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.

January 4, 2011

Tax day extended to April 18- This year only

The bonus days come thanks to Emancipation Day, a little-known Washington, D.C., holiday that celebrates the freeing of slaves in the district.

Emancipation Day falls on Sat., April 16, but it is observed in D.C. on Fri., April 15. That prompted the IRS to extend the tax filing deadline to April 18 this year. Under the tax code, filing deadlines can't fall on Saturdays, Sundays or holidays.

January 4, 2011

Florida Anti-lapse statute and gifts to in-laws

Recently the 3rd DCA in the Florida case of Lorenzo v. Medina ruled that the anti-lapse statute must be strictly construed and that gifts to in-laws are not saved and lapse unlike a gift to a close family member.

This means a gift to a sister-in-law who predeceases the testator is not honored while a gift to a predeceased sister would go to her children. If you are involved with trying to save assets for the families of non-relatives you should talk with a Florida Estate Planning Lawyer how simple changes to your Florida Will or Florida Revocable Trust can ensure that your intentions are carried out.

January 4, 2011

Flordia has a Pet Trust Statute

699101_mans_best.jpgFlorida pet lovers are part of the estimated 71.4 million households that have at least one pet. according to an article published in the Chicago Sun-Times. Jacksonville animal lovers spend lots of time and money caring for their pets, but what happens to these beloved creatures when their owner passes away?

If you have not made an arrangement with a family member or friend your pet may end up in an animal shelter or worse. People create Florida Wills to provide for their families and there is a growing trend to create pet trusts. Remember the very wealthy Leona Helmslely, she left millions to care for her maltese poodle. Make arrangements by speaking with a Pet Trust Attorney, so the person you designate to take your dog or cat or other animal, will have the adequate funds to look after your pet.

If you love and cherish your dogs, cats and pets than make sure they are cared for should you pass away before them. The Florida Trust Code has provided for a pet trust which allows you to ensure that your animal alive during your lifetime is taken care of even after you are gone. If you want to discuss having a trust created to ensure that you have left appropriate funds for the future care of your beloved pet, call a Jacksonville Estate Planning Firm.

January 3, 2011

What Happens if I Die in Florida without a Will

1221950 Will.jpgIf you live in Ponte Vedra and die before you have made your Florida Will, you have died "intestate". What this means is that your intentions as to who will inherit what from you, and who will be appointed Personal Representative of your estate is now determined by the state of Florida.

If you do not seek out a Ponte Vedra Estate Planning Firm about having your will made prior to your death, you leave your family, friends and charitable organizations at a disadvantage. Any arrangement or understanding you may have had with those who were to benefit from your property and assets, will now be subject to the Florida Intestate Succession Statute. This Florida law strictly dictates who is to receive the property of the decedent (the one who recently died). Good intentions mean nothing in Florida without a valid Florida Will.

Some disadvantages of dying intestate are:

• The share each heir gets is set by law, so your assets will not be distributed based on what you think is best for each heir;
• There are no provision to give a portion of your estate to charity;
• Most states have no provisions for domestic partners or other non-family members; and
• Courts will appoint a guardian for minor children, who may be someone you would not have wanted to be in charge of your kids.

Make plans to consult with a Florida Estate Planning Attorney who can discuss additional disadvantages of dying in Florida without a valid will and the easy ways that this can be avoided.

December 31, 2010

New Year's Resolution - Prepare your Will

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for happy_new_year_3.jpgPrepare your Will! It's easy, it's affordable and it doesn't involve giving up anything sweet.

We are all guilty of procrastinating when it comes to having our Florida Will prepared, make this a priority for 2011. Once you make the decision, you will be able to rest assured that when you pass (hopefully many years from now), your family will be provided for according to the provisions you have made.

If you die without a valid will you are said to have died "intestate", and the
Florida laws of intestate succession will take over. Florida state law is then in charge of determining what goes to whom, as well as to appoint a personal representative to manage your estate. Although the state gives first priority to the surviving family members, the proportion of your estate that goes to family members is specified by state law. The state's plan not be your plan. Be in control of your assets, consult with a Jacksonville Estate Planning Attorney and have your intentions put into a valid will.

December 27, 2010

GST Loop Hole- Must Act before 12/31/10 to take advantage of this.

The Tulsa Estate Planning Blog reported that The 2010 Tax Relief Act creates a unique opportunity to make gifts through December 31, 2010 that are not subject to the generation-skipping transfer tax. This is because, under the new law, the tax rate is zero for any generation-skipping transfer made in 2010. Beginning January 1, 2011, the tax rate for these transfers will be 35%. In two short years the rate goes back to 55%.

Money can be taken from an existing multigenerational trust, declared subject to the 2010 GST tax, and deposited in a new trust for grandkids' benefit, with the GST tax now pre-paid at a 0% rate.

Under the tax deal, each person's lifetime exemption from gift, estate and GST tax will be "unified" at a hefty $5 million in 2011 and 2012.

Talk with your Florida Estate Planning Lawyer soon to see if you can take advantage of the new tax

December 23, 2010

Be Informed Before Retaining a Probate Attorney

law_offices.jpgA Florida Probate Attorney was suspended from practicing law by the Florida Supreme Court. The attorney was said to be causing great public harm by a pattern of "obtaining fees, controlling assets, enforcing individuals to 'pay him' before he would resign as trustee of several trusts". The attorney has also been the subject of several pending disciplinary cases involving inappropriate handling of trust accounts and failing to move money from his account into a guardianship account.

The Florida Bar governs attorney behavior and law practice. An attorney has a code of ethical behavior in which he must adhere to in his representation of clients. There are specific rules which regulate trust accounts and accounting procedures, and Orange Park Probate Attorneys must act in accordance with these rules, otherwise, they are in violation of the Florida Bar.

Whatever reason has led you to retain an Orange Park or Jacksonville Florida Attorney, it is important to do your homework. One of the most reliable ways to find an attorney is through personal referral. Ask your family and friends if they know of or have used an attorney in your area. Access the internet to view a law firm's web site and blog pages. These sites often have informative articles which will provide you with background information about your legal issue.

December 15, 2010

Gun Trust Lawyer & Class 3 Firearms Trusts

Florida Gun Trusts are not the same as a standard Revocable or Living Trust.

We are getting more and more so called Gun Trusts that have been prepared by lawyers in Florida and other states that are nothing more than a traditional revocable trust with a few definitions thrown in to discuss the National Firearms Act.

The biggest problem with these trust is that they do not protect your family in the event you die or become incapacitated. If your trust talks about income and real estate or does not seem to be specific for firearms, you may want to have it reviewed by a Gun Trust Lawyer to see if your trust instructs your family or friends to break the law and subject themselves to the penalties of the NFA.

Not all trusts are created the same, if you think you have a NFA Gun Trust and it does not contain our copyright it is not our trust.