Law Firm, P.L.

Fort Pierce (Main Location)

2940 S. 25th Street

Fort Pierce, FL 34981

772-828-2588

 

Stuart

772-828-2588

850 NW Federal Highway, #1004

Stuart, FL 34994

772-261-8556

 

Port St. Lucie

1860 S.W. Fountainview Blvd. Suite 100

Port St. Lucie, FL 34986

772-878-7271

 

Vero Beach

IRC Chamber of Commerce 1216 21st Street

Vero Beach, FL 32960

772-410-5156

 

Okeechobee

402 NW Third St,

Okeechobee, FL 34972

863-261-8603

Social Distancing? Use This Time To Invest In Long-Term Benefits

During the coronavirus pandemic, government and healthcare officials are advising people to stay put and limit socialization. This might be a hard adjustment for many people, but why not use “social distancing” and quarantining to your advantage?

You can use this time at home to solidify your estate plan – an investment in your peace of mind and the wellbeing of your loved ones. And you don’t have to figure it all out on your own. During this coronavirus lockdown, The Estate, Trust, and Elder Law Firm is open! We’re offering telephone, Skype, Zoom or FaceTime interviews to help you ensure the legacy you desire!

If you are caring for a long-term care patient, now is a good time to help them get their estate planning documents in order. You can help them by scheduling a consultation with us. During this emergency, we are offering free consultations to anyone who has a loved one in an assisted living facility or nursing home and also to anyone caring for a frail senior at home.

Why Act Now?

Being quarantined or limiting social interactions is a great time to get started on estate planning, but really, estate planning should always be a priority. The future is always uncertain, and acting now can help you ensure that your wishes are met. Estate planning is more than just leaving assets to beneficiaries. Estate planning documents also include power of attorney. Power of attorney helps make sure that your desires are carried out even when you no longer have the ability to make decisions.

What Documents are Essential in Estate Planning?

Estate planning is more than just drafting a will or trust. Keep reading to understand all the important elements of estate planning. Let’s start with power of attorney since that is one step that many people neglect.

  • Power of Attorney

There are two important forms of power of attorney. Durable power of attorney and healthcare power of attorney.

  • Durable Power of Attorney is an agent or a person you assign to act on your behalf when you are unable to do so yourself. Without a power of attorney, a court may be left to decide what happens to your assets if you are found to be mentally incompetent, and the court’s decision may not be what you wanted.
  • Healthcare Power of Attorney designates another individual (typically a spouse or family member) to make important healthcare decisions on your behalf in the event of incapacity.
  • Will/Trust

A will or a trust may sound complicated or expensive—something only rich people have, but everyone should have a will or trust, even if you don’t have substantial assets. Wills ensure that property is distributed according to an individual’s wishes (if drafted according to state laws). Some trusts help limit estate taxes or legal challenges.

  • Beneficiary Designations

A beneficiary is someone who you choose to receive your assets after you die. If you don’t name a beneficiary, or if the beneficiary is deceased or unable to serve, a court could be left to decide the fate of your assets, warns Investopedia. A judge who is unaware of your situation, beliefs, or intent is unlikely to make the same decision you would have made.

  • Letter of Intent

A letter of intent is a document left to your executor or a beneficiary with the purpose of defining what you want to be done with a particular asset after your death or incapacitation. Some letters of intent also provide funeral details or other special requests.

  • Guardianship Designations

While many wills or trusts incorporate this clause, some don’t. Your choice to include this aspect of estate planning depends on your situation. If you have minor children or are considering having kids, picking a guardian is incredibly important and yet unfortunately sometimes overlooked. You’ll want to ensure that the individual or couple you choose shares your views, is financially sound, and is genuinely willing to raise children, advises Investopedia. As with all designations, a backup or contingent guardian should be named as well. Without a guardianship designation, a court could rule that your children live with a family member you wouldn’t have selected, or in some cases, the court could mandate that your children become wards of the state!

How to Get Started

There’s never been a better time to get your estate in order! Contact us for a consultation today. Remember, we’re open during this pandemic and we are offering free consultations during the coronavirus outbreak to anyone who has a loved one in an assisted living facility or nursing home, and anyone caring for a frail senior at home. Get started by calling our Port St. Lucie office at 772-878-7271 or by contacting us online.

Serving Treasure Coast seniors and those who love them.

The Estate, Trust, and Elder Law Firm, P.L.

Fort Pierce (Main Location)

2940 S. 25th Street

Fort Pierce, FL 34981

772-828-2588

 

Stuart

850 NW Federal Highway, #1004

Stuart, FL 34994

772-261-8556

 

Port St. Lucie

1860 S.W. Fountainview Blvd. Suite 100

Port St. Lucie, FL 34986

772-878-7271

 

Vero Beach

IRC Chamber of Commerce 1216 21st Street

Vero Beach, FL 32960

772-410-5156

Okeechobee

402 NW Third St,

Okeechobee, FL 34972

863-261-8603