When a person cannot take care of himself or herself, a court may appoint a guardian to take care of that person and/or that person’s affairs. The person appointed a guardian is known as “ward.” A guardian has the powers and duties stated in Florida Statutes section 744.361. The Ward retains the rights stated in Florida Statutes section 744.3215.

Types of Guardianship

There are three types of guardianship: guardianship of the person, of the property, and of the person and property. The court may appoint the type of guardianship that it determines is appropriate for the ward’s incapacity.

guardianship.pngWhat is Guardianship?

Guardianship is a legal process in which the circuit court appoints someone to protect and exercise the legal rights of an incapacitated person. A person is incapacitated if it is judicially determined that the person lacks capacity to manage at least some of his or her property, or to meet at least some of the essential health and safety requirements. An incapacitated person is known as a “ward,” and the individual appointed by the court to act on behalf of the ward’s person, property, or both is known as a “guardian.” A guardian can be an individual or an institution.

How is it Determined that a Person is Incapacitated?

florida-pet-trust.jpgWe often get questions regarding the creation of Pet Trusts in Florida. Florida Statutes have provided for pet trusts for many years but they do not always make sense. I have attached a document which you can use to help gather information that will be necessary to determine if a Florida Pet trust is right for your family or you should be looking to add separate provisions to your Florida Will or Florida Revocable Trust to deal with taking care of your pets in the case that you are unable to. Which ever way you decide to go, we provide free Pet Trust provisions or instructions with all of our estate plans when they are requested. This means that there are no additional charges for standard instructions or basic Pet Trusts with any estate plan we draft. Obviously if your situation requires a more complex plan there will be charges associated with it, but we love animals and want to make it easy and inexpensive to take care of your pets.

To begin the process download the Florida Pet Trust Document, take a few minutes to complete it and return it to us with your estate planning objectives.

greenhouse.pngYou can transfer ownership of your real estate property through probate, or by signing an instrument known as a deed.1 Using a deed to transfer ownership of your real estate allows you to bypass probate, but there are some risks associated with this alternative. This blog discusses the advantages and disadvantages of using a deed to transfer ownership of your real estate property.

Advantages of Using a Deed to Transfer Ownership

  1. A transfer by deed can allow you to reserve the right to use the real estate property transferred for the remainder of your lifetime: There are different types of deeds that can be used to transfer property and each one of them serve a different purpose. Some deeds, like the life estate deed, allow you to transfer ownership of your real estate property while reserving you the right to use the property for the remainder of your lifetime.

What happens if I die without a will in Florida?

Florida probate law has changed recently with regard to people who die intestate (without a will) and are married.

If you have no descendants, your entire intestate estate will go to your spouse. This does not typically include your home or other non-probate assets.

While personal income tax returns and gift tax returns for taxable gifts made during 2011 are due on or before April 17, 2012, estate tax returns for decedents who died during 2011 are not due on April 17, 2012.

If a decedent who died in 2011 is required to file a federal estate tax return or a generation-Skipping Tax Return, it is due on or before nine months after the decedent’s date of death.

For example, if the death occurred on April 1, 2011, then IRS Form 706 will be was Due on or before January 1, 2012. If they died after April 1st you still have time to file the returns.

In Florida when a Summary Administration is used to Probate an estate the Florida Probate must be converted to a Formal Administration to allow for a will contest.

There are time limits to object to a will so it is important to file documents timely. If the probate has not been opened in Florida it is possible to file a caveat. A caveat is a notice that is file in the probate court that allows you an opportunity to object to a will or the appointment of a personal representative. It is basically a notice to the court to give you an opportunity to respond before the court appoints a PR or admits the will for probate in Florida.

It is more difficult to remove a PR after they are appointed so if you feel that something is wrong, it is a good idea to file a caveat as soon as possible.

John Buchanan has an article in Central Florida’s Agri-Leader which was published on October 24th which discusses the effects of the expiration of the estate tax exemption on farmers.

Many farmers end up loosing farms because of estate taxes and the inability of their families to become liquid enough to pay the estate tax bills. Over the past few years, the estate tax exemption has been high enough that many small farmers have not had to worry about this effect, but that could all change on January 1, 2013.

I was interviewed by John Buchanan about some of the potential solutions that small farmers could use to help insulate against the huge tax changes set to take effect next year.

Phyllis Korkki with the NY Times wrote an article dealing with some of the problems our aging society has when they have no children or natural caregivers and ways to help deal with it. In the article, she quotes me in dealing with some ways you can use legal documents that can be prepared by an attorney to deal with giving someone legal rights to help you make decisions if and when you need it.

These documents can also help avoid a guardianship and limit the ability for some to hijack your assets and use them up with unnecessary fees.

Follow this link to the NY Time article or contact us to discuss how we can provide documents to help manage these situations for your, your friends, or your family.

florida-case-law.jpgIn the Florida case of Jervis v. Tucker, 37 Fla. L. Weekly D349 (Fla. 4th DCA 2012)

Bernice J. Meikle executed a revocable trust agreement in 1991, which she subsequently amended by executing a first amendment. Her trust, as amended by the first amendment,

provided that Meikle’s power to revoke or amend the trust would be suspended upon her being “adjudicated incapacitated by a court of appropriate jurisdiction.” The trust further provided that Meikle’s powers could be restored by an order of an appropriate court having jurisdiction over Meikle, or upon the issuance and receipt by the Trustee of a written opinion from two licensed physicians after their examination of Meikle.

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