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.

February 15, 2011

Good Deeds Can Save Your Home for Your Partner

Florida house.jpgIf you are in a domestic partnership and live in a Florida home, or if you are in a same-sex relationship and are planning to buy a house with your partner, you may want to speak with a Jacksonville Estate Planning Attorney and discuss how your deed [the instrument transferring title to real property] should be titled.

Under Florida law, there are three types of ownership, joint tenants wth right of survivorship, tenants in common, and tenants by the entirety (which is solely for a husband and wife).

Tenants in common gives each individual an undivided interest in the entire property. As tenants in common, there is no right of survivorship. When one owner dies, his/her interest passes to the beneficiaries as named in his/her will or passes per the Florida Intestacy law.

In Joint tenancy with right of survivorship two or more own property together, and on the death of a joint owner, the property passes to the surviving co-owner who now owns the property, without the need of a probate administration.

Jacksonville Domestic Partners, Life Partners, or same-sex couples can title their property as joint tenants with right of survivorship, or tenants in common. Another powerful instrument , the Enhanced Life Estate Deed or "Ladybird Deed" might be an option for you as well [to be discussed in future entry].

The particular circumstances of your relationship and what you and your partner have discussed as to each partner's future ownership of the property, will help to determine the best way to title your deed. Whatever your decision is it is best to consult with an Estate Planning Attorney who is sensitive to your needs.

February 9, 2011

Domestic Partners: Don't wait until illness or incapacity strikes.

rainbow lights.jpgNo one wants to plan for their future, especially when the planning involves a future which may not include you. Jacksonville Beach Estate Planning Attorneys will tell you to prepare your legal documents while you are healthy, and not when you become ill or disabled. There are numerous documents which will allow you to choose the individual(s) with whom you want to have the authority to make decisions for you on your behalf.

A Designation of Health Care Surrogate allows you to select who will consent to medical treatment in the event you are unable to make your own decisions. A Financial Durable Power of Attorney will permit your agent to make financial transactions and decisions as well as conduct everyday financial business for you, in the event that you become incapacitated.

Sit down with a Jacksonville Beach Estate Planning Attorney who is sensitive to the issues faced by the Gay and Lesbian Community and the importance of having these legal documents prepared.

February 8, 2011

Half-siblings beware, you may have to share your Inheritance

Thumbnail image for homes in a neighborhood.jpgAn Orange Park daughter loses her mother and only then realizes that the deed to the family home was in her father's name, alone. Her father had children from a previous marriage, her father died many years ago, and her father did not leave a Will. According to the Florida Intestate Succession law if one dies without a will, property passes in a specific manner. Once the mother passed away, the home would then pass to the father's children, all of them.

Whether you have a relationship with your half-siblings and whether you know where they are currently living, may make a difference in how easy or complicated your efforts to obtain ownership of the family home will be. If you need advice, or are wondering what you should expect in your efforts to obtain title to the home, speaking with experienced Orange Park probate attorneys will benefit you.

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.