The general rule in estate planning is that if something is not in writing it usually will not be legally valid.  For instance, Florida law requires a Will or trust must be in writing to be effective.  However, one question we often receive is if a promise to create a will or trust is enforceable by a court?

The answer is a promise can be enforceable. However, certain conditions would have to occur.  To further explain, the promise would have to meet the formal requirements of a contract.  A contract, whether written or oral, must have three elements to be enforceable.
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Florida offers some of the strongest homestead protection laws in all of the United States.  When a resident of Florida dies, the law protects the surviving spouse and minor children from becoming homeless by preventing the decedent from giving his or her estate to someone else through a Will or Trust.  However, a recent court ruling may have weakened the homestead law.

These laws provided by the Florida Constitution are strong, but there are some limitations by recent court decisions.  A Florida Probate Court created a limitation in the case of Marger v. De Rosa, 57 So. 3d 866, 866 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 2011) where a mother and son owned a home as joint tenants with rights of survivorship.   The son, Mr. De Rosa, had two minor children when he purchased the home with his mother.  A few years later he died with no surviving spouse, two minor children, and an adult child.
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Florida Trust Code & the Florida Long Arm Statute

There are many estate planning benefits for creating a revocable or irrevocable trust in Florida. Trusts can help our Jacksonville clients avoid probate, efficiently manage assets, save money on estate taxes, and protect assets. A person can create a trust in any state, but Florida is unique because of the Statutes that make up the Florida Trust Code.

One of these is the Florida Trust Code’s long arm statute. This law can be found under Florida Statute 762.0202, is a law that was specifically tailored to protect Florida trusts in litigation. This law states that a Florida probate court will decide just about any lawsuit or litigation involving a trust created in Florida.

As a Jacksonville elder law attorney we often run across phone scams that target the elderly.  Besides the typical IRS and credit card scams the Department of Elder Affairs is warning Florida residents to watch out for scam artists who are allegedly making calls pretending to be the Department or an organization they refer to as Senior Services. These callers are using a method known as “spoofing” to make it appear on Caller ID as if the call is coming from a number belonging to the Florida Department of Elder Affairs’ fax line – (850) 414-2004.
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A Florida Ladybird deed has become one of the increasingly most used estate planning tools by the some of best Jacksonville estate planning attorneys.  One common questions we receive at our Jacksonville estate planning law firm  is how the Ladybird deed works under Florida’s current homestead protections.

In Florida, a Ladybird deed is also known as an enhanced life estate deed.  This type of deed permits a person or family that owns real estate, most often a home, to transfer a future interest in the property while keeping a present interest. This type of transfer permits the person to live on the property until he or she dies.   A Ladybird deed is special because it allows the enhanced life estate holder more power than a standard life estate holder.  Unlike the standard life estate deed, the ladybird deed allows the life tenant (typically the original owner) to sell, convey, or mortgage the property and the holder is not liable to the future interest holders for misuse of the property.
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One question the top Jacksonville elder law and estate planning attorneys often receive is who can make burial arrangements in Florida. Does it have to be the next of kin, or can any family member or interested party make funeral arrangements? Another similar question we often receive is what happens if a family member refuses to sign for burial rights? This article should answer these issues by explaining the current Florida law.

Luckily, Florida law has tried to clear up any burial issues by codifying an extensive set of rules for burial rights. A person can find the relevant law under Florida Statute 497.005 (43). The first part of this statute defines some important terms under the law. For instance, the law defines “human remains” as the body of a deceased human person that requires a death certificate or fetal death certificate, and the body is in a stage of decomposition.

The primary section needed to solve these questions is found under number 43, which is the definition of “legally authorized person.” This definition is a priority list for what individual can make funeral arrangements. According to the statute, the decedent, or the dead person, has priority to make the choice. This means during the decedent lifetime he or she authorized a particular burial plan through an estate planning document. This type of authorization is likely found in a Living Will or another form of an advanced directive. For example, a common type of burial authorization will be a listed preference for burial or cremation.

I have recently become acquainted with a bank who does business very different than traditional banks.  As we do Trust funding for many of our estate planning, elder law, and asset protection packages, we have the opportunity to interact with many banks around the area.  One of the recent banks that I have been impressed with because of their understanding of revocable and irrevocable trusts is Seacoast Bank.  There interest rates much higher than many of the local banks and offer trust services at a good value.  They recently interviewed me about Florida estate planning and asset protection and here is the link to the interview.

Remarriage Protection

Many lawyers proclaim to have remarriage protection in their estate planning documents, but few estate plans deal with these issues completely. A traditional trust that deals with remarriage will include language that permits or limits the surviving spouse rights to benefit in the event of future marriage.  While this may seem like a good way of dealing with this potential conflict, it is often insufficient to protect the surviving spouse and kids from the numerous methods that can be used to gun a trust prior to the marriage.  In the end, your kids are the ones that loose out.
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Like many deaths, the death of the legendary pop star Prince came as a shock and surprise for the world.  What shocked estate planning attorneys even more so is the possibility that Prince may have died without a will or an estate plan, which could have huge ramifications for his estate and heirs.

Estate planning has many benefits that include allowing a person the peace of mind of knowing how their assets will be divided among his or her heirs.  Estate planning is also one of the best ways a person can preserve his or her wealth, avoid costly taxes, and ensure friends and loved ones are provided for.  Many individuals also choose to protect their assets with certain types of trusts.

Prince died at the age of 57 and his estate is estimated to be worth around $300 million.  What many people do not realize is that when a person’s estate goes through the probate process without any estate planning, the estate will be taxed by the federal and state government.  It is likely that his estate will be hit by a federal estate tax rate of 40 and state tax rate of 16 percent.  This means Prince’s estate may have to pay more than $120 million in taxes before it can be passed to his heirs.

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