August 23, 2011

LGBT Population increases 60% in Broward County Florida

Gay Flag Pole.jpgProvincetown, Massachusetts is the new LGBT place to be.

The Williams Institute of Census has said that South Florida is one of the top spots for LGBT population Growth. Florida is the last state to declare the ban on gay adoption as unconstitutional.

According to the 2010 Census, Florida has approximately 65,601 same-sex couple households, a 60 percent leap since the 2000 Census. Read more about same-sex couple household statistics.

As an Orange Park LGBT Rights Attorney it is wise for same-sex couples living together to consult with a Florida attorney. There are no inherent legal rights that apply to same-sex couples in Florida. Legal documents ranging from Deeds to your home, Wills, Designation of Health Care Surrogate, and many other Florida Estate Planning documents and agreements are needed to ensure that you, and your partner, are protected, legally.

With the rise of the gay population in Florida, awareness is needed to inform every partner of a same-sex relationship to seek the counsel of an attorney. When heterosexual couples divorce, there are statutory protections, not so when a gay or lesbian couple split.

August 23, 2011

What Documents Should I Look for After Someone Dies?

In Florida when a someone dies family members will need to compile a list of important information to deal with the estate. These documents will include what the deceased person owned, a list of their creditors and the amount of money owed at the time of death. To help get you started, here is a list of documents that need to be located:

  1. Account statements

  2. Life insurance policies

  3. Beneficiary designations

  4. Deeds for real estate

  5. Automobile and boat titles

  6. Stock and bond certificates

  7. Business documents

In addition you may want to request our Free Florida Probate Hanbook to help you understand the process. When you request the handbook, be sure to ask any specific questions you may have.

August 22, 2011

Voluntary Guardians Assist Individuals in Daily Tasks


A Florida Voluntary Guardianship is a great option for those with elderly parents and elderly relatives who have increasing difficulty managing their own "property affairs". Business transactions such as banking matters, real estate transactions, and money management are some of the everyday tasks that become increasingly difficult to handle for Florida's elderly.

Ponte Vedra or Jacksonville residents may become a Voluntary Guardian by request and petition of the individual ("ward") who is in need of assistance from a trusted family member or friend.

The petition must also include a physician's certificate stating that the person who is petitioning the court for a guardian is competent to understand the nature and scope of the guardianship.

A wonderful feature of the provision is that it allows the guardian to take possession and control of less than all of the wards property. This enables the "ward" to maintain a sense of independence, and allows that person to manage a certain "portion" of their property, and still feel in control of their world. Each circumstance is unique and therefore, it is prudent to discuss your situation with a Ponte Vedra Guardianship Attorney.

When the Petition requests that the guardian only take control of a part of the wards estate, the court order must be specific as to the property to be included in the guardianship estate.

A Voluntary Guardian must file an annual report with the court, which gives an accounting as to the property under the guardian's control. The ward may terminate the voluntary guardianship at any time by filing a notice of termination with the court and must obtain a new certification of competency each year for the guardianship to continue. If you have questions about how a voluntary guardianship may assist someone in need of assistance, contact an experienced Guardianship Attorney in Ponte Vedra.

August 17, 2011

Revocable Living Trusts: Are they now obsolete?

Currently the Revocable Living Trust is the most popular type of trust for estate planning. With the current estate tax exemption at 5 Million dollars, many have begun to ask if there is a need for such a trust. More over the Revocable Living Trust provides no asset protection.

Currently 99.7% of the US population has less than 5 Million in Assets. While a Revocable Living Trust can offer privacy, probate avoidance, easier management of one's assets, and numerous other benefits, it does not offer any asset protection. Many people really want an irrevocable trust, but do not want the consequences of the traditional irrevocable trust. While there are many types of irrevocable trusts, most either cause a loss of control over the assets by the grantor, loose the stepped up basis, or cause the trust to pay taxes at the highest tax rate with as little as $11,000 in earnings.

There are variations of the irrevocable trust that can solve one or more of these issues, but there is only one type of Irrevocable Trust that has the flexibility of a revocable trust, provides asset protection from the creditors of the creators as well as the beneficiaries, allows the income to be taxed at personal rates, and provides for stepped up basis upon the death of the creator.

While the IPUG: Irrevocable Pure Grantor Trust defies the logic of most estate planners, it has been designed using common law, trust law, and tax law to provide Asset Protection, taxing at a personal level, the ability to control the income and principal, stepped up basis and even can even help in nursing home qualification or Medicaid eligibility.

If you would like to find out how you can upgrade your standard revocable trust or create a new Florida Asset Protection Trust, contact a Florida Estate Planning Lawyer that is knowledgeable about the Irrevocable Pure Grantor Trust and how to structure it to accomplish your goals.

August 16, 2011

The New Florida Power of Attorney Act

The Florida law governing powers of attorney and similar instruments is found in Chapter 709 of the Florida Statutes. The Florida legislature on May 4, 2011 voted to pass Senate Bill 670 which significantly revised Chapter 709.

A. Generally

A power of attorney is a writing that grants authority to an agent to act in the place of the principal. Pursuant to the Act, a principal is an individual who grants authority to an agent and an agent is the person granted authority by the principal in a power of attorney. The Act allows for both durable and nondurable powers of attorney. A durable power of attorney is one that is not terminated by the incapacity of the principal, whereas a nondurable power of attorney is terminated upon the principal's incapacity. For a power of attorney to be durable, it must state that it is not terminated by the subsequent incapacity of the principal, or similar words that evidence the principal's intent.

The Act applies to all powers of attorney created by an individual except a proxy or other delegation to exercise voting or management rights with respect to an entity, a power created on a form prescribed by a governmental agency or subdivision for a governmental purpose, and a power coupled with an interest (e.g., a power given to a creditor to sell pledged collateral.

Continue reading "The New Florida Power of Attorney Act" »

August 16, 2011

What is the Difference Between Medicare and Medicaid in Florida?

They sound similar. Unfortunately many people do not understand the differences between the two. Most people think Medicare will "care" for them forever but, that is simply not the case.

While Medicare and Medicaid sound similar, they are very different government programs. Medicare provides healthcare benefits for the over 65, blind, and disabled; while Medicaid provides medical benefits for the impoverished.

Medicare is a basically public health insurance for those age 65 and older. Medicare does not pay for long-term care! It will cover some rehabilitation and this is often confused with long-term care.. If a senior citizen has Medicare and is hospitalized for a stay of at least three days, and is then admitted into a skilled nursing facility, Medicare may pay - for a while. But once those Medicare benefits hit 100 consecutive days or the patient stops improving the coverage is over.

Often Medicare will not even provide coverage for the full 100 days. For the coverage to continue there must be improvement, otherwise Medicare cut you off. Many diseases like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's have no known cure today, rehabilitation is not possible so Medicare will not provide coverage for a nursing home.

While Florida Medicaid is paid for by both federal and state funds it is run or administered by the state of Florida. This means that you cannot look to what happens in other states to decide what will work in Florida. Florida makes its own rules and adopts part of the federal guidelines but gets to determine how it is implemented.

Short synopsis of the difference between Medicare and Medicaid


Health insurance for seniors age 65+
Federally controlled, uniform application across the country
Pays for up to 100 days of nursing home care
Pays for primary hospital care and related medically necessary services
Must have contributed to Medicare system to be eligible and generally be over age 65


Needs-based health care program
Controlled state by state, which created different regulations in each state of application
Pays for long-term care
Pays for medications
Must meet income and asset limits to be eligible and be over 65, disabled, or blind

If you or a loved one need help qualifying for Medicaid or a Nursing home coverage ask a Jacksonville Medicaid Planning Lawyer how and IPUG trust may help you save assets and qualify early for Medicaid assistance.

August 15, 2011

Florida IPUG Trust Lawyer and the Birth of the Irrevocable Pure Grantor Trust

Asset protection is one of the most important planning tools for America's aging population, especially in our current tumultuous economy. One new tool in protecting your assets is the Irrevocable Pure Grantor Trust -- AKA, the iPug™.

iPug™ trusts are not based on any state statute, but are instead grounded in century-old and well established common law. This means more stability in courts and more peace of mind for those who opt to use an iPug™ trust. In fact, the iPug™ is beneficial for nearly all Americans. This is because the iPug™ is taxed as a grantor trust, meaning the taxes are passed through to the grantor -- the trust itself is not individually taxed. This is beneficial for anyone with assets valued at less than $5 million -- i.e., over 99% of Americans.

There are three types of iPug™ trusts:

(1) the income-only version,
(2) the control-only version, and
(3) the third-party version.

In the income-only version, the grantor of the trust gives up the rights to the assets he or she puts in the trust -- these assets are only available to the beneficiaries. However, the grantor retains the rights to any income the trust accumulates. One downside to this version of the trust is that creditors also have access to this profit, though they do not have access to the any other assets within the trust.

The control-only version of the trust gives the grantor full control over all assets and all income of the trust. Creditors cannot reach any of the assets therein, and the grantor can distribute the assets to anyone he or she chooses -- the only exception being the actual grantor.

Finally, the third-party version is where grantors create the trust for the benefit of a third-party. Usually, this involves adult children creating the trust for their parents for their parents' lifetime. This version is primarily used when parents have already transferred assets to children but are afraid or concerned that if they need them, they might not have access to the asset. This version is created and the parents are named as the beneficiaries of the trust. Further, assets within the trust are protected from the children's creditors and are not affected by divorce.

August 14, 2011

What is an IPUG Trust?

While most people feel they have to be super rich to use Asset Protection trusts an IPUG™ Trust is a Self-Settled Asset Protection Trust for that makes sense for regular people and offers Medicaid compliance that works in all states. It protects client assets from creditors, predators and nursing homes, while permitting the grantor to be trustee and have customized access.

The iPug™ Trust was created by utilizing universal, fundamental trust and common law principles dating back to the statute of uses and are not reliant or dependent upon state or federal specific asset protection laws. "In essence, the iPug™ Trust is an Irrevocable Grantor Trust for income and estate tax purposes.

Why is this important to most Americans? The IPUG™ Trust not only provides advantageous tax benefits but it also provides asset protection. Most Irrevocable trusts do not provide the beneficiaries with a full step-up in basis and allow the grantor to control the funds.

With the increase in the estate tax exemption to $5 million the iPug™ will be usable by more than 99.5% of Americans.

August 10, 2011

New Parents Make Plans to have Wills Prepared

never leave baby alone.jpgEven Clark Howard agrees that new parents should take the time to consult with an attorney to have their Will prepared. A Florida Will allows you to choose who you want to take care of and raise your children, should anything ever happen to both you and your spouse at the same time. It only takes minutes to consult with a Jacksonville Will Attorney, and having your Will prepared is easy and affordable. A Will affords you the peace of mind to know that it will be your decision and not the State of Florida's decision who would be the appropriate person to become the legal guardian of your children.

A Will allows you to direct how your children will be cared for financially, not only during their childhood, but in their adult life as well.

You also assign a Personal Representative (Executor) in your Will. This person will ensure that your wishes as outlined in your Will are carried out.

New Parents and their children have a life-time in front of them. Knowing that their valid Florida Will has been executed and safely stored, gives parents the peace of mind knowing, that in the event of the unexpected, their children have been provided for, and will be taken care of.

Jacksonville Parents of Newborns once you have made that important decision to have your Will prepared, decide to meet with a Jacksonville Lawyer. As a Jacksonville Will Lawyer I have seen families go through unnecessary grief, frustration, time and expense when a loved one's Will has not been executed properly. Make sure your Will has been prepared under the guidelines prescribed by the Florida Statutes. An invalid Will is all that much easier for one to contest after you are gone. Parents, when making out that list of items and things needed for after the baby arrives, be sure to add, "have Will prepared", (and move it to the top of your list).

August 8, 2011

Estate Planning Thoughts

tree house.jpgDoes the term " Florida Estate Planning" evoke thoughts of the very rich standing by their Bentleys in front of their massive estates? Maybe the term should simply be Planning, because no matter who you are or how much you own, Everyone needs "Estate" Planning

Everyone has a Florida Estate, no matter how large or small. One's estate is simply the possessions or property you have acquired, inherited, and worked for during your life. There are generally three types of property that comprise one's estate, these are:

Real Property - Your home, land, houses or other structures on land;

Tangible Personal Property - Property other than real estate that has a value due to its physical existence, such as motor vehicles, boats, furniture, antiques . . . and;

Intangible Personal Property - Property that you cannot touch, but that has a value due to the legal rights you hold. Examples include stock certificates, promissory notes, copyrights, patents and other "intellectual" property.

Everyone has an estate, but most people have not planned what happens to their estate in the future. Estate planning is the process where you decide and put in writing what you want to happen to your estate in the future, and to whom you want your estate to pass once you have passed. Estate planning is easy, contact a Jacksonville Beach Estate Planning Attorney to schedule a consult and discuss the ways you can "Estate Plan". Whether you prepare a Will, establish a Trust, or have other legal documents prepared, estate planning puts in writing how you want your real, tangible and intangible property distributed upon your death.

August 7, 2011

Same-Sex Couples interested in ERISA Profit-Sharing Benefits Case

DOMA.jpgA federal judge in Pennsylvania has been asked to determine whether the same-sex wife or parents of an attorney at the law firm of Cozen O'Connor should be the beneficiaries of the attorney's profit-sharing plan. The parents of the deceased partner argue that an ERISA qualified plan falls under federal law and the U.S. Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) limiting marriage to only a man and a woman controls whether same-sex couples can receive federal benefits

The wife of the deceased attorney argues that Pennsylvania law does not preclude her from being recognized as the surviving spouse for the purpose of receiving benefits under the plan. The wife states that the law firm profit-sharing plan is not governed by DOMA, and claims the profit-sharing plan is private and is controlled by the language in the plan.

To read more about this interesting case: Same-Sex Marriage Fight at Heart of Cozen O'Connor Benefits Case.

St. Augustine Gay and Lesbian same-sex couples, whether you are married or not, if you have a profit-sharing plan through your employer, it is critical to discuss with them your rights as far as designating the beneficiary you want on the plan. It is also important to consult with a St. Augustine Estate Planning Attorney who can advise you about various other documents that will protect your assets and distribute them to your same-sex partner or beneficiary of your choice.

As an Estate Planning Attorney for those in the LGBT community, I have worked with St. Augustine Financial Planners who have the experience in advising same-sex couples as far as retirement, tax, and other financial matters of concern. Contact a St. Augustine Attorney able to direct you to these LGBT focused financial planners.

July 30, 2011

Florida Gay and Lesbian Service Members Rejoice!

repeal DADT index.jpgDon't Ask, Don't Tell (DADT), was adopted by Congress in 1996. On December 20, 2011 the the federal law banning openly gay people from serving in the military is repealed.

The President, Defense Secretary and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman signed and submitted a one-page certification to Congress that the military is ready to implement the repeal of DADT.

Nearly two million troops have received training in preparation for the repeal of DADT. The Department of Defense stated that sexual orientation is a personal and private matter and that all service members should be treated with dignity and respect. The Defense Undersecretary reported that there will be "zero tolerance for harassment, violence or discrimination of any kind."

Eligibility benefits remain the same as far as service-members being able to choose their beneficiary for benefits, however the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) still prohibits the extension of many military benefits to same-sex couples, including health care and allowances for housing and transportation.

As a Mayport Estate Planning Attorney, I recommend that Mayport gay and lesbian service members consult with an attorney to learn the various ways that legal documents will protect them and their families. Same-sex couples currently lack many federal government protections afforded to heterosexual couples. The best way to provide for your same-sex partner is to draft Florida estate planning and other documents, such as your Florida Will, a trust, health care surrogate, power of attorney, and other similar documents.

Florida law does not provide for your same-sex partner, no matter how long you have been together. As a Florida gay and lesbian member of the armed forces who serves our county, serve yourself as well. Continue to protect the U.S.A and begin to protect yourself and your same-sex partner.

July 28, 2011

DAP Trust: Dealing with your Digital / Online Rights and Propert Correctly.

Today there is a big hole in most estate plans. Most estate plans do not deal with the property and licence rights that almost all Americans have accumulated with their online lives.

What online assets should be concerned with?

  • Email Accounts - Gmail, Yahoo, MSN, Comcast, AOL ...
  • Social Networking Sites - Facebook, Linked In, Google +, Twitter, MySpace ...
  • Online Storage Accounts, iCloud, Carbonite, Drop Box, ...
  • Financial Accounts - Bank accounts, Stock Accounts, Home Loans, Student Loans ...
  • Photo Storage Accounts - Kodak, Flicker
  • Personal or Company Websites and Blogs
  • Online Businesses Accounts - Amazon,, Go, other online merchants.
  • Auction Sites - Ebay
  • Music and Application Accounts - iTunes, Amazon, Android ...
  • Virtual Property - Second life, World of Warcraft, other role-playing identities
  • Payment services - PayPal

Some of the major issues in dealing with Digital Assets we must first determine if we are dealing with a license or a property right. By definition, most licenses expire upon death so the right to asset does not exist when you die. Next you must determine how you will deal with these assets upon your death or prior to your death to preserve access, right of use, limit risks to users for damaging the estate for improper use, and transfer the assets. There are attempts to deal with these issues with software alone, a will, a trust, software and a will, and software with a trust.

One of the problems in dealing with these issues with software alone is that their may be no legal right for the person to access the items and the software may be in conflict with other legal documents like a will or trust.

The next major problem occurs with a legal document only. These can be broken down into two areas. First, the legal document may have no effect on an asset. IE a Will cannot generally transfer a license as it does not exist upon death. Next, the individual is unlikely to keep the legal documents up to date with instructions on how to access the account. In addition, the individuals are unlikely to update passwords as they change. The trend is to require monthly updates to the more secure sites.

What seems to be the best solution: A DAP Trust with integrated software that allows you to update and create beneficiary designations within the trust on the Fly.

If you have a Florida Estate Plan that does not address your digital life or would like to create a DAP Trust for your Digital Assets, Contact a Florida Estate Planning Lawyer who is familiar with Digital Asset Protection.

July 28, 2011

Reason 7 to Make a Florida Estate Plan

Everyone seemed to like our last one (Reason 10)so much we decided to post another of our Reasons to Make a Florida Estate Plan. Please let us know what you think of this one, and if you are the new wife, we apologize


July 28, 2011

Estate Planning Documents Benefits to LGBT Community

Treasure Chest..jpgIt is crucial to make your heirs and family are aware of the
fact that there are documents in place and where these documents can be
found. Having your Florida estate planning documents prepared is the first step, and once you have made the call and scheduled a consult with an Atlantic Beach Estate Planning Attorney, you are sure to feel good about it. 

Keep your Florida will, and other documents in a secure place and let someone close to you know where these documents are kept.  Some Florida Estate Planning Lawyer will store the documents for you

There are more than 10 states investigating whether insurance companies are failing to pay out unclaimed life insurance policies to beneficiaries. Insurers are claiming that under policy contracts, they aren't required to determine whether a policyholder is still alive, but rather they pay a claim when beneficiaries come forward.

If you don't keep your estate planning and other important documents organized, and if you fail to disclose the location of these papers to a trusted family member or friend, the financial consequences can be considerable.

According to the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators, state treasurers currently hold approximately 32 billion in unclaimed bank accounts. Don't let your hard earned assets be given to the state, inform your heirs and beneficiaries that your estate planning documents exist, and where they can be found.

To see if you have unclaimed treasure in Florida, go to the Florida Treasure Hunt website.

Take the time this summer to consult with an Atlantic Beach Estate Planning Attorney who will give you advice as to the estate planning documents that are best suited for you and your family, as well as recommended ideas as to where to store these documents.