April 7, 2011

Do You Trust the Florida Trustee?

Trust.jpgAs a Jacksonville Beach Estate Planning Attorney I have heard countless stories of trustees who have been entrusted to administer, distribute, and account for trust funds to family members and beneficiaries . . . who DON'T!

Sad but true, the death of a grantor, trustor, or settlor of a trust fund may reign in the terror and unabashed greed of many trustees.

The Florida Trust Code provides that a Trustee of an irrevocable trust is required to keep beneficiaries of the trust fund informed about the trust and its administration. <a href="http://www.jacksonvillelawyer.pro/lawyer-attorney-1335101.html" target="_blank" >Florida Revocable Trusts</a> become irrevocable upon the death of one or all of the grantors.  Florida Statutes also dictate that the trustee make available to all beneficiaries certain accountings which will among other things:

• Show all cash and property transactions and all significant transactions affecting administration during the accounting period, including compensation paid to the Trustee; and

• Reflect the allocation of receipts, disbursements, accruals, or allowances between income and principal when the allocation affects the interest of any beneficiary of the trust.

If you are a Qualified Beneficiary of a Florida Trust and believe you are not receiving the information you are entitled to from a Trustee, contact a Jacksonville Beach Trust Attorney who can discuss with you several options on how you can remedy your situation.

April 7, 2011

Jacksonville Estate Planning and Gift Taxes

With the current Gift tax exemption at 5 million dollars + 13,000 per person per year, many people are not concerned about making gifts or the taxes. It is important to remember that unless a gift tax return is filed with annual gifts to an individual exceed $13,000 there could be penalties and interest for the unreported gifts. Talk to your CPA about filing a gift tax return if you are giving an individual more than the exempt $13,000 per year.

In addition, gifts keep the current basis so to the extent that you give an appreciated asset, the recipient will have to pay the capital gains based on your cost. If they inherit the asset, there the beneficiary receives the asset as the cost basis as of your date of death. This can have significant advantages to highly appreciated assets.

Lets say you have Apple stock you purchased at $14 a share 12 years ago. It has split 3 times since then so your cost is less than $5 a share. With a value today of $350 / share and a value of $500 when you die.

Lets say you gift 1000 shares of stock today with the proper gift tax returns so that no tax is due. The cost basis would be around $4700 and it is sold after you die at a price of $500 per share. The recipient would have to pay tax on 495,300 of gains.

If you leave the asset to the beneficiary in a will or trust and it was sold at the same $500 per share, they would pay no tax (based on receiving a stepped up basis on the stock).

If the tax rate is 25% at that time, this would be a savings of $124,000.

Whether to gift assets or not is a complicated issue that should be discussed with your Jacksonville Estate Planning Lawyer and your CPA. Only by looking at your specific goals, objectives, and risks associated with each option can one make an educated decision as to what makes send for them. There are ways of providing those funds while protecting them at the same time that you may want to discuss.

April 4, 2011

New Estate Tax Exemptions May Effect the Florida Wife

169849_tax.jpgThe estate tax exemption has increased to $5 million dollars for the years 2011 and 2012. Why would this effect you? Many Florida Wills are drawn up to distribute your spouse's assets to your children in an amount equal to the federal exemption amount, and the remainder of the assets to you. In other words, if the total assets of your husband is $5 million and his Will directs that the federal estate exemption amount goes to your kids, with the remainder to you, and your spouse dies (in 2011 and 2012),that would leave you with 0 (ZERO).

Florida Estate Planning Lesson: Make time to not only talk to your accountant about the tax laws and exemptions and how they may effect you, but schedule an appointment with a Ponte Vedra Estate Planning Attorney. An experienced Estate Planning Attorney can review your Wills and give you and your spouse the necessary advice to make sure you are protected from future loss of inheritance.

Ponte Vedra Wives who may not have a spouse worth millions, don't relax. You also need to consult with Florida Attorneys who specialize in Estate Planning to ensure that whatever assets you and your husband do have, are distributed according to your wishes and plan.

April 3, 2011

We Were Named One Of The Top 25 Estate Probate and Elder Law Blogs of 2011

estate-probate-elderlaw-winner-220x180.JPG-550x0.jpgI would like to thank everyone who voted for us. We were selected on of the Top 25 Estate Planning Blogs of 2011.

Now LesixNexis is selecting the top estate planning blog of the year and you still have the opportunity to vote for us one last time. Even if you did not vote in the previous selection you can still vote.

Step 1: You will need to be registered in order to vote. If you haven't previously registered, follow this link to create a new registration or use your sign in credentials from your favorite social media site. Registration is free and does not result in sales contacts. Once you are logged in, you can then vote by checking the box next to your favorite estate, probate and elder law blog then submitting the results.

There are several blogs that have names similar to ours so remember to select the one which has my blog and personal name the entry will be listed as:
Florida Estate Planning Lawyer Blog (David Goldman)

April 3, 2011

Florida Medicaid Changes May Be in the Works.

Medicaid.jpgMedicaid overhaul has been set in motion in the Sunshine State. A Florida State Senate committee recently approved a controversial proposal that would hand over a large part of the Medicaid program to managed-health care plans.

The full Florida House is expected to pass its version of the Medicaid changes and intense debate and negotiations are expected in the coming weeks. The bill's chief sponsor said the bill could improve care for Medicaid beneficiaries, who have been "second-class citizens" under the current Medicaid system.

Florida lawmakers also intend to use the managed care system to hold down costs in the multi-billion dollar program. Politicians state that the current Medicaid program is crowding out funding for public education, public transportation and economic development.

A linked article from Health News Florida will allow you read the complete article on the proposed "Bold changes to Medicaid".

March 27, 2011

Our Same-Sex Relationship and Family

two cute kids.jpgIf you live in Jacksonville Florida and have a same-sex partner, written, legal documents are what is needed to not only provide for your life-partner, but to leave something to the loved ones in your life.

There are many gay and lesbian couples who do not have their own children, and very often they become very close with nieces and nephews. Providing for your partner and those dear to you takes planning . . . Florida Estate Planning. Florida law currently does not allow for same-sex partners to marry nor does it recognize any legal rights of life partners. Don't let the state dictate who gets your hard earned money and accumulated "things" by your failure to make a plan.

Contact a Jacksonville Beach Estate Planning Attorney who is knowledgeable about the various strategies and documents that you can implement to ensure that your partner, your niece, her nephew, his niece, the cousins . . . will be taken care of and given what You want them to have upon your death or incapacity.

March 26, 2011

Does Florida's Constitution Provide Homestead Protection for Same-Sex Couples?

Lake_Helen_Hist_Dist_-_building5.jpgFlorida's Constitution severely restricts a judgment creditor's ability to place a lien on, and force the sale of the homestead property. The purpose of homestead protection is to protect the family home from all but a few qualified creditors. To qualify as homestead property, the property must be owned by a real person, as opposed to a corporation, and must be the permanent residence of the owner

The St. Augustine homestead shall not be subject to devise (leaving your home to someone in your Will) if the owner is survived by spouse or minor child, except the homestead may be devised to the owner's spouse if there be no minor child.

How is the Florida Homestead protection interpreted if a Florida same-sex or non-traditional couple owns a home together, and there are minor children. Good question . . . and complicated question. Each couple has a unique set of circumstances surrounding their relationship and the relationship each person has with the minor child. Be prepared for protection by contacting a St. Augustine Homestead Attorney to discuss your unique situation.

March 23, 2011

Thumtack Elite - # 1 in Estate Planning

We have been ranked #1 among estate planning professionals in Jacksonville by thumtack.

Estate Planning Services - Jacksonville

March 18, 2011

Who Gets Your Last Paycheck?

Florida Statute 222.15 - Wages or unemployment compensation payments due deceased employee may be paid spouse or certain relatives.

(1) It is lawful for any employer, in case of the death of an employee, to pay to the wife or husband, and in case there is no wife or husband, then to the child or children, provided the child or children are over the age of 18 years, and in case there is no child or children, then to the father or mother, any wages or travel expenses that may be due such employee at the time of his or her death.

(2) It is also lawful for the Agency for Workforce Innovation, in case of death of any unemployed individual, to pay to those persons referred to in subsection (1) any unemployment compensation payments that may be due to the individual at the time of his or her death.

March 18, 2011

A Cautionary Tale, will your Will be Admitted to Probate?

Last Will and Testament 1.jpg[Florida Probate: The court supervised process of gathering the deceased person's assets and distributing them to their beneficiaries.]

You know the importance of having your last will and testament prepared. -You've heard those ads telling you to prepare your will yourself.-You think that having an attorney prepare your will is too expensive.

You should know this. Not having a Jacksonville Attorney either prepare your will or review what you have prepared from those "do your will yourself" kits will cost you and your family in the end.

As a Florida probate attorney I have seen many wills that have been prepared without the assistance of an attorney. In many instances, these wills, although accurately reflecting the intent and wishes of the testator, (person who makes the will) have not been prepared according to the strict provisions set out by the Florida Statutes.

When a Will has not been executed and signed per Florida Law, you may have a hard time having that Will admitted to the Probate Court as a valid Will. If the Will is not admitted, then the provisions made in the Will directing how one's property and assets are to be distributed, may not be honored. That is when it will end up costing you in Attorney fees.

Contact a Jacksonville Will attorney. You will be pleasantly surprised at how inexpensive it is to have your Florida Will prepared.

March 15, 2011

Gay Couples use Estate Planning to Ease Worry

men holding gay flag.jpgWe have all experienced the disdain of families when they don't like the partners we choose in life. When you are a Florida gay man or lesbian living with a same-sex partner, simply being with a same-sex partner is all that is needed to gain the wrath of one's family.

If you are gay, with a disapproving family, it is time to consult with a St. Augustine Estate Planning Attorney. There are no inheritance rights provided in Florida for a same-sex couple. Therefore, it is important to consult with a legal professional as to the options for providing for your life-partner.

An effective legal document is a Revocable Living Trust. A revocable living trust allows you to manage your assets during your life and distribute the remaining assets per your wishes after your death. You maintain control over the trust and can modify or terminate the trust during your lifetime, as long as you are competent to do so.

The benefit of a trust is that is is designed to avoid the probate process. A trust is much more difficult to contest or challenge (vs. a will). Your trust takes effect once you have established and funded it, and if you become disabled or die, your partner (or whoever you name as successor trustee) makes a smooth and easy transfer into the role as trustee of the trust.

It is still advisable to have a Will Attorney prepare your will in addition to the trust. A "pour over" will is designed to pass any property that is titled in your name only or that does not name a beneficiary, to automatically pass to the trust, thereby eliminating the need for the probate process.

March 14, 2011

Elders Have Rights

Elder Adult.jpgFlorida's Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program is a volunteer-based organization which advocates for the health, safety, rights and welfare of elders who live in nursing homes, assisted living facilities and adult family-care homes.

When an elder is admitted to a long-term care facility, federal law mandates that he or she is given a special set of residents' rights covering issues ranging from dignity and respect to measurable quality of life and care. Volunteer ombudsmen are trained and certified by the Department of Elder Affairs. Their taks is to inspect local facilities and respond to resident's complaints to ensure that their rights are being maintained and respected.

As family members we want to ensure that our elder parents and relatives are treated with respect and dignity. There are methods such as guardianships, advanced directives, and durable power of attorney which will allow an elderly person to choose someone they trust to look after their best interests, physical and financial safety. It is also good to know that there are approximately 400 volunteers statewide that take an active role in monitoring the needs and special conserns of the elderly population who are in residential facilities.

March 13, 2011

To Be Florida Homestead or not To Be Florida Homestead

homestead- House.jpgAtlantic Beach, Neptune Beach and Jacksonville Beach homeowners may know that the Florida Homestead Protection mandated by the Florida Constitution, is afforded to many residents.

This homestead protection protects one's home from the claims of most creditors. Further, if one dies leaving minor children, then the home cannot be devised (giving property away in one's will) or sold.

As with everything in the law, the homestead protection is not black or white. There are many interpretations based on a case to case basis. In a recent Florida case, the court held that a house owned by a decedent and his mother as joint tenants with right of survivorship was not homestead property for purposes of the administration of decedent's estate.

Although the decedent had minor child when he bought the house with his mother, the deed to the property was titled between decedent and his mother as joint tenants with right of survivorship. The court held that upon decedent's death, his interest in the property terminated, and it became the sole property of his mother as the surviving joint tenant without any life estate for the benefit of his children.

Confused? Join the crowd. Homestead status and homestead protection is a complex legal doctrine, and it is best to discuss your individual circumstances with a Jacksonville Probate Attorney.

March 2, 2011

Florida Estate Planning Lawyer Blog nominated for Top Estate Planning Blog- Please vote

 LexisNexis Estate Practice & Elder Law Blogs 2011 Our Blog was nominated for one of the top estate planning blogs. Please take a few moments and visit the site, register, and vote for our blog if you like it.  You vote by adding a comment and mentioning our blog in the comment.  Thanks

Each comment is counted as a vote toward the supported blog. To submit a comment, visitors need to log on to their free Communities account. If you haven't previously registered, you can do so on the LexisNexis Estate Practice & Elder Law Community for free. The comment box is at the very bottom of the page. The comment period for nominations ends on March 31, 2011. On April 1, we will post the Top 25 Estate, Probate and Elder Law Blogs of 2011 based on votes received. Thereafter, our community will vote on the Top Blog through a Zoomerang survey. I anticipate the final announcement to be made on or before April 15.

February 28, 2011

Wife loses Financial Support when Husband becomes Incapacitated

A Florida family member is not always qualified to act as guardian for a loved one who has been determined to be incapacitated.

If you are the spouse or dependent of a person who has been deemed incapacitated under Florida Law, and who is under the control of a professional guardian, you may petition the court for an order directing the guardian of the property to contribute to your support from the property of the ward.

A Ponte Vedra Guardianship Lawyer can petition the court for the support of a person financially dependent upon a ward. The court may enter an order for suitable support and education of the dependent person out of the ward's property which is subject to the guardianship.