July 10, 2012

Should you make a gift in 2012 and avoid Gift Tax on $5.12 Million

gifttax.jpgDecember 31 the 5 Million Dollar gift tax exemption is set to expire and revert back to 1 Million dollars. This is separate from the $13,000 annual gift exclusion. There is a relatively small percentage of the population that this can make a difference for. Even for those who could take advantage of it, many are not so eager to give away the money just to reduce their future estate tax bill. Many older people feel that they will not have enough to live on if they give away the funds.

The deadline for making such a gift is rapidly approaching as it can take several weeks to prepare document to deal with the issues correctly.

There are ways of making the gifts so that exposure to creditors is limited. Some ways of making the gift are in the form of cash, in trust, as part of a business, or a combination of the above.

Careful attention to the assets is necessary so that you can take advantage or not lose stepped up basis on highly appreciated assets that would normally occur with assets that pass after death.

July 6, 2012

Frequent estate-planning mistakes in Jacksonville.

Thumbnail image for pigbank.jpgWhile there are many mistakes people can make while planning their estates, a recent column on Forbes.com, lists some of the errors most frequently encountered.

1. Not having a Florida Estate Plan

Not having a will or trust means that at your death the distribution of your assets will be dictated by the inheritance laws of the state where you were domiciled, likely Florida. These "intestacy laws" leave a percentage of assets to various members of your family. While there's a small chance that the laws will accomplish what you wanted, that's unlikely. Your will applies to the disposition of your "probate assets," those things that are not following a beneficiary designation. Non-probate assets will pass by operation of law or contract. For example, whoever the beneficiary designation was when you originally began your 401(k) or IRA will override either your will or the laws of intestacy. This could easily lead to distribution of your assets to people you may not anticipate.

2. Failure to take advantage of the estate tax exemption

As every good Florida estate planning attorney will tell you, making lifetime gifts is a simple and effective estate tax minimization strategy. Giving away assets at no gift tax cost will allow the corpus of the trust and any future appreciation to avoid estate tax upon the death of the donor. Using the exemption equivalent amount during your life is better than leaving it till your death. The reason to act now is that the current estate tax structure is set to expire at the end of 2012. Beyond the annual exclusion gift limit of $13,000, the federal exemption amount for transfers during life and death has increased to $5,120,000 per person for 2012, far and away higher than it has ever been. If you're able and willing to do so making such gifts before the end of the year is a good idea.

3. Leaving assets outright to your children

There's a growing consensus that among those with the means assets should remain in trust even for adult children as long as possible to serve the goal of asset protection. The question of a trust often does not hinge on legal capacity or maturity, though they can sometimes be factors. The question is instead how do I protect the people I leave my assets to from creditors, potential creditors and ex-spouses. Whether or not to leave assets in trust for adult children depends on many factors; not the least of which is personal preference. However, in our incredibly litigious society, leaving some assets in trust with easy access is certainly an idea worth considering.

4. Going it alone rather than relying on professionals

While many people are increasingly turning to the Internet to help prepare their wills and trusts and dozens of websites cater to such customers, doing so can be a recipe for disaster. Proper estate planning is complicated and cumbersome and requires a well thought out plan. Websites can provide you with documents but no actual advice that fits you in the context of your specific personal and financial circumstances.

If you have questions about probating an estate or about a will or a trust, contact the Law Office of David M. Goldman PLLC today at (904) 685-1200.

Source: "7 Major Errors In Estate Planning," by Rob Clarfeld, published at Forbes.com.

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July 5, 2012

How does a Florida living will work?

signhere.jpgIn Florida a living will can contain an advance medical directive. A living will is a statement of your wishes for the kind of life-sustaining medical intervention you want, or don't want, in the event that you become terminally ill and unable to communicate. A living will is typically used by people to identify the point at which they no longer desire certain types of life-prolonging medical treatment. The Advanced medical directive can also lay out an individual's desire for continuation of treatment in the even that the individual is unable to communicate their desires or but is not in one of the predefined terminal medical states that they have already communicated their desires in relation to medical care.

Living wills are very important legal documents with legal power. Assuming the proper procedure has been followed, a patient's wishes are taken very seriously, and a living will is one of the best ways to have a say in your medical care when you can't express yourself otherwise.

Once your living will has been drafted, make sure it's signed and on file with your Florida estate planning attorney. You should also provide a copy to:

· Your regular physician
· Family members
· Close friends
· The medical records department of the hospital you're likely to visit
· If you are in a nursing home or are seeing a medical specialist, they should get a copy as well.

Finally, you can put a card in your wallet that says you have a living will and whom to call to get a copy.

While living wills are important documents, many people don't realize their limitations. Typically, living wills are only effective after your attending physician has declared that you are in final states of life and you are both mentally and physically incapacitated or permanently unconscious. The problem is that many people who are not competent to make health decisions are not in an end-state medical condition or permanently unconscious. As a result of the limitations of the living will, many experts recommend that you move beyond simply leaving instructions for others and name a person who will be authorized to make health care decisions for you in the event of your incapacity.

That is why we would recommend including advanced medical directives with your living will. The advanced directives will allow someone who you designate to make decisions when your living will does not and you are unable to make the decisions. These documents should be in a single document so that someone cannot manipulate your desires by showing one document but not the other.

If you have questions about probating an estate or about a will or a trust, contact the Jacksonville estate planning lawyer or call the Law Office of David M. Goldman PLLC at (904) 685-1200.

Source: "Living wills and health-care proxies," published at CNN.com.

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July 1, 2012

Florida Wills Must Be in Writing

untitled.bmpAlthough your parents have for years been telling you (and anyone else who will listen) that they are leaving their home to you, if they don't put their words in writing, you WILL NOT get their home upon their death. In Florida, Wills Must Be in Writing, the Florida Statutes are clear about this. If someone dies and has not left a writing evidencing wishes as to how his/her belongings are to be distributed, then the estate is distributed according to the Intestacy statute.

In the Florida case In Estate of Corbin v. Sherman, the First District Court of Appeal considered a written will which contained the following language,"I give, bequeath and devise all of my estate of whatsoever kind and nature to Betty Sherman to dispose of as she has been instructed to do by me".

The Court concluded that the language in this clause, "clearly attempts to devise the decedent's property to Ms. Sherman for Sherman to distribute according to oral instructions from the decedent." As Florida does not recognize oral wills, the court likewise, invalidated this Will.

Every Florida Will must be in writing. It must be signed by the Testator (the person making the Will) at the end of the will. The Testator must sign his/her Will in the presence of at least two witnesses, who must sign the Will in front of the Testator and in the presence of one another. Florida is one of the majority of states that has adopted a self proving affidavit procedure. It is recommended by a Jacksonville Estate Planning Attorney that every Florida Will include a "Self Proving Affidavit". This procedure is when the testator and the witnesses after executing the will, execute in front of a notary public an affidavit reciting that all of the requisites for due execution of the will have been complied with. This allows the will to be probated in the Florida Courts even if the witnesses are dead, cannot be located, or have moved far away.

It is certain in Florida that if your parents do not put their oral statements about leaving you their home in writing, you will be sharing their home with all your siblings pursuant to the intestacy laws. Don't wait until it is too late.

Having a Will prepared is an easy task. Once you have contacted a Jacksonville Estate Planning Lawyer, all that is needed is some basic information as to what your assets are, and how you wish to distribute them upon your death, and your will can be prepared. Once your Will is ready, you come into the office and sign your Will in front of witnesses. Knowing that an experienced attorney has not only prepared your will, but has ensured that you execute your will pursuant to Florida law, is a great comfort.

June 22, 2012

Florida Elders can Improve Memory through Exercise

happy_elderly_couple_americare.jpgJacksonville Elder Law Lawyers keep up with legal matters as well as non-legal matters when it comes to advocating and educating the elderly. A recent article published in the Times of India discusses a study conducted by scientists at the University of South Florida and the University of Shanghai.

The findings of an 8 month controlled trial, compared a group of Chinese seniors who practiced Tai Chi (a Chinese form of self-defense that has evolved into a graceful exercise) 3 times a week to a group with no intervention. The results of the study found increases in brain volume and improvements on tests of memory and thinking in those seniors who practiced Tai Chi three times a week. The same trial also showed increases in brain volume and more limited cognitive improvements in a group that participated in lively discussions 3 times per week over the same period.

This was the first trial to show that a less aerobic form of exercise, Tai Chi, as well as stimulating conversation, led to increases in brain volume and improvements on psychological tests of memory and thinking.

Unlike many exercises, when engaging in Tai Chi one uses cognitive functions such as attention and coordination that may strengthen not only the body's muscles but also the brain's muscles. No doubt this gentle "meditation in motion" exercise will have beneficial results for many elders.

There are also numerous legal methods to ensure that Florida elderly combat the negative results that accompany dementia and Alzheimer's. Negative results are when an aging person is no longer able to dictate and make his or her own decisions. When an elderly person begins to lose their capacity, their children or other relatives may end up making financial and health decisions for them. These decisions may be contrary to what the elderly person would have chose.

Having a discussion with Elder Law Attorneys is good for your health. Elders will learn about ways to qualify for Medicaid, ways to protect their assets, and ways to preserve their wishes about health, finances and inheritance matters. It is in the best interest of the elderly to talk with an attorney prior to the onset of physical and cognitive disability.

So, engaging in exercise, especially the moderate movements of Tai Chi is good for one's mental health. Likewise, consulting with a Jacksonville Elder Law Lawyer, is also good for one's health.

June 6, 2012

Removing a Personal Representative in a Florida Probate

In Florida the personal representative is appointed by a court and does not become a personal representative until appointed even if they are named as the personal representative in a decedent's Will. The court will look first to any Will that specifies the priority of a Florida personal representative. If there is no Will, the court will look first to a surviving spouse and then a person selected by a majority of the heirs.

It is difficult but not impossible to remove a personal representative who has been appointed by the court unless there has been a failure to provide proper notice of the probate proceeding.

Removing A Florida Personal Representative
There are circumstances when a Florida probate court can override a decedent's choice of an executor or personal representative. Sometimes there is a dispute over the validity of a Last Will and Testament or problems between people with equal representation. In some of the cases the Florida Probate Court may choose to appoint a temporary personal representative or a curator to serve as the personal representative.

A personal representative or curator are entitle dot a reasonable compensation under the Florida Probate Code. Compensation in estates with less than 1 million in assets is approximately 3% of the probate estate. The Florida Probate Code has a schedule of reasonable fees that cover ordinary duties. If there is additional litigation or tasks outside of the ordinary course of a probate proceeding, the personal representative may be entitled to a larger fee. In some cases when an attorney is appointed to serve as a personal representative by the court, the fee may be based on an hourly rate as approved by the court.

When there is more than one person who is legally qualified to act as a personal representative the probate judge my select the one who is "best qualified".
Reasons to Remove a Personal Representative.

Because of the duty owed to the estate, a personal representative may be removed if they do not act in the best interest of the estate. In such a case, the court can remove the personal representative and appoint a successor.

The Florida Probate Code lists causes for removal of a Personal representative.
If the Personal representative becomes adjudicated by a court to be incapacitated.
A physical or mental incapacity which leaves the personal representative unable to perform his or her duties.

  1. Failure of the personal representative to comply with a court order.
  2. Failure to account for the sale of property or provide an inventory.
  3. Wasting the assets of an estate.
  4. Failure to post bond.
  5. Conviction of a felony.
  6. Insolvency or a corporate personal representative.
  7. Except for a surviving spouse, acquiring a conflict of interest that may or will interfere with the administration of the estate.
  8. Revocation of the will naming the person as personal representative.
  9. Removal of Florida as a Domicile unless domicile is not a requirement.
  10. If the personal representative would not now be entitle to appointment.
Any "interested person" can petition the court for removal. This is quite a low bar, and means that anyone who stands to lose something due to the personal representative's actions (usually a person who anticipates receiving assets of the estate) can file a petition. Alternatively, the court can initiate removal proceedings on its own.

Once a personal representative has been removed, he or she must file a final accounting of his or her administration and surrender any assets in his or her possession to the new personal representative appointed by the court.

If you are involved in a probate where you feel that the personal representative is not qualified or should be removed, or you believe that your appointment as a personal representative in a Florida probate will be challenged, you should contact a Jacksonville Probate Lawyer to discuss your circumstances and options.

June 5, 2012

Planning for Pets who are Part of Your Family: Can a Pet Trust help?

Is your pet a member of your family? If so, you will want to read this article. Do you know what would happen to your pet if something happened to you? Many pet owners have not considered the fate of their pet. After all your pet state laws have not created provisions for you pets to the same extent as they have for your children. Pets in Florida and most states are considered personal property and are dealt with as such.

If you become disabled or die, who will take care of your pets, who will pay for their food, shelter, doctor bills? Who will receive them? Do you want the same person who receives your other personal property to get your pet?

These are some of the issues that pet owners should deal with to create plans for the case where your pet survives you and your spouse.

In Florida What Will Happen to Your Pets When If You Become Disabled or Pass Away?


Without proper planning, your pets may euthanized. Local laws in the area where you pet is located at the time of your death will control what happens to you pet without other provisions. Sometimes in a few days, your pet could be killed if nobody comes forward to claim your pet.

Outright Gifts
Florida law treats pets as personal property. You cannot leave money to a pet directly. You may leave money to a caretaker but you cannot require actions of the caretaker after they receive the money. What will happen if your caretaker does not survive you or the pet?

Statutory Pet Trusts
Most states including Florida have enacted pet trust statutes. These trusts allow you to designate a third-party to use the trust funds for the benefit of pets. While pet trusts can offer a solution, many are choosing to create custom provisions in their standard estate planning that can offer more flexibility without the limitations placed on Pet Trusts by statute.

In determining how much money to allocate for your pets you should consider the current level of care as well as the cost of food, treats, daycare, medical, grooming, insurance and if any additional costs will be incurred because of the amount of land or property needed for the pets. While many people think of pets as dogs and cats, there is growing percentage of the population who have pets with much longer life spans and some can live for more than 100 years. (Birds, horses, reptiles)

Often a standard Will is inadequate for pets. Wills generally do not address disability and because of the long time required to probate a Will.

Funding Pet Care
You may find that other assets can be used to fund the care of your Pet. If you do not have enough assets to take care of your Pet without your continued income, you may consider a life insurance policy that funds the trust or is owned by a trust so that money will be available to take care of your pets in the case of your disability of death.

Conclusion
 There are many issues to consider when making plans for your disability or death in regards to the family pets. In addition, one must be careful not to encourage fraud by the caretaker by creating proper controls and checks. For those of us who consider pets part of our family, most pet trust statutes help but can be to restrictive for many situations. It is important to discuss your goals and objectives with a Florida estate-planning lawyer to determine what if anything you should do to properly provide for your family and your pets.

June 4, 2012

Does Ex-Wife Have Rights to Personal Property?

If you die without a will in Florida, your ex-wife has no rights to any of your personal property unless you have her named a beneficiary in a will or trust or your personal accounts have her listed as a joint account holder or a beneficiary on an account.

Generally most people do not intend to leave their ex-spouse money or property. If you do want to, then its important to make sure you document will be honored. If you will or trust was created before the divorce, then the ex-spouse will be treated as predeceasing you.

If someone who takes personal property of a decedent, they can be subject to criminal charges. It may be necessary to open a Florida Probate to pursue recover of the items that belong to the estate and then distribute them to the correct beneficiaries.

If you are involved in an estate where property is missing or has been taken by the wrong person, contact a Florida Probate attorney to discuss your circumstances by filling out the contact us form on this page.

May 24, 2012

Tort and Probate Law: Tortious Interference and Expected Inheritance

The recent decision of a Florida appellate court has shed some light on a little discussed aspect of tort and probate law in the state of Florida. The Third District Court of Appeals ruled in the case of Saewitz v. Saewitz that to sustain a prima facie case for tortious interference with expected inheritance the plaintiff must prove damages.

In this case, two daughters, Mercedes and Brooke Saewitz claimed that while their father was dying their step-mother Lynn Saewitz manipulated their father and tortuously interfered with their inheritance. At trial, the case was dismissed because the trial judge held that the daughters did not prove the damage element required to make a prima facie case of tortious interference. The elements of the cause of action are as follows:

(1) expectancy by the plaintiff to receive an inheritance;
(2) intentional interference with that expectancy by the defendant;
(3) defendant's interference involves tortious conduct;
(4) reasonable certainty that but for the defendant's tortious interference the plaintiff would have his/her expectancy; and
(5) damages.

Like any tort or crime, all of the elements must be met in order to sustain the claim. If one of the elements is missing, the plaintiff cannot recover. In the Saewitz case the plaintiffs could not determine with any certainty the value of the property that they claim was tortiously interfered with. At trial, three witnesses testified regarding the value of the property, however no one could provide a specific value of the property at the legally recognizable time. Florida requires that the value of the property be measure at the time of conversion. Since no one testified about when the property was actually converted, there is no proper measuring standard.

Because this tort is relatively new in the state of Florida, those who may be going through probate would need a Florida estate planning attorney to assist them if they believe someone has tortiously interfered with their inheritance. If you questions regarding Florida probate law, contact the Law Office of David M. Goldman PLLC and speak with a Jacksonville Probate Litigation Attorney today at (904) 685-1200.

Source: "Tortious Interference with Expected Inheritance in Florida," published at BusinessReviewUSA.com.

May 23, 2012

Florida Appellate Court Adds New Requirement for Trust Contestants

The Fourth District Court of Appeals recently handed down a decision which may impose new requirements on probate plaintiffs who are challenging trusts. In Pasquale, Jr. v. Loving, et. al., the Court held that if a person is contesting a trust, the contestant must also contest the will if the trust is incorporated by reference into the will.

The plaintiffs filed a complaint with the probate court challenging trust documents that accompanied a last will and testament. The complaint did not address the last will and testament directly. The defendants moved to dismiss the complaint because the defendant's argued that the plaintiff's complaint did not attack the will, which was required since the trust was incorporated into the last will by reference. "In other words, the Defendants argued that even if the Plaintiffs were somehow successful in overturning the Trust instruments, the Will would still govern per its incorporation of the overturned Trust into the Will." The probate court agreed with the defendant's and dismissed the probate suit with prejudice.

The Fourth District Court of Appeals reversed the probate court's ruling, even though the language of the appeal suggested that the Court agreed with the defendant's reasoning. The Court held that a trust contestant is required to challenge the will if the trust is incorporated into the will by reference, but when the Court analyzed the facts of this case, it held that the complaint could be construed as challenging the will even though the precise language is missing.

What is important for probate attorneys is that the Court has imposed a new requirements for when a client is claiming that a trust is legally ineffective. Such a requirement may be overlooked by those pursuing probate claims without the assistance of a Jacksonville estate planning attorney. If you have questions about a Florida Probate, an estate, or about a will or a trust, contact the Law Office of David M. Goldman PLLC today at (904) 685-1200.

Source: "Fourth DCA: A Trust Contestant May Need to Challenge the Will, Too [Florida]," by Charles Rubin, published at JDSupra.com.

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May 10, 2012

Adding Kids To Deeds Can Place Florida Homestead in Jeopardy to Creditors

Joseph Percope has written an article The Impact of Co-ownership on Florida Homestead in the Florida Bar Journal that discusses the tree kinds of homesteads defined in a 1997 Florida Supreme Court case: The tax exemption; The Protection from Creditors; and The restrictions on alienation of homestead property in Florida.

While most are primarily concerned with their tax breaks, as a Florida Estate Planning Lawyer we often deal with the second two more often in our planning. We see families attempting to avoid probate by adding kids on to deeds all the time. We also see parents who own part of their children's homes. The problem begins when in either of these situations one or more of the owners does not live in the home. The home or at the ownership of the person not living in the home is subject to the claims of their creditors.

When no ownership percentage is specified, Florida will apply equal percentages of ownership to each person named on the deed. If a single person adds their child onto their deed as joint tenants with rights of survivorship, 50 percent of the equity in the home will be exposed to the creditors of the child who is not living in the home.

Once a creditor takes an ownership in the home, it is possible to force the sale of the home.

While these types of deeds are rarely a good idea because of the tax and basis considerations, many have not considered the additional risk due to the creditors of co-owners who do not live in the home or qualify for the second type of homestead (the constitutional protection from creditors)

The same scenario applies to those who try to use a traditional life estate deed to avoid probate. ( a Florida Enhanced Life Estate Deed does not have many of the problems that a traditional life estate does.

If you are trying to avoid probate in Florida and would like to also have protection for your homestead from creditors, not have adverse tax consequences, not lose stepped up basis, and/or not create a disqualifying transfer of assets for Medicaid purposes, you should contact a Florida Estate Planning Lawyer to discuss how to protect your homestead and the options available that deal with your circumstances and goals.
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May 8, 2012

Can a Florida Will Be Changed After Death?

Thumbnail image for will and testament.bmpHistorically a Florida Will could not be changed and had to be strictly complied with by in a Florida Probate.

A recent change to Florida Probate allows for the court to step in and change the terms of a person's will when there is no question about what the terms when there is clear evidence that what the testator intended.

Anyone can ask a court to change the terms of a Florida Will when there is clear and convincing evidence that a mistake of fac or mistake of law caused the will to reflect something other than the testator's true intent.

Mistake of law is a legal principle referring to one or more errors that were made by a person in understanding how the applicable law applied to their past activity that is under analysis by a court.

The underlying intent of this new law is to carry out the true intentions of the testator.

May 4, 2012

Florida Enhanced Life Estate Deed and Medicaid Planning

A Florida Enhanced Life Estate Deed (sometimes called "The Lady-Bird Deed" is a tool used by Florida Estate Planning Attorneys, Florida Elder Law Attorneys, and other by Florida Lawyers to preserve the homestead for the benefit of the family and avoid a Probate in Florida. Upon the death of the homeowner's the property will pass to the people designated without the need for a costly probate process in much the same way as a bank account with a beneficiary designation.

Jacksonville Duval Clay Orange ParkWhy Use an Enhanced Life Estate Deed?
The Florida Enhanced Life Estate Deed provides a mechanism to bypass the probate process and thus the creditors. Under this document, the husband and/or wife retain a Life Estate Interest under which he or she retains the right to live on the property for their life. Unlike a Life estate, the husband and/or wife retain the right to sell, mortgage, convey, gift, or cancel the remainder interest at any time during their life. If there is any property interest upon the last to die of the husband and/or wife, the remainder will pass in fee simple to the designated individuals named in the deed.

Who should use the Enhanced Life Estate Deed?
A Florida Enhanced Life Estate Deed or Florida Lady-Bird Deed should be use by individuals or couples who want to simplify the transfer of their property upon their death and retain full authority and possession over their property.

Will using an Enhanced Life Estate Deed affect my Florida Medicaid Eligibility?
As long as the individuals demonstrate an "intent-to-return" to the homestead Medicaid Eligibility should not be affected.

What are some common mistakes with deeds?
Many Florida residents add their children on their deeds as Joint Tenants with Rights of Survivorship.
Many Florida Residents deed their property to their children and retain a life estate.

What can happen if I have made a common mistake on my deed?
1) My home may not be protected from creditors and/or loose its homestead protection.
2) I may be disqualified from Medicaid in the event that I need to go into a Nursing home.
3) I may have made a gift, subject to Federal Gift Taxes, Penalties, and Interest which my heirs and/or family may be responsible for paying.
4) I may not be able to sell my home or use the proceeds from my home to enhance my quality of life, travel, or pay for the necessary medical care I need.

If I have made a mistake transferring my property, can it be fixed?
Yes, You should meet with a Florida Estate Planning Lawyer to evaluate your situation, and prepare the documents necessary to allow you to qualify for Medicaid, deal with the Gift taxes, protect your homestead, and pass your homestead to the desired beneficiaries without the costly expense and delay of Florida probate.

May 3, 2012

Gay and Lesbian Issues Breaking News

The fight for Jacksonville equality is reaching its crescendo. The Jacksonville City Council will soon consider legislation presented to them which if passed would offer protections to the LGBT community. Currently, the Jacksonville human rights ordinance does not provide protection for the gay community. That means that those persons who are gay, lesbian, and transgender have little to no shelter from discrimination in the workplace, housing, and public accommodations.

There have been several Florida cities and municipalities that have amended or put in place legislation to protect this vulnerable segment of society. If passed the bill in Jacksonville would prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Almost two weeks ago, Tampa Mayor, Bob Buckhorn signed legislation that will put into place a Domestic Partnership Registry. Similar registries exist in Palm Beach County, Miami-Dade County, and more recently Orange County.

The requirements to register are many but usually require that, among other things.

(1) The couple resides in the county where they apply;
(2) each person is 18 years of age; and
(3) Each party agrees to be jointly responsible for each other's basic good, shelter, common necessities of life and welfare.
The benefits can be huge, including the ability to visit and make decisions regarding health care and funeral/burial arrangements, pre-need guardian designation for incapacitated partners, and visitation rights in correctional and health care facilities.

If you are interested in learning ways in which you can protect your rights and the rights of your partner, contact a Jacksonville Gay and Lesbian Estate Planning Lawyer.

May 1, 2012

What are Probate Assets in Florida?

Florida statutes define probate assets as those assets subject to a probate administration. There are several types of Probate in Florida which are discussed in our Free Florida Probate Handbook that you can request.

Often it is easier to define which assets are not subject to probate.
In Florida any asset with a surviving joint owner, valid payable on death designation, or contract clause which defines what happens to the asset upon death are not subject to probate. Often these include life insurance policies, annuities contract or retirement account with a transfer on death clause, jointly owned bank accounts, real estate with and valid beneficiary designation clause. One of the most common items that is not subject to probate is a Florida homestead. While a homestead is not devised through probate typically, title companies will often require it to be dealt with in a Florida probate to issue title insurance. The good news is unless you messed up your will or other documents, a Florida Homestead will not be subject to the claims of your creditors or the creditors of your beneficiaries if it is their homestead.

a Florida Probate can be expensive so it is wise to review your estate plan with a Jacksonville Estate Planning Lawyer to see if any of your assets will be subject to a Florida Probate and if a probate in Florida can be avoided.