probate.jpgWho gets make the funeral arrangements for our parents? Why was Dad or Mom Cremated? How can I stop my mom, step-parent, parents significant other, or sibling from the improper disposition of my relatives remains?

These are all questions dealing with the same issue: Who gets to make the decision about the disposition of a person who has recently died? As a Florida Estate Planning Lawyer we always talk to our clients about the importance of discussing your desires with those who will make the decisions, but what if someone takes over and does something that was not wanted? Can it be stopped? In most cases, the damage may be done before you have knowledge of what is happening, but in some cases there is time to stop arrangements. Florida statutes define the legally authorized person who can make the decisions regarding disposition of a body. In doing so there is a priority list that starts with the decedent, as it should.

That means if you make arrangements regarding your disposition, your decisions should be followed – as long as they are known, and able to be learned of prior to alternative arrangements being carried out.

Next a person listed on your Department of Defense Record of Emergency Data (DD Form 93) for those who die while serving in military service.

If there are no documents, the surviving spouse, even if not living as husband and wife, an adult child, a parent, an adult sibling, an adult grandchild, a grandparent, and if you exhaust that list it can be any person in the next degree of kinship. The Florida Statutes even provide that if there is no family member, the guardian, the personal representative, the attorney in fact, health surrogate, a public health officer, medical examiner, county commission, or basically any one willing to assume the responsibility as the legally authorized person.

If the decision is made my someone in a class of people (one of several adult children) to cremate a body, the funeral establishment can rely on that one person as long as the person represents that she or he is not aware of any objection to the cremation by others in the same class or any person in a higher priority class.

A Florida Estate Planning Lawyer can help educate you on how to property draft documents to make sure you understand how to address these issues properly, while you can and before it causes problems between your family members. Does your Florida Estate Planning address the following?

How do I make sure my wishes are carried out? and
How to I educate those whom will make the decision as to how to make sure that my wished are carried out?

Jacksonville gay and lesbian issues lawyer.jpgJacksonville Estate Planning Attorneys working in Jacksonville Beach watch for Florida issues about gay and same-sex partner benefits.

More and more Florida counties are making positive steps by providing health care and other benefits for same-sex couples. Central Florida’s publicly owned Orlando Utilities Commission (OUC) now offers Florida Domestic Partnership health care benefits for the domestic partners of their employees. Some nationwide companies that do business in Florida likewise provide same-sex partner benefits.

Despite the fact that Florida does not recognize gay marriage, newly-released U.S. Census figures, show nearly 6,800 same sex couples call the Sunshine State home. That’s based on how many gay couples checked the “husband” or “wife” options. The Census bureau also reported an estimate of the number of same sex couples in Florida, both married and unmarried, at 48,456.

Gay couples who reside in Jacksonville Beach are wise to make their own benefits. A Jacksonville Estate Planning Lawyer can provide many options so you can provide benefits for your partner. Estate Planning can consist of having a will drawn up, a revocable living trust prepared,and other legal documents which will give your loved-ones the protection and security they need.

A Jacksonville Florida Living Trust is used to avoid the probate process and possible will contests from disapproving family members. A trust is set up and managed during your lifetime and avoids the need for a guardianship over your property in the event you become incapacitated. A trust must be funded and titled in specific ways to be effective, but the benefits are many.

Meet with a Jacksonville Beach lawyer sensitive to the unique issues that same-sex couples and unmarried partners face.

Domestic Asset Protection Trusts (DAPT) have become the latest rage in estate planning and asset protection. We have generally found that there are better ways of protecting assets from creditors by using traditional estate planning that has case-law history.

In a recent US bankruptcy case, a DAPT was invalidated and the 10-year bankruptcy statute of limitations in regards to trusts was upheld. This was an Alaskan case using an Alaskan DAPT but similar results should be expected in other jurisdictions.

If you are interested in Florida Asset Protection or Asset Protection in Jacksonville, contact a Florida Asset Protection Lawyer to discuss your circumstances and options that are available to help protect your assets from creditors or increase the ability to negotiate with creditors.

DCF will reject Medicaid planning involving trusts and personal service contracts where a power of attorney is executed after 10/1/11 and the DPOA does not specifically authorize the ability to execute trusts or personal services contracts.

If you are using forms for a POA or DPOA, you should have them reviewed by an attorney as the may not be valid with the recent law change. In addition, the forms may not let you accomplish what needs to be done in regards to planning for a nursing home or Medicaid eligibility.

I recently had a client inquiry with us regarding the transfer of real property which was upside down or had negative equity. Typically when one transfers property of value to another to avoid a creditor’s reach, the creditor can seek to have the transaction reversed under the theory of a fraudulent transfer.

Florida statute 726.102 seems to define assets which are subject to this to only include those which have a value on the date of transfer. If the property had a negative equity, it would appear that a future increase in value would not subject the property to the fraudulent transfer statutes. Given this a property transferred when there was no equity in the property should be protected if the property’s value later increased. There does not appear to be any case-law that is directly on topic and of course there is no guarantee that this would protect the asset. If you are trying to structure your assets for protection from creditors you should talk with a Jacksonville Asset Protection Lawyer to review your circumstances and what options you have.

steve jobs.jpgToday there is much speculation about what Steve Jobs’ will reading will reveal about his life. Steve Jobs has always been very quiet and protective about his personal life and we all know that he has been very good at protecting business secrets.

I was interviewed today about what Steve Jobs’s will and the potential huge estate tax that will be paid. I think if you look at how he managed his life and businesses, it is likely that if Steve had a will, it will not be read and there will be no probate. I believe that none or almost none of his assets will pass under a traditional probate and that there will be no boom to the economy from his huge estate. Steve was married at the time he died and as such jointly held assets or those in a joint trust will probably not be subject to any estate taxes.

It is unlikely that we will hear anything in the next few months and may never know about Steve’s estate.

Forbes is reporting that Steve Jobs’s estate will probably not owe taxes also

IN RE AMENDMENTS TO FLORIDA PROBATE RULES
IN RE: AMENDMENTS TO THE FLORIDA PROBATE RULES.

No. SC11-1575.

Supreme Court of Florida.

September 28, 2011.

Tasha K. Pepper-Dickinson, Co-Chair, and John Christopher Moran, Co-Chair, Florida Probate Rules Committee, West Palm Beach, Florida; John F. Harkness, Jr., Executive Director, and Krys Godwin, Bar Liaison, The Florida Bar, Tallahassee, Florida, for Petitioner.

PER CURIAM.
In response to recent legislation, The Florida Bar’s Probate Rules Committee (Committee) has filed an out-of-cycle, fast-track report of proposed amendments to the Florida Probate Rules. We have jurisdiction. See art. V, § 2(a), Fla. Const.; Fla. R. Jud. Admin. 2.140(e).
The Committee proposes amendments to rules 5.025 (Adversary Proceedings), and 5.240 (Notice of Administration). The proposals are in response to statutory changes made by chapter 2011-183, Laws of Florida, which went into effect upon being signed into law by the Governor on June 21, 2011. See ch. 2011-183, §§ 3-4, 8, 14, Laws of Fla. (creating §§ 732.615, 732.616, Fla. Stat.; amending § 733.212, Fla. Stat. (2010); providing effective date). The Executive Committee of the Board of Governors of The Florida Bar unanimously approved the proposals.

After considering the Committee’s proposals and reviewing the relevant legislation, we adopt the Committee’s proposals.1 Subdivision (a) (Specific Adversary Proceedings) of rule 5.025 is amended to add proceedings to reform a will, modify a will, and determine pretermitted status to the list of probate and guardianship proceedings that are “adversary proceedings” to which the Rules of Civil Procedure apply under the rule. The Committee determined that the new actions to reform or modify a will created by chapter 2011-183, sections 3-4, Laws of Fla. (creating §§ 732.615, 732.616, Fla. Stat.), should be treated as adversary proceedings. The Committee also determined that an action to determine a pretermitted share should be treated as an adversary proceeding.

Subdivision (d)(2) of rule 5.025 is amended to exclude Rule of Civil Procedure 1.525 (Motion for Costs and Attorney Fees) from the requirement that the Rules of Civil Procedure govern adversary probate and guardianship proceedings. Cf. Amendments to Fla. Family Law Rules of Procedure (Rule 12.525), 897 So.2d 467 (Fla. 2005) (adopting new rule 12.525 to provide that rule 1.525 shall not apply to proceedings governed by family law rules).

Consistent with statutory changes made by chapter 2011-183, section 8, Laws of Florida (amending § 733.212, Fla. Stat. (2010)), subdivision (b)(2) of rule 5.240 (Notice of Administration) is amended to require that a notice of administration include a statement that “the fiduciary lawyer-client privilege in section 90.5021, Florida Statutes, applies with respect to the personal representative and any attorney employed by the personal representative.”

Accordingly, we amend the Florida Probate Rules as reflected in the appendix to this opinion. New language is underscored, and deleted language is struck through. The committee notes are offered for explanation only and are not adopted as an official part of the rules. The amendments shall become effective immediately upon the release of this opinion. Because the amendments were not published for comment prior to their adoption, interested persons shall have sixty days from the date of this opinion in which to file comments with the Court.

It is so ordered.

CANADY, C.J., and PARIENTE, LEWIS, QUINCE, POLSTON, LABARGA, and PERRY, JJ., concur.
THE FILING OF A MOTION FOR REHEARING SHALL NOT ALTER THE EFFECTIVE DATE OF THESE AMENDMENTS.

APPENDIX

RULE 5.025. ADVERSARY PROCEEDINGS

(a) Specific Adversary Proceedings. The following must beare adversary proceedings unless otherwise ordered by the court: proceedings to remove a personal representative, surcharge a personal representative, remove a guardian, surcharge a guardian, probate a lost or destroyed will or later-discovered will, determine beneficiaries, construe a will, reform a will, modify a will, cancel a devise, partition property for the purposes of distribution, determine pretermitted status, determine pretermitted share, determine amount of elective share and contribution, and for revocation of probate of a will.

(b) Declared Adversary Proceedings. Other proceedings may be declared adversary by service on interested persons of a separate declaration that the proceeding is adversary.
(1) If served by the petitioner, the declaration shallmust be served with the petition to which it relates.
(2) If served by the respondent, the declaration and a written response to the petition shallmust be served at the earlier of:

(A) within 20 days after service of the petition, or (B) prior to the hearing date on the petition.

(3) When the declaration is served by a respondent, the petitioner shallmust promptly serve formal notice on all other interested persons.
(c) [No Change]
(d) Notice and Procedure in Adversary Proceedings.

(1) Petitioner shallmust serve formal notice.
(2) After service of formal notice, the proceedings, as nearly as practicable, shallmust be conducted similar to suits of a civil nature and the Florida Rules of Civil Procedure shall govern, including entry of defaults. The Florida Rules of Civil Procedure govern, except for rule 1.525.
(3) The court on its motion or on motion of any interested person may enter orders to avoid undue delay in the main administration.
(4) If a proceeding is already commenced when an order is entered determining the proceeding to be adversary, it shallmust thereafter be conducted as an adversary proceeding. The order shallmust require interested persons to serve written defenses, if any, within 20 days from the date of the order. It shallis not be necessary to re-serve the petition except as ordered by the court.
(5) When the proceedings are adversary, the caption of subsequent pleadings, as an extension of the probate caption, shallmust include the name of the first petitioner and the name of the first respondent.

Rule 5.240. Notice of Administration (a) [No Change]
(b) Contents. The notice shall state:

  • (1) the name of the decedent, the file number of the estate, the designation and address of the court in which the proceedings are pending, whether the estate is testate or intestate, and, if testate, the date of the will and any codicils;
  • (2) the name and address of the personal representative and of the personal representative’s attorney, and that the fiduciary lawyer-client privilege in section 90.5021, Florida Statutes, applies with respect to the personal representative and any attorney employed by the personal representative;
  • (3) that any interested person on whom the notice is served who challenges the validity of the will, the qualifications of the personal representative, venue, or jurisdiction of the court is required tomust file any objections with the court in the manner provided in the Florida Probate Rules within the time required by law or those objections are forever barred;
  • (4) that any person entitled to exempt property is required tomust file a petition for determination of exempt property within the time provided by law or the right to exempt property is deemed waived; and
  • (5) that an election to take an elective share must be filed within the time provided by law.

(c) Copy of Will. Unless the court directs otherwise, the personal representative of a testate estate shallmust, upon written request, furnish a copy of the will and all codicils admitted to probate to any person on whom the notice of administration was served.
(d) [No Change]
(e) Waiver of Service. For the purpose of determining deadlines established by reference to the date of service of a copy of the notice of administration in cases in which service has been waived, service on a person who has waived notice shall beis deemed to occur on the date the waiver is filed.

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