Beneficiaries or people who think they are beneficiaries of trusts often ask up if they should receive regular payments or distributions from a trust. As with most legal issues the answers “depends on the circumstances and what the documents state”.

Without reviewing your trust to determine if it is a revocable trust, revocable trust that has become irrevocable, or an irrevocable trust as well who the beneficiaries it is difficult to tell whether you are entitled to anything.

Sometimes people think they are beneficiaries when they are contingent beneficiaries and have no rights until a triggering event occurs. Often that is the death of the person who created the trust or their spouse.

Unpdaid long-term care bills are increasing and becoming more of a problem in many states. All 50 States have statutes that obligate adults to care for children or other family members; if your parent lives in one of 29 states, you could be held responsible for your parents unpaid long-term care bills. What? How could this be? are the typical reactions to many living in these unfortunate states.

Katherine Pearson at Penn State Law School has written a paper on Fillal Support Laws and the enforcement Practices for laws requiring adult children to pay for indigent parents.

Her abstract states:

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.

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.

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:

Although 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.

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.

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

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.

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.

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