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.

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.