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

Incorporating Veterans Benefits Into Your Estate Planning

Are you planning your estate, planning for retirement, or just planning for the future?

Have you considered all the veterans benefits you might be entitled to?

Veterans benefits are essential to estate planning, as the benefits can extend to your surviving spouse and dependents after you are gone. These benefits can strengthen your retirement plan, and help you avoid stress when it comes to living expenses and medical bills.

Let’s take a look at a few ways that you can incorporate veterans benefits into your estate planning.

Veterans Benefits Overview

The VA (The Department of Veterans Affairs) offers a variety of benefits to veterans and their families, including:

  • Death Gratuity
  • Veterans Funeral Benefits
  • Veterans Health and Dental Care
  • Pension Programs and Veterans Pensions
  • Dependency Compensation
  • Retiree Benefits
  • Tragedy Assistance Program
  • Veteran Disability Compensation
  • And a variety of survivor benefits

The VA also provides benefits to veterans’ widows, including: Surviving Family Benefits, Survivor Resources, and Survivor Support Organizations. Perhaps most importantly, the VA provides support to help the surviving widow of a qualifying veteran to take care of his or her family, including:

  • Dependency and Indemnity Compensation
  • Death Gratuity
  • Death Pension
  • Tricare
  • Basic Allowance for Housing
  • Household Goods Shipping and Storage
  • Veterans Burial Benefits
  • Gold Star Lapel Button
  • ServiceMembers Group Life Insurance

Pensions

The VA provides pensions to qualifying veterans to help ease the financial stress of daily life. Military Benefits explains the pensions you might be entitled to. In addition to a monthly pension, you may be entitled to the “Aid and Attendance” benefit if you require the aid of another person to perform activities of daily living, if you are blind or have specific visual impairments, or you are a patient in a nursing home because of physical and/or mental incapacity.

Life Insurance

According to Military One Source, service members are entitled to life insurance through ServiceMembers’ Group Life Insurance. Depending on the benefit amount you want to provide to your family, you can supplement your SGLI with another life insurance policy. If you die because of an injury or illness incurred or aggravated during your service, your survivors may be entitled to benefits from the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs. Some benefits are automatic, but your family must apply for others, which is important to remember while planning your estate.

Burial and Funeral Expenses

The VA pays up to $2,000.00 for burial expenses for service-related deaths on or after September 11, 2001. Some or all of the cost for transportation of the deceased may be reimbursed if the veteran is buried in a Veterans’ National Cemetery.

For non-service-related deaths, the VA  pays up to $300.00 for burial and funeral expenses and a $300.00 plot-interment allowance for deaths on or after December 1, 2001.  Some or all of the costs for transportation of the remains from a Veterans Affairs nursing home or hospital to a cemetery may be reimbursed.

Veterans and their spouses are entitled to a plot at a National Cemetery and arrangements can be made for a color guard or burial with honors if the veteran is eligible.  However, veterans are not required to be buried in a National Cemetery.  Veterans may be buried in a location of their choice and their estates may still receive allowances for burial and funeral expenses.

Benefits for Children and Spouses

Veterans and their spouses may have unique estate planning considerations. This is especially important for veterans with children. Children of veterans are also entitled to benefits based on the military service of their parents.

Successfully claiming veterans’ benefits can be complex, but there are ways to make the process easier for your loved ones to receive benefits.

Part of your estate planning process should include supplementing your will with instructions regarding how these benefits can be accessed, along with documentation of your military service. Written instructions should outline the various benefits to which your children may be entitled, including support payments, educational opportunities, and counseling services. From there, the executor of the will or the guardian of your children can begin to do some research to determine what children are entitled to. The VA department called the Office of Survivors Assistance can help with benefit identification and coordination.

In your estate planning documents, you should also provide information on where the executor or guardian can find your records so that claims by your survivors can be processed efficiently.

An elder law attorney can help ensure that your will and other documents are prepared correctly and that the rights of your loved ones are protected.

If you have questions about how to incorporate your well-earned veterans benefits into your estate plan, we’re here to help! Contact our Stuart, FL 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

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

Should You Choose a Revocable Living Trust or a Will?

One of the most important decisions in your estate planning is to decide if focusing on a will or revocable living trust is best for your situation and desires. The main difference between the two is that a revocable living trust (hereinafter RLT) can accomplish probate avoidance with respect to assets that are transferred to it prior to your death. In some estates an irrevocable trust could also be considered as part of the overall estate plan. A will can also establish a testamentary trust (which is established after your death in accordance with the terms of the will as opposed to a revocable living trust which is established during your lifetime). The decision as to whether to use a will, and RLT, or an irrevocable trust  can make a substantial difference in how you leave a legacy after you’re gone. Many people choose to include both a will and at least one trust in their estate, but you need to decide which will channel the majority of your assets.

What is a Will?

According to Investopedia, a will is a legal document that sets forth your wishes regarding the distribution of your property and the care of any minor children. It controls the administration and disposition of any assets titled in your name alone at the time of your death. Without a will, your wishes may not be followed after your death. To make matters worse, the lack of a will could force your heirs to spend additional time, money, and stress to settle your affairs after you’re gone.

Pros and Cons of a Will

  • A will can be used to name a guardian for your minor children in the event of your death
  • A will is at risk of requiring probate. Probate can sometimes be a fairly simple and streamlined process, but can sometimes  cause problems and inconveniences for beneficiaries and loved ones left behind that could possibly be avoided with an RLT. Either way, it costs money in terms of court costs, attorney’s fees, and possibly personal representative fees..
  • If you become disabled, whoever holds your power of attorney has to present it to financial institutions and have them accept it before your assets can be managed. If there’s no power of attorney or financial institutions won’t accept it, the courts become involves, says Forbes.
  • A will is easier for a contestant to challenge than is a trust.

What is a Trust?

A trust is an entity created to hold assets for the benefit of certain persons or entities, with a trustee managing the trust, says Law.com. There are basically two types of trusts: revocable and irrevocable. Revocable, or living, trusts can be modified after they are created. Irrevocable trusts cannot be modified after they are created, or at least they are very difficult to modify, explains Investopedia.

Pros and Cons of a Trust

  • No one other than the beneficiaries are entitled to see your trust documents. They won’t become public record unless an heir or beneficiary files a lawsuit to challenge the validity of your trust, says The Balance.
  • A trust provides some protection in the event of disability. Unlike a will, a revocable living trust can prepare your estate in the event you become mentally incapacitated, not just when you die. Your successor trustee can also step in if you become mentally incompetent to the point where you can no longer handle your own affairs. Your trust documents can specify how it should be determined that you are indeed mentally incompetent, such as by certification by your own physician or by a team of physicians who must all concur. Your property would not transfer to your beneficiaries if this happens, as it would at your death. Your successor trustee would simply manage your finances and property for you because you’re unable to do so, explains The Balance. An RLT, however, unlike the common understanding, provides no protection of your assets from creditors, taxing authorities, or your future medical or long-term care expenses. An irrevocable trust might be able to answer this deficiency.
  • A living trust at least theoretically provides for a smoother transition of management and ownership of property. Initially, you serve as trustee and manage the property. If you become disabled or pass away, the successor, trustee, or trustees appointed by you will automatically take over management of the property. After you pass away, the trust property is managed and distributed according to the terms of the trust. The courts aren’t normally involved, says Forbes.
  • A trust allows you to leave property for the benefit of young children. By law, minors can’t own property. However, a testamentary trust for the benefit of minor children can be established under your will When leaving property to a minor using a living trust, the trustee manages the property until the child reaches an age determined by you, according to LegalZoom.

Get Started on Your Legacy Today!

You don’t have to necessarily choose between a trust or a will. Forbes notes that most estate plans have both a will and one or more trusts. The decision is usually more about which one is more important than the other and will serve as the foundation of the estate plan with the majority of the estate passing through it. If you’re trying to decide how to best move forward with your estate planning, we’re here to help. The decision largely depends on your personal concerns and goals. Let’s talk.

 

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

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

How to Choose a Trustee for Your Estate

If you’ve been thinking about estate planning for any amount of time, you’ve probably heard that you need a trustee. Keep reading to understand how to get started.

What Exactly is a Trustee and What Do They Do?

The main functions of a trustee are recordkeeping, trust administration, and investment management, according to Fidelity.

How to Choose Your Trustee – What to Look For

The name says it all: a trustee should be trustworthy. According to The Balance, the three questions you should ask about potential trustees are:

  1. Is the person capable, qualified, and willing to serve as trustee?
  2. Will naming this particular person as trustee hurt family relationships or cause problems down the line?
  3. Does the trustee offer continuity and protection against malfeasance?

According to Everplans, additional characteristics to look for include:

  • Attention to detail
  • An understanding of his or her duties, and a commitment to taking those duties seriously
  • An understanding of finances and perhaps investing, accounting, or law
  • Good communication skills
  • Morals and values that you agree with

Finally, AARP recommends considering the age and health of your trustee. Make sure that there’s a good chance that person will be around to administer your estate. Even if your trustee is young and in excellent health, you’ll need to consider a backup.

The Pros and Cons of a Professional Trustee vs. a Family Member

It’s normal to consider loved ones as potential trustees. But it’s important to consider the pros and cons of choosing family or friends, as outlined by experts at Forbes.

  • The Pros of Choosing a Loved One
    • They are going to be most familiar with you and your family
    • they will understand your family’s dynamics
    • Family members often do not charge a trustee fee (although they are usually entitled to take a fee), professional trustees tend to be more expensive.
    • A drawback to a professional trust company is that they may be hard to remove or become inflexible. They also may be tightfisted in making distributions if it will reduce the assets under management that they are investing. These concerns can be addressed by giving a neutral third party, such as a trusted family member or advisor, the ability to remove and replace the trustee, recommends Forbes.
  • The Cons of Choosing a Loved One
    • Your family may be better served with a professional trustee or trust company that has expertise with trust administration.
    • If a family member does or does not take a fee, it could lead to resentment. Being a trustee can be a lot of work. If a family member agrees to work without a fee, they might end up resenting that later. On the other side, if the trustee does take a fee, your beneficiaries might resent this! Another disadvantage is that your family member may be too close to the family and may get caught up in the drama.
    • Family members can sometimes get on a power trip and enjoy being in control of your beneficiary’s finances.
    • You may want someone with a little more distance who will see your beneficiaries with a fresh set of eyes and treat them equally, says Forbes.
    • Trust companies bring structure and oversight to the trust administration, including a trust department that oversees the administration. This service comes at a cost, but in many instances it will be money well spent. Professionals tend to make the tough decisions more easily and tell beneficiaries “no” when appropriate. Forbes recommends using a trust company when the beneficiaries do not get along, when there is a problem beneficiary, or when you are dealing with large sums of money.

Can’t Decide on a Trustee?

If you can’t decide on a trustee, consider co-trustees. Why not appoint a family member and a professional trust company? This will give you the benefit of both the professional expertise and emotional distance, while also having someone who really understands your family. Forbes also recommends building flexibility into the plan. You can structure your documents in such a way that gives others, such as your spouse, the ability to remove and replace the trustee. You also may be able to remove and replace the trustee during your lifetime.  You can also let someone else decide if you are really at a loss. You can plan your estate so that your beneficiaries will choose the trustee after your death. Or, you can let your attorney choose the trustee down the road.

Whichever route you choose, don’t procrastinate on planning your estate. The Estate, Trust, and Elder Law Firm can help you make the hard decisions and leave the legacy you want for your loved ones. Contact our Okeechobee office at 
863-261-8603 or online to get started!

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

How to Include Long-Term Flexibility in Your Trust

Planning for the unknown is important in many areas of life – and planning your trust is no different. When planning all areas of your estate – it’s essential to think about the unexpected happening. By intentionally including long-term flexibility in your trust, you can ensure that your desires and intentions are carried out after you are gone – no matter what happens!

Changing times, circumstances and tax laws are inevitable, and building maximum flexibility into your trust documents ensures that your trust can adapt down the road in ways that you would be proud of!

Possible changes in tax laws are perhaps the most universal variables in estate planning. While the current Tax Cut and Jobs Act (TCJA or Act) benefits many high net worth individuals and families, the Act is complex and many of its provisions expire at the end of 2025. Because tax law is an important facet of estate planning, it’s important to make sure that all the elements of your estate (such as trusts) can adapt effectively to changing tax laws. Otherwise, your beneficiaries and other loved ones could face challenges you never intended for them.

And tax laws aren’t the only variable – people and family circumstances can change too. You want to consider that in your trust planning, otherwise your assets and legacy could be misused or be passed down to someone other than your intended beneficiaries.

So, what’s the secret to a flexible trust?

According to retirement experts at Forbes, three key considerations can help you ensure that your trust can be adapted as both your circumstances and tax legislation evolve. Keep reading to understand how to implement those key elements into your trust!

Trustee Discretion:

There’s a growing trend towards drafting trusts that are fully discretionary, meaning no beneficiary is entitled to any distributions. Instead, the beneficiaries must wait for the trustee to exercise its distribution powers. Discretionary trusts can be helpful when beneficiaries have the potential to erode trust assets due to, among other reasons, irresponsible behavior or poor money management skills, says Forbes. When trustees are given discretion, beneficiaries have no property interest in the trust, only “mere expectancy.” The trustee decides if, when and how much to distribute to the trust beneficiaries. In a fully discretionary trust, the trustee has no decision-making restrictions. Therefore, when drafting trust documents for a discretionary trust, it’s important to build in certain standards by which the trustee must abide.

Decanting:

And no, we’re not talking about wine here! In estate planning, decanting is a term used to describe a flexibility tactic that allows for the distribution of assets from an old trust into a new one. The reason for this is that in some cases, a new trust might better reflect changing family circumstances, more favorable terms, or broader investment parameters. Decanting can address an existing irrevocable trust with terms that are incorrect, inappropriate or insufficient to accomplish the grantor’s intentions. However, decanting is not legal in all 50 states. Fortunately, Florida is one of the states that currently allows decanting in trust planning. Learn more by talking to an estate planning attorney today!

Trust Protector:

Another popular strategy for building flexibility into trusts is establishing a trust protector. A trust protector is a person who has powers over the trust but is not the trustee. A protector is typically named to provide supervision over a trust that will be in effect for a long time. The longer a trust will be in effect, the more susceptible that trust is to changing circumstances.

Trust protectors are practical for addressing issues and solving problems that were not or could not have been anticipated at the time of the trust’s creation. After all, you can’t know the future! Trust protectors have the power to remove or replace trustees, change beneficiaries, veto investment decisions, change administrative provisions, and change trust situs as appropriate.

Building flexibility into trust documents is essential now more than ever if you want your trust to adapt to changing circumstances. Without the proper provisions, court involvement may be necessary to make amendments to an existing trust. These legal processes can become expensive and time consuming for your loved ones, but you can save them the headache by thinking ahead when developing estate planning documents.  By working now to incorporate flexibility that accommodates an ever-changing future, you will be maximizing your legacy for your beneficiaries and loved ones.

At The Estate, Trust, and Elder Law Firm we help you set up a trust that will stand the test of changing times and changing families. Contact our Vero Beach office at 772-410-5156 or online to get started on flexible trust planning.

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