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

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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.

February 25, 2011

"Do it yourself" Wills: Prepare According to Florida Law

Thumbnail image for Last Will and Testament 1.jpgPreparing your will without the assistance of a Jacksonville Estate Planning Lawyer may cost your family future trouble and costs. Your Will must be clearly worded, otherwise, your intentions may be disputed by family members.

A Florida Will contest may result in a lengthy and expensive court battle, which is exactly what you did not intend for your surviving family. A Last Will and Testament must meet the requirements of the Florida Statutes. If your Florida Will is not signed and witnessed in the proper fashion, a Probate Judge may refuse to admit your will to Probate, resulting in your property being distributed as if you had no Will at all.

To avoid any challenge to your Florida Will, it is advisable that you consult with a Jacksonville Estate Planning Lawyer . An Attorney will prepare your Last Will and Testament according to your directions and supervise the execution (signing) of your Will to ensure that it is witnessed according to Florida Law.

February 22, 2011

Estate Planning and Criminal Defense Lawyer

We often do not think of Criminal Defense in connection with Florida estate planning. We have a Jacksonville Criminal Defense Lawyer who has been helpful in dealing with crimes committed by fiduciary agents. Every month we get contacted by individuals who have had their parents or families life savings depleted because someone with a Power of Attorney or other fiduciary position thinks that they can treat the other persons funds as their own. Not only are we able to help represent the individuals who have lost the money, but we often represent other family members that have lost their inheritance because of the bad acts of others.

Often it is a difficult choice to decide whether to just go after recover of the money or to also package the information for the state to review for possible criminal charges. Florida has very strict laws when it comes to financial abuse of the elderly.

If you believe that a Power of Attorney or trustee or other person with a fiduciary responsibility has acted inappropriately, contact a Florida Estate Planning Lawyer or a Jacksonville Criminal Lawyer to discuss your situation. You may also review the Jacksonville Criminal Defense Lawyers Blog or more information on this and other financial crimes.

February 22, 2011

Estate Tax, Inheritance Tax, What about Both?

According to a Market Watch article by Bill Bischoff, on the Worst Places to Die, New Jersey Tops the list with a combined effective estate and inheritance tax rate of 54.1 %.

Estate tax is bad enough but several states have an inheritance tax. Yes you could actually leave money to a family member and they could be charged a percentage of your assets by the state they live in. Florida residents are not subject to either a state inheritance tax or a state estate tax.

While 16 states have a state estate tax only 6 have inheritance taxes and two states have both (New Jersey and Maryland)

February 16, 2011

A Florida House Divided

house_divided.jpgAs a Jacksonville Beach Probate Attorney, I often hear the disheartening accounts of people who own or buy Florida property together and then have a falling out. If co-owners (who are not married) can't agree to live together or how to handle the property, Florida law allows for a partition action.

A partition action requests that the court divide the property amongst the owners. However, in the case where property cannot be divided, the court may order that the property be sold and the proceeds divided and distributed among the owners.

According to the Florida Partition Statute, the payment of attorney fees are to be paid to the plaintiff's or defendant's attorneys or to each of them proportionate with their services rendered and of benefit to the partition of the property.

If you own property with one or more persons and there is a conflict of interest among you, or you are denied access or entry to that home, it may be in your best interest to speak with Jacksonville Beach Attorneys about how a partition action is initiated.