April 20, 2011

Reason To Make An Estate Plan #10

While estate taxes are not a compelling reason for most of us to make an estate plan this year, there are many other reasons that provoke strong emotions and the need to do proper planning. Below is reason number 10. If you know someone who needs an estate plan, please send them a link to this page.


If you havent voted for us for your favorite estate planning blog, please take a moment to read this article and vote for this blog.

April 19, 2011

Equal Benefits for Florida Gay and Lesbian Employees Getting Closer to Home

men holding gay flag.jpgSt. Augustine, Jacksonville, Orange Park gay employees get ready. Orange County, Orlando Florida, will now offer gay employees the same benefits that heterosexual employees receive. Orange County Commissioners unanimously approved new benefits for gay employees to include life, health, dental, and bereavement benefits. These equal benefit changes will take effect in January 2012.

Other cities and counties in Florida that offer equality benefits for same-sex and domestic partners are: Gainesville, Kissimmee, Miami Beach, Tampa, Tallahassee, Broward County, Miami-Dade County, Monroe County and Palm Beach County.

April 17, 2011

Floridians Remember Terri Schiavo and the Living Will

terri-schiavo.jpgAll Jacksonville residents should remember Terri Schiavo, the St. Petersburg, Florida woman who made national news in 2005. Terri Schiavo had been in a coma for years and was diagnosed by doctors as being in a persistent vegetative state. The hotly debated issue between the husband and parents was whether Terri would want to be hooked up to life prolonging procedures.

The case centered on the fact that Terri did not have any Florida Advance Directives in place, in particular, no Living Will. Therefore, the debate centered on what her wishes would be. Seven years and numerous court cases later, (the Florida Legislature, the U.S. Congress and Supreme Court also became involved), a Florida Judge ordered the removal of Terri Schiavo's feeding tube.

A Florida Living Will is a legal document which allows you to express Your Wishes as to the type of medical treatment and intervention that you do or do not want in the event that you suffer from a:

Terminal Condition;
Persistent Vegetative State; or an
End-State Condition

Floridians, don't let your family become embroiled in a quarrel as to what a loved one would want in the event that he/she does not have Advanced Directives in place.

Talk to an Estate Planning Attorney in Jacksonville who will discuss with you the importance of having a Living Will as well as a Designation of Health Care Surrogate prepared.

April 12, 2011

And Florida Justice and Liberty for All?

Gay baloons.jpgDo Gay and Lesbian individuals living in Jacksonville know that according to the United States Government Accountability Office (GAO), there are approximately 1,138 rights and benefits that the federal government provides to heterosexual couples that are NOT provided to same-sex couples (even if legally married in their state)?

Again, 1,138 benefits not afforded to Florida's LGBT community. The number is staggering, and gives one pause to reflect (after the anger dissipates) as to what one can do for themselves and their same-sex partner or unmarried partner to protect them, when the government will not.

The answer is contact a Jacksonville Estate Planning Attorney who can discuss with you the various legal documents and tools that are available to provide you with the protection needed in times of illness, incapacity, and upon your death. Documents to be considered are Wills, Trusts, Durable Power of Attorney, domestic partnership agreements, preneed guardianship, and other documents related to providing and caring for minor children.

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.