January 2011 Archives

January 31, 2011

No Florida WIll Contest Can Fix This Problem.

When you have a blended family or children from different marriages it is very important to have estate planning that deals with the various possibilities. All to often the standard will or generic documents can produce undesired results.

Take for example a Husband and Wife who each have children from a prior marriage. Husband and wife each want to support each other in the even they pre-decease each other. The problem is created when the Husband dies first, and leaves everything to the wife. Now the wife dies and leave everything to her children, essentially disinheriting the husband's children.

There are several ways a Florida Estate Planning Lawyer can address these issues and achieve the desired results of the husband and wife.

January 25, 2011

Probate Does Not Have to Be Deadly

Thumbnail image for moneybag.pngThe ABA Journal recently reported an unusual case when an attorney's client was targeted for murder by his own brother. The parents of the brothers passed away leaving an unexpected $20 million dollar estate. The brother's were the sole heirs of the estate, but apparently sharing the money was not in the one brothers plan. He was arrested for putting a murder contract out on his younger brother.

Money does crazy things to people. A consulting with a Ponte Vedra Estate Planning Law Firm may offer numerous ways in which you can provide for your heirs, which may prevent them from receiving too large of an inheritance at one time. Discussing the benefits of preparing a Florida will or Florida trust can be an important tool for anyone leaving assets to children or other family members.

If you are a named beneficiary in someone's will, or if you expect a conflict with other beneficiaries, a Ponte Vedra Probate Firm can guide you through the probate procedure and any adversarial proceedings which may arise.

January 24, 2011

The South Rises above in Child Rearing by Gay Couples

Rainbow Families.jpgJacksonville Gay and Lesbian parents made news in the New York Times as being one of the biggest populations of gay parents in the country! According to information obtained from the 2009 Census Bureau, about 32% of gay couples in Jacksonville are raising children, second only to San Antonio, where the rate is at about 34%.

A large number of gay couples have entered into same-sex relationships after having children with their heterosexual partners in previous relationships. Other gay couples have children through sperm donation and surrogacy. Whatever brought children into your life, it is important to consult with a Jacksonville gay and lesbian friendly law firm to discuss ways to protect your children through the preparation of legal documents.

Advocacy groups report that children of same-sex couples are some of society's most vulnerable children, who have fewer legal protections and less health insurance than children of heterosexual parents. Through estate planning documents you can ensure that your children will be provided for in the future. Jacksonville Guardianship allows you to prepare pre-need guardian documents so you select the person to care for your children in the event of your incapacity or demise. Talk to a Jacksonville Estate Planning Attorney who is sensitive to the unique issues facing children of gay and lesbian couples.

January 19, 2011

A Relative Dies, whats next?

1102775_cemetery_roses.jpgYou have recently lost your uncle. He did not own a Florida home or real property but had bank accounts including a money market, CD's and a checking account. The accounts were solely in the uncle's name. His wife passed away years ago and he had no children. Whether there was a Florida Will or not, a Jacksonville probate proceeding must be initiated to transfer the uncle's property (financial accounts) to the proper beneficiaries.

If there is an indication that the bank accounts are less than $75,000.00 you may elect to go forth with a summary administration. A Florida Summary Administration is a shortened probate procedure in Florida and is available if the person who passed away has been dead for more than two years or if the person's estate, (less the value of any exempt property) does not exceed $75,000.00.

Before the Jacksonville Probate Judge will issue the Order of administration providing for the distribution of property, the petitioner (person initiating the probate proceeding) must show the judge that all known creditors have been given notice and an opportunity to make a claim against the Florida estate.

If you have lost a family member and need advice as to whether a summary administration is the best way for you to proceed, speak with a Jacksonville Beach Probate Attorney who can discuss the Florida Summary Administration and other Florida Probate options.

January 18, 2011

Florida Probate of Time Share Property

As a Jacksonville Estate Planning Lawyer I get questions from Lawyers and clients all over the country on how to deal with a Florida Timeshare and if it is necessary to open a separate Florida Probate for the timeshare.

It is important to determine if there is any value in the Florida Timeshare property. To do this you may think about the following issues:

  1. Generally timeshares are worthless and hard to sell.

  2. Since a timeshare is an interest in real estate, a Florida Probate must be used to transfer the property no matter what is done in any other state or what a will states. The only exception to this is if the timeshare was owned in a trust.

  3. Many management companies will suggest that if you deed the property back to them you will not be responsible for the fees, the only way to do this is by a Florida Probate unless it was owned by a trust.

  4. Even if you are named as the beneficiary in a Will, you have no personal obligation to pay any fees, unless and until the property is deeded to you through a Florida Probate.

  5. If you do a probate in another state, it is possible to give them notice and if no claim is filed, you can abandon the property and not be required to open a Florida Probate. (check with your local probate lawyer on this issue)

If you have need for a Florida Probate contact a Jacksonville Probate Lawyer to ask questions and we can help with probates of Florida property all over the state.

January 17, 2011

How do you Revoke or Amend your Florida Will?

Last Will and Test.3.jpgIf you have ever thought about changing or invalidating your Florida Will it is recommended that you speak with an Attorney at an Orange Park Estate Planning Firm, who is familiar with the Florida Statutes which govern the preparation and revocation of Florida Wills.

All Florida Wills are revocable until your death- as long as you are competent. A Florida Will can be revoked by writing or by an act. A Florida Will can be revoked by the preparation of a later Florida Will. A Florida Will can also be revoked by burning, tearing, defacing, or destroying the will if it is done so purposely and intentionally.

If you want to revoke a Florida Will and ensure that it is never used, it would be advisable to collect all copies and destroy them. If this is not possible, write the word REVOKED on the original Florida Will, along with the date, and your signature. You should prepare a new will before or at the same time as you revoke the old will in case you die before the new will is prepared. If a new will is not prepared, the court will consider that you died without a will and will base the distribution of your assets on the Florida intestate succession laws.

You can also change a Florida Will instead of revoking the Florida Will if your personal or financial circumstances have changed.

If someone you have named as beneficiary or personal representative (executor) of your will has died, if you want to change your charitable or other distribution preferences, speak with an Orange Park Estate Planning Attorney to amend or replace your Florida Will.

January 17, 2011

Florida Homestead Protection in a Trust?

condos images.jpgAs a Jacksonville Attorney at a Florida Estate Planning Firm, I have seen many issues concerning homestead protection in both probate matters and in estate planning. When you occupy a home in Florida as your main residence, this is called your homestead property. Notwithstanding some exceptions, the Florida Constitution protects the homestead from forced sale by creditors. If the owner of a homestead dies, the creditor protection of the home (from the decedent's creditors) continues for the spouse or family members who inherit the homestead. If the home becomes the homestead of the spouse or other family members then they shall also enjoy the same creditor protection from their creditors.

A Florida condominium was transferred to a Florida revocable trust. Upon the death of the first, the Florida Revocable Trust created a marital trust for the spouse, with the remainder to sons from a previous marriage. A few months after the condo was titled to the trust, the same condo was deeded directly to the spouse. A lawsuit ensued as to who owned the condo, the trust or the 2nd wife.

The sons won an initial victory, ensuring they would receive the condo upon the surviving spouse's death. The surviving spouse counter-sued for reimbursement of all condo related expenses paid with her own funds, and won a money judgment against the sons. The spouse wanted the sons to transfer a percentage of the condo interest to her, and the sons wanted the trust to sell the condo to obtain money to pay the judgment against them. The sons lost.

A Florida District Court ruled that homestead property (the condominium) held in a marital trust does NOT lose its creditor protection. Homestead issues can be complicated and diverse, it is recommended that you consult with a Jacksonville Homestead Attorney to learn more about the homestead protection and how it effects you and your family.

The rights of a surviving spouse changed in late 2010. These new rights give the option of a 50% interest in the sale of a homestead or a life estate. In most cases where the home is owned by husband and wife as Tenants in common, the surviving spouse will have full ownership of the home.

January 16, 2011

Gay and Lesbian Couples Prepare Florida Wills and Estate Planning Documents

gay pride flage 2imagesCACMWU0O.jpgJacksonville Beach gay and lesbian couples protect their property for those they love by having their wills made. If you die in Florida intestate (without a will), your partner will not inherit from you. Without a valid Florida will, your surviving family members have 1st priority, there are no provisions for non-family members. If you want your property and assets to go to your gay or lesbian partner, make an appointment with a Jacksonville Beach Estate Planning Attorney and prepare your will to provide for those you leave behind.

Although any person who would inherit from you had no will been prepared may have standing to contest your will, it is a difficult task to undertake. There are certain elements that must be proven to show that the will may be invalid. If you fear that a family member who does not approve of your same-sex relationship may contest your Florida Will or Florida Revocable Trust , it is important to obtain legal advice as to the ways you might prevent this.

January 12, 2011

Florida Lesbians in the Workforce, Do they Earn More?

Gay money images.jpgAccording to an article in the New York Times, lesbians make about 6% more money than heterosexual women when factors like race, education, profession, location, and number of children are accounted for.

One theory is that "straight" women expect to end up with a husband or partner who will be the breadwinners in the family, so are more likely to make career sacrifices or focus their efforts away from the employment market. Other heterosexual married woman will give up their jobs to raise children as is often necessitated by the costs of day care (especially if their husbands earn more than them).

If you are a St. Augustine Lesbian who is in the Florida workplace, you may or may not be making more money than your heterosexual lady friends; either way, estate planning for the money you do make is important. Having a conversation with a St. Augustine Estate Planning Lawyer about your non-traditional family or same-sex partnership will provide you with various estate planning tools to insure that the hard-earned money you do make goes to those people dearest to you.

January 11, 2011

Stealing from your Grandmother's Trust Fund?

St. Augustine trustors establish a Florida Trust may have numerous objectives in mind. Trust assets can benefit several beneficiaries; a trust may help you avoid the probate process by funding the trust during your lifetime; and Florida trust funds can be managed by professionals. Professional management of the trust is important if the beneficiary is a minor or a mentally incompetent adult, or useful when the beneficiaries are not experienced with investing money or managing property.

In Connecticut, a man who was appointed trustee by a probate court, began to embezzle trust funds from his grandmother's trust leaving her without enough money to live on. The grandson trustee's transactions of investments to benefit the trust, were actually in violation of the established rules of the trust. Needless to say, the grandson is no longer trustee, and may be looking at jail time. Florida has laws that can make actions like these a crime against the elderly.

Establishing a Florida Revocable Trust is an important estate planning tool for many people regardless of their net worth. It is however, vital to speak with a St. Augustine Estate Planning Lawyer who can give invaluable advice as to your choice of trustee and successor trustee as well as the various duties, powers and limitations of the trustee.

January 4, 2011

Tax day extended to April 18- This year only

The bonus days come thanks to Emancipation Day, a little-known Washington, D.C., holiday that celebrates the freeing of slaves in the district.

Emancipation Day falls on Sat., April 16, but it is observed in D.C. on Fri., April 15. That prompted the IRS to extend the tax filing deadline to April 18 this year. Under the tax code, filing deadlines can't fall on Saturdays, Sundays or holidays.

January 4, 2011

Florida Anti-lapse statute and gifts to in-laws

Recently the 3rd DCA in the Florida case of Lorenzo v. Medina ruled that the anti-lapse statute must be strictly construed and that gifts to in-laws are not saved and lapse unlike a gift to a close family member.

This means a gift to a sister-in-law who predeceases the testator is not honored while a gift to a predeceased sister would go to her children. If you are involved with trying to save assets for the families of non-relatives you should talk with a Florida Estate Planning Lawyer how simple changes to your Florida Will or Florida Revocable Trust can ensure that your intentions are carried out.

January 4, 2011

Flordia has a Pet Trust Statute

699101_mans_best.jpgFlorida pet lovers are part of the estimated 71.4 million households that have at least one pet. according to an article published in the Chicago Sun-Times. Jacksonville animal lovers spend lots of time and money caring for their pets, but what happens to these beloved creatures when their owner passes away?

If you have not made an arrangement with a family member or friend your pet may end up in an animal shelter or worse. People create Florida Wills to provide for their families and there is a growing trend to create pet trusts. Remember the very wealthy Leona Helmslely, she left millions to care for her maltese poodle. Make arrangements by speaking with a Pet Trust Attorney, so the person you designate to take your dog or cat or other animal, will have the adequate funds to look after your pet.

If you love and cherish your dogs, cats and pets than make sure they are cared for should you pass away before them. The Florida Trust Code has provided for a pet trust which allows you to ensure that your animal alive during your lifetime is taken care of even after you are gone. If you want to discuss having a trust created to ensure that you have left appropriate funds for the future care of your beloved pet, call a Jacksonville Estate Planning Firm.

January 3, 2011

What Happens if I Die in Florida without a Will

1221950 Will.jpgIf you live in Ponte Vedra and die before you have made your Florida Will, you have died "intestate". What this means is that your intentions as to who will inherit what from you, and who will be appointed Personal Representative of your estate is now determined by the state of Florida.

If you do not seek out a Ponte Vedra Estate Planning Firm about having your will made prior to your death, you leave your family, friends and charitable organizations at a disadvantage. Any arrangement or understanding you may have had with those who were to benefit from your property and assets, will now be subject to the Florida Intestate Succession Statute. This Florida law strictly dictates who is to receive the property of the decedent (the one who recently died). Good intentions mean nothing in Florida without a valid Florida Will.

Some disadvantages of dying intestate are:

• The share each heir gets is set by law, so your assets will not be distributed based on what you think is best for each heir;
• There are no provision to give a portion of your estate to charity;
• Most states have no provisions for domestic partners or other non-family members; and
• Courts will appoint a guardian for minor children, who may be someone you would not have wanted to be in charge of your kids.

Make plans to consult with a Florida Estate Planning Attorney who can discuss additional disadvantages of dying in Florida without a valid will and the easy ways that this can be avoided.