December 15, 2010

Scammers phone seniors saying they are owed a refund

The SunSentinel is reporting that Medicare recipients are being scammed again by identity thieves who are trying to steal personal and financial information by claiming they are owed a Medicare HMO owes them a refund.

Claiming to work for Humana or CarePlus they ask for the birthdate, social security number, bank account information and Medicare numbers to process the refund.

December 14, 2010

Want to read the new Tax Bill?

For those of you who want to read the Reid-McConnell Tax Relief bill for more details on what is actually in it follow this link

For the summary download this document.

December 14, 2010

Where There's a Florida Will, There's Your Way!

Jacksonville WIll and Probate Lawyerl.jpgWhatever the extent of your Jacksonville property or assets, it is important to have your Florida will drawn up. If you die before you make a will, the State of Florida intestacy succession laws will distribute your property for you. It is important to consult with a Jacksonville Estate Planning Attorney to ensure that your will is prepared in accordance with Florida Statutes. To be valid in Florida, your will must meet certain requirements:

• Legal age
• Testamentary capacity (of sound mind and body)
• Valid form
• Properly executed

Although there is no particular form of words necessary to make a will valid, there are several clauses which are typically found in many wills.

The preliminary clause gives information about the maker of the will, the fact that the writing is intended to be a will and the revocation of any prior wills.
The dispositive clause specifies what assets go to the beneficiaries.
The appointment clause names the personal representative and guardian for minor children and; the concluding clause seals the validity of the will, including the necessary signatures.

Jacksonville residents wishing to make their will should visit a Jacksonville Florida Estate Planning Law Firm with the experience needed to ensure that your will has been properly prepared and executed.

December 13, 2010

Houston Astros on the Market for Estate Tax Reasons has reported that no price has been set for the Astros, but Drayton McClane Jr., has decided to sell the team for estate planning purposes. The team is worth a reported 455 Million and could create a tax bill of more than 200 Million dollars.

While the proposed changes to the estate taxes will help many people, it will still create major problems for larger estates. If you want to discuss your estate and what options you may have to reduce estate taxes or probate costs and delays, you should contact a Jacksonville Estate Planning Lawyer to discuss your circumstances and goals.

December 13, 2010

Personal Representative Selected in Absence of Will.

orange park estate planning attorney.jpgA Florida Personal Representative is appointed by the probate judge to settle the decedent's (person who died) estate and distribute the property to the beneficiaries. When an Orange Park resident dies without leaving a will (dies intestate), Florida Statutes, Section 733.301 provides for the preference in appointment of a personal representative. The order of appointment is:
  • Surviving spouse;
  • Person selected by a majority in interest of the heirs;
  • Heir nearest in degree;
A guardian of the property of minor children may serve if qualified, or may select the personal representative.

Where a person died intestate, with no surviving spouse, leaving two minor children, a Florida court reversed the appointment of the decedent's father as personal representative, instead of the individual chosen by the heirs (the children). The Florida court stated that there was no surviving spouse and the person selected by both heirs, acting through the guardians of their property, was authorized and qualified under Florida Law to act as the personal representative.

If you have been named as a Personal Representative in a will or you believe you qualify for appointment when there is no will, it is important to speak with an  Orange Park Probate Attorney, about the Personal Representative duties and rights under the law.

December 9, 2010

Wrongful Death Claim Settlements May be at Risk from Creditor Claims

money money12902491322ghusW.jpgWhen a Florida Wrongful Death action is settled, the money either goes to the estate of the decedent (the person who has died) or to the decedent's survivors. If the settlement is small, it can be handled with a summary administration. When this happens, the settlement money becomes an asset of the estate and can be subject to the claims of creditors. With small wrongful death settlements, the potential risk from creditors needs to be evaluated to see if the savings in probate fees makes it worth while to consider a summary administration. It is important for a Jacksonville beneficiary of the estate to sit down with a Jacksonville Probate Attorney who can guide you through the probate administration process.

Probate is the court supervised proceeding for distributing the estate assets of the person who died. The probate process also identifies creditors who have valid claims against the estate. If a wrongful death settlement is listed as an estate asset, then it may be susceptible to the valid claims of creditors.

If you are a Jacksonville survivor under the Florida Wrongful Death Statute, protect your settlement award by knowing what estate assets are exempt and protected from the claims of creditors. Talk with an attorney experienced in Florida Probate cases.

December 9, 2010

5M Estate Tax Exemption? But what about Stepped Up Basis?

It has been widely reported that the extension of the Bush Tax Cuts is being recommended by Obama in addition to agreeing to a new estate tax of 35% on assets in excess of 5 Million dollars but no one is reporting on what will happen with the loss of stepped up basis. For many Americans the loss of stepped up basis could cost more than if there was a lower estate tax exemption.

The bill is reported to be submitted to congress today so we should know soon what we are dealing with. Either way it will cause many American families to have to revisit their estate planning and life insurance needs over the next few months.

December 7, 2010

Removal of Florida Guardian may be in the Best Interest of the Ward.

A Florida guardian may be appointed to exercise limited or total powers over a ward (minor, elderly or incapacitated person). There are times when a Jacksonville guardian appointed by the court has failed to act in the best interest of the ward. If a Jacksonville Guardian fails to ensure that the ward is being properly cared for or is not managing the ward's property and assets in a responsible manner, a family member, friend or interested person may have to take action.

Consulting with a Jacksonville Guardianship Attorney may be the first step needed to rectify a frustrating situation, when you feel powerless to protect a ward. The Florida statutes allow for a proceeding to remove a guardian upon a showing that one of the proscribed reasons has been met. Reasons for removal, among several, may be when a guardian has abused his or her powers, has wasted or mismanaged the ward's property or when a conflict has developed between the guardian and the ward.

To obtain information about the procedure for removal of a guardian or how to terminate a guardianship, it is best to discuss your situation with a Jacksonville Estate Planning Law Firm who has experience in guardianship matters.

December 7, 2010

Using a Business Entity as the General Partner of a Limited Partnership

One needs to be careful that they do not expose their assets in a Florida Limited Partnership to forced distributions because they choose a general partner that can be take over. In the past and in many other states, it is common to protect the GP from liability by making it a corporation or LLC. The problem with this is that if a creditor is able to take over the entity because of a judgment, then the creditor acting as the General Partner can force distributions that they can then attach by means of a charging order.

You should review your limited partnership agreements with a Florida Asset Protection Lawyer to review your LP structure for potential problems in light of recent Florida cases.

Florida does have a LLLP which can remove the liability of the general partner without the use of a more complicated business structure.

December 7, 2010

Oklahoma Law Lets Executors manage Online Social Media Accounts

digital_assets.jpgA new law in Oklahoma appears to let estate executors have the power to access, administer, or terminate online social media accounts of the deceased. This law is in direct contradiction to the licensing arrangements of most online accounts and it has yet to be seen how and if the law will provide rights to estates.

The law should remind the people as they go about their estate planning that, in addition to their personal and real property, they should make plans for the vast amount of intellectual property they will leave behind.

As digital photo accounts, iTunes accounts, cell phone applications, and email accounts replace their traditional counterparts with many people, it is becoming more important than ever to address these assets in every estate plan.

If you would like to know more about a Digital Asset Protection Trust contact a Florida Estate Planning Lawyer who is familiar with Digital Asset Protection to discuss your circumstances and options.

December 6, 2010

Florida Probate Code Requires Production of Wills

Gavel images.jpgWills need to be deposited with the court within 10 days of death.  Florida Statutes, Section 732.901.  A Jacksonville custodian of a will must deposit the will with the appropriate clerk of court within 10 days after receiving information that the testator (person whose will it was) is dead. If the will has not been timely deposited, any interested person may upon petition and notice compel the production of the will, and receive attorney fees, costs and damages against the delinquent custodian.

A Florida judge recently entered an order requiring a custodian of a will to produce the will. The judge then entered an award of $2500.00 in attorney's fees against the custodian who had failed to produce the will.

The 4th district court of Florida reversed the order, stating it was error by the circuit court to enter an order requiring production of a will and assessing attorney fees against the custodian of the will, without a hearing or proof that the petition to produce the will had actually been received by the custodian of the will. As the order was entered without due process the district court set it aside and remanded the case back to the circuit court.

When someone has died it is important to consult with a Jacksonville Estate Planning Attorney to discuss the probate laws and rules that govern. Knowing your legal rights and responsibilities is beneficial as you begin the probate administration process.

November 29, 2010

Estate Planning and Beneficiary Designations

When creating Florida Estate Planning Lawyer it is important to remember that once you create the documents your job is not done.

If you create a Florida Revocable Trust it is important to fund the trust or it will not provide one of the typical benefits of avoiding a Florida Probate. There are several ways of funding the trust and you should discuss these with your Florida Estate Planning Lawyer to see what makes the most sense for you and your family.

In addition, another common mistake is forgetting to make proper beneficiary designations on life insurance or retirement accounts. This is also something that needs to be carefully considered and implemented with the advise of your CPA and Florida Estate Planning Lawyer.

Forgetting to make proper beneficiary designations on assets can subject your estate and beneficiaries to unnecessary taxes, expenses, and delays in the transfer of the assets. If you have a 401(k) you may consider moving the asset to an IRA for additional flexibility. This is something you should discuss with your financial planner as IRA distributions to a non-spouse can usually be spread over the lifetime of the oldest beneficiary instead of having to be taken within a year of your death.

If you have recently moved to Jacksonville or Florida and would like a complimentary review of your estate plan and your circumstances contact a Jacksonville Estate Planning Lawyer to discuss your options.

November 26, 2010

Lesbian and Gay Estate Planning for Couples

gay dollerimages.jpgAs a Florida lesbian and gay person in a committed relationship, you know that living in Jacksonville does not afford you the same legal rights as if you were in a relationship with a legally recognized spouse. Not only will you be ineligible to receive survivor social security benefits, or other government benefits when your same-sex partner dies, but, If you don't have written documents in place, many partners will lose property, assets, access to their children, and the right to make medical and financial decisions.

Creating Estate Planning Documents in Jacksonville is the process of determining what you want to happen to your estate, once you are gone, which includes all the rights, titles and interests that you have in the property you own.

It is important for you to safeguard what you do have and consult with a Jacksonville Estate Planning Attorney who is sensitive to the issues prevalent in same-sex couples, to discuss the Estate Planning distribution methods which will allow you to provide for your surviving partner.

November 24, 2010

Florida Advance Directives for Gay and Lesbians

file0001130641378.jpgIf you are gay or lesbian in Ponte Vedra or the Jacksonville area, having properly prepared Florida Advance Directives is essential. Whether you are young, healthy, and believe you will live forever, the fact remains, that if you wait until illness, injury, or disability to strike, you will not have a voice in your own future health care.

Florida Advance Directives are written documents created by statutory authority that express your wishes and desires concerning many aspects of your future health care. A Florida Living Will expresses your wishes for the type of life-prolonging procedures as well as pain alleviating medications you want in the event you suffer certain serious medical conditions. A Designation of Health Care Surrogate and HIPAA Release will allow you to choose the person you want to make your health care decisions in the event of your future disability, as well as to give that person authority to obtain and review your medical records.

Don't wait until you are unable to make your own decisions. Contact a Jacksonville, Florida Gay and Lesbian Rights Attorney to discuss how these legal documents are vital to your maintaining control of your future healthcare.

November 23, 2010

Guardianship for Developmentally Disabled

Jacksonville Guardianship Lawyer.jpgMany people residing in the St. Augustine area, suffer from developmental disabilities. Unfortunately, as these individuals get older, the disease progresses to the point where the person is often unable to take care of and manage their own financial and personal affairs.

A Florida procedure can appoint a Florida guardian advocate for a person with developmental disabilities, without an adjudication of incapacity. One way this appointment can be accomplished is if the disabled person has voluntarily petitioned for the appointment of a guardian advocate. If the disabled person is able to care for some, but not all of his personal care and finances, a guardian advocate will be able to act for the disabled person in certain specified matters.

If you have a relative or friend that suffers from a developmental disability and you believe that this person is unable to care for themselves, contact a St. Augustine Guardianship Attorney to learn more about the process of being appointed a guardian advocate.