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Sunday, May 22, 2016

Buying or Selling a Home? Top 4 Reasons to Use a Florida Real Estate Attorney


Buying or Selling a Home? Top 4 Reasons to Use a Florida Real Estate Attorney

By Jarryd M. Dalfino, Esquire

May 22, 2016

Home ownership. Whether a secluded ranch house, a millionaire’s mansion, a downtown condo, or the emblematic suburban house with a white picket fence, home ownership is a staple feature of the American dream. In order to achieve the dream of home ownership, the average American must make the single largest financial investment of their lives. For example, in Florida the average price of a home in 2016 is approximately $224,000.


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Wednesday, May 28, 2014

What's the healthiest State for Seniors?

America’s Health Rankings Senior Report rated Minnesota the healthiest state in the nation for adults aged 65 and over — beating out Hawaii. And that retiree and snowbird haven, Florida? It came in 28th.

The report grades states on 34 individual measures ranging from the amount of physical activity to prescription drug coverage to flu vaccinations. New Hampshire, Vermont, and Massachusetts round out the top five states. Minnesota stands out in a number of key indicators beyond volunteering. Seniors in the state have the lowest prevalence of cognitive problems, and they visit the dentist often.

Seth Boffeli, spokesman for AARP Minnesota said the report underscores that decades of proactive efforts have paid off. He says Minnesota was ahead of the curve in moving towards community-based living for seniors and away from institutionalized nursing home care, when possible. “We saw early on that you could treat three people in the community for the same amount that it costs to put one person in nursing home,” Boffeli said. But, when needed, the state’s nursing home quality also scored high, according to the report.

Another key indicator for Minnesota was a low rate of seniors facing “food insecurity” — a lack of access to sufficient and nutritious food. “We have made real efforts to increase the number of seniors who are eligible…for the state’s food assistance program to actually enroll,” said Lucinda Jesson, state Human Services Commissioner.

Let's take some cues from Minnesota and improve Florida's ranking!

Source/more: Kaiser Health News 


Sunday, December 29, 2013

Proactive Small Business Planning

Protect Your New Business with Preventative Legal Planning

Most Legal Issues Can Be Resolved Before They Even Arise. Here’s How.

Most people are familiar with the idea of “preventative” legal action. The term refers to anticipating legal issues and conflicts and working to prevent them, rather than solving them or “winning” them once they occur. Companies can benefit from implementing preventative legal strategies as this approach is often less expensive than litigation, mediation, arbitration, and local, state and federal fines.

By working with an attorney early on in the creation of your new business, you can build a sound foundation for your company while likely saving money down the road. The following steps can serve as a great starting point for sound legal planning:

  1. Establish a relationship with an attorney who can assist you with the legal issues your new business will face early on in the start-up process. When an attorney is familiar with your firm from the onset, he or she can more effectively anticipate and address legal challenges and provide solutions. Also, many business law attorneys will allow for a flat-fee relationship that enables you to address legal issues as they arise without incurring any additional expenses.

  2. Determine what you want, negotiate it and memorialize it in proper legal documents. Businesses encounter disagreements with vendors, landlords, employees, partners and others. To minimize the number of conflicts, it’s important to establish written contracts for all important agreements, arrangements and accommodations.

    A business law attorney can help you identify all key concerns regarding employee compensation and benefits, property usage and maintenance, relationships with suppliers and responsibility and profit sharing with partners. An attorney can ensure that, when a question, disagreement or conflict arises, your interests are written down, clearly stated and legally protected by a mutual agreement with the party in question.

  3. There are many exciting steps in starting a new business venture; selecting the type of legal entity the business will be is rarely one of them. Yet, it’s important to select a business structure early. Corporations offer numerous advantages but also require officers, boards, articles of incorporation and other formalities. Partnerships and sole proprietorships are simpler than most other business structures but open owners to potentially costly liability. Limited liability companies offer a middle ground for many, providing a liability shield and comparative simplicity. A business attorney can help you determine which business structure will work best for you by taking into account tax planning, location and other key considerations.

Even with preventative legal planning, a lawsuit may arise. If it does, it’s important to approach it from a business, not a personal standpoint. This strategy can help you make decisions that are best for your company’s future, keep your focus on the day-to-day needs of your business and avoid unnecessarily disclosing information. For legal advice and hands-on assistance during the formation and continued operation of your business, contact a qualified business attorney.


Wednesday, October 16, 2013

New Requirements for Homeowner Associations

By November 22, 2013, all homeowners associations are required to register with the Florida Department of Business and Professional Registration.  In addition, there is a new requirement for directors and officers to carry fidelity insurance. 

These rules are similar to ones that already exist for condominium associations and are now starting to apply to homeowners associations.  

Here is an overview:  

  • All HOAs must register by November 22, 2013 to the Department of Business and Professional Regulation.  
  • Registration begins online on October 1, 2013.  Here is the website where Associations can register.
  • The Association's legal name, federal employer identification number, mailing and physical addresses, the total number of parcels, and the total amount of revenues and expenses from the Association's annual budget is information that will be included online.
  • Records must be maintained for 7 years, within 45 miles of the community, or within the same county; and allowing that they be recorded electronically.  Copy costs are reduced to 0.25 per page and personnel costs for requests that exceed ½ hour or more than 25 pages are $20 per hour. 
  • New board members must certify that they have read the governing documents and must uphold them to the best of their ability within 90 days of election or appointment. 
  • Associations must obtain a Fidelity Bond/Crime and Fidelity Insurance, but there is no minimum coverage amount.  It can also be waived by a majority vote at an annual or special meeting of the members.
  • In order for a contract to be approved with board members, a 2/3rds vote must exist and it must be found fair and reasonable.  Once approved, the board must disclose the contract at the next member meeting and any member can make a motion to cancel.  If it is canceled by a majority vote, the contract is void. 
  • Officers, directors, and property managers are prevented from receiving any goods or services without payment except for meals, not to exceed $25, as part of a business meeting or items at trade fairs or education programs.  If this is violated, it can mean immediate expulsion from their respective position.
  • If any director or officer is charged with a theft of Association funds, he/she must be immediately removed from office.  If the charges are later dropped against this person or if they are acquitted, they must be reinstated to office. 

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Do You Feel Like a Sandwich?!

The ‘Sandwich Generation’ – Taking Care of Your Kids While Taking Care of Your Parents

“The sandwich generation” is the term given to adults who are raising children and simultaneously caring for elderly or infirm parents.  Your children are one piece of “bread,” your parents are the other piece of “bread,” and you are “sandwiched” into the middle.

Caring for parents at the same time as you care for your children, your spouse and your job is exhausting and will stretch every resource you have.  And what about caring for yourself? Not surprisingly, most sandwich generation caregivers let self-care fall to the bottom of the priorities list which may impair your ability to care for others.

Following are several tips for sandwich generation caregivers.

  • Hold an all-family meeting regarding your parents. Involve your parents, your parents’ siblings, and your own siblings in a detailed conversation about the present and future.  If you can, make joint decisions about issues like who can physically care for your parents, who can contribute financially and how much, and who should have legal authority over your parents’ finances and health care decisions if they become unable to make decisions for themselves.  Your parents need to share all their financial and health care information with you in order for the family to make informed decisions.  Once you have that information, you can make a long-term financial plan.
  • Hold another all-family meeting with your children and your parents.  If you are physically or financially taking care of your parents, talk about this honestly with your children.  Involve your parents in the conversation as well.  Talk – in an age-appropriate way – about the changes that your children will experience, both positive and challenging.
  • Prioritize privacy.  With multiple family members living under one roof, privacy – for children, parents, and grandparents – is a must.  If it is not be feasible for every family member to have his or her own room, then find other ways to give everyone some guaranteed privacy.  “The living room is just for Grandma and Grandpa after dinner.”  “Our teenage daughter gets the downstairs bathroom for as long as she needs in the mornings.”
  • Make family plans.  There are joys associated with having three generations under one roof.  Make the effort to get everyone together for outings and meals.  Perhaps each generation can choose an outing once a month.
  • Make a financial plan, and don’t forget yourself.  Are your children headed to college?  Are you hoping to move your parents into an assisted living facility?  How does your retirement fund look?  If you are caring for your parents, your financial plan will almost certainly have to be revised.  Don’t leave yourself and your spouse out of the equation.  Make sure to set aside some funds for your own retirement while saving for college and elder health care.
  • Revise your estate plan documents as necessary.  If you had named your parents guardians of your children in case of your death, you may need to find other guardians.  You may need to set up trusts for your parents as well as for your children.  If your parent was your power of attorney, you may have to designate a different person to act on your behalf.
  • Seek out and accept help.  Help for the elderly is well organized in the United States.  Here are a few governmental and nonprofit resources:
    • www.benefitscheckup.org – Hosted by the National Council on Aging, this website is a one-stop shop for determining which federal, state and local benefits your parents may qualify for
    • www.eldercare.gov – Sponsored by the U.S. Administration on Aging
    • www.caremanager.org  -- National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers
    • www.nadsa.org – National Adult Day Services Association

If we can help out with any of these concerns, please feel free to contact us.


Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Leaving Assets to a 'Troubled' Heir

If you have a child who is addicted to drugs or alcohol, or who is financially irresponsible, you already know the heartbreak associated with trying to help that child make healthy decisions.  Perhaps your other adult children are living independent lives, but this child still turns to you to bail him out – either figuratively or literally – of trouble.


If these are your circumstances, you are probably already worrying about how to continue to help your child once you are gone.  You predict that your child will misuse any lump sum of money left to him or her via your will.  You don’t want to completely cut this child out of your estate plan, but at the same time, you don’t want to enable destructive behavior or throw good money after bad.

Trusts are an estate planning tool you can use to provide an inheritance to a worrisome heir while maintaining control over how, when, where, and why the heir accesses the funds.  This type of trust is sometimes called a spendthrift trust.  

As with all trusts, you designate a trustee who controls the funds that will be left to the heir.  This trustee can be an independent third party (there are companies that specialize in this type of work) or a member of the family.  It is often wise to opt for a third party as a trustee, to prevent accusations among family members about favoritism.

The trust can specify the exact circumstances under which money will be disbursed to the heir.  Or, more simply, the trust can specify that the trustee has complete and sole discretion to disburse funds when the heir applies for money.  Most parents in these circumstances discover that they wish to impose their own incentives and restrictions, rather than rely on the judgment of an unknown third party.

The types of conditions or incentives that can be used with a trust include:

  • Drug or alcohol testing before funds are released
  • Payments directly to landlords, colleges, etc., rather than payment to the heir
  • Disbursement of a specified lump sum if the heir graduates from university or keeps the same job for a certain time period
  • Payment only to a drug or alcohol rehab center if the child is in an active period of addiction
  • Disbursement of a lump sum if the child remains drug free
  • Payments that match the child’s earned income

If you are considering writing this type of complex trust, it is advisable to seek assistance from a qualified and experienced estate planning attorney who can help you devise a plan that best accomplishes your wishes with respect to your child.
 


Thursday, April 4, 2013

Treasure Hunt?!

Have you ever been on a REAL treasure hunt?  I remember my initiation into Sigma Chi Fraternity, and we had a "real" treasure hunt. The pressure was on because if you didn't succeed, you wouldn't make it. That was college ... but today we certainly want to avoid a "treasure hunt" when it comes to our assets and credentials in case of an emergency or unanticipated event.  Please be sure to organize and marshall your important information to avoid issues and problems later.


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Monday, March 4, 2013

Plan Ahead for Alzheimer's - March 2013

Advance Planning Can Help Relieve the Worries of Alzheimer’s Disease

The “ostrich syndrome” is part of human nature; it’s unpleasant to observe that which frightens us.  However, pulling our heads from the sand and making preparations for frightening possibilities can provide significant emotional and psychological relief from fear.

When it comes to Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia, more Americans fear being unable to care for themselves and burdening others with their care than they fear the actual loss of memory.  This data comes from an October 2012 study by Home Instead Senior Care, in which 68 percent of 1,200 survey respondents ranked fear of incapacity higher than the fear of lost memories (32 percent).

Advance planning for incapacity is a legal process that can lessen the fear that you may become a burden to your loved ones later in life.

What is advance planning for incapacity?

Under the American legal system, competent adults can make their own legally binding arrangements for future health care and financial decisions.  Adults can also take steps to organize their finances to increase their likelihood of eligibility for federal aid programs in the event they become incapacitated due to Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia.

The individual components of advance incapacity planning interconnect with one another, and most experts recommend seeking advice from a qualified estate planning or elder law attorney.

What are the steps of advance planning for incapacity?

Depending on your unique circumstances, planning for incapacity may include additional steps beyond those listed below.  This is one of the reasons experts recommend consulting a knowledgeable elder law lawyer with experience in your state.
 

  1. Write a health care directive, or living will.  Your living will describes your preferences regarding end of life care, resuscitation, and hospice care.  After you have written and signed the directive, make sure to file copies with your health care providers.
     
  2. Write a health care power of attorney.  A health care power of attorney form designates another person to make health care decisions on your behalf should you become incapacitated and unable to make decisions for yourself.  You may be able to designate your health care power of attorney in your health care directive document, or you may need to complete a separate form.  File copies of this form with your doctors and hospitals, and give a copy to the person or persons whom you have designated.
     
  3. Write a financial power of attorney.  Like a health care power of attorney, a financial power of attorney assigns another person the right to make financial decisions on your behalf in the event of incapacity.  The power of attorney can be temporary or permanent, depending on your wishes.  File copies of this form with all your financial institutions and give copies to the people you designate to act on your behalf.
     
  4. Plan in advance for Medicaid eligibility.  Long-term care payment assistance is among the most important Medicaid benefits.  To qualify for Medicaid, you must have limited assets.  To reduce the likelihood of ineligibility, you can use certain legal procedures, like trusts, to distribute your assets in a way that they will not interfere with your eligibility.  The elder law attorney you consult with regarding Medicaid eligibility planning can also advise you on Medicaid copayment planning and Medicaid estate recovery planning.

Monday, January 14, 2013

What the New Tax Law Means to You

As you probably know, Congress avoided the so-called “fiscal cliff” by passing - at the 11th  hour - the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 (the 2012 Tax Act), signed into law by the President  on January 2, 2013. The 2012 Tax Act makes several important revisions to the tax code that will  affect estate planning for the foreseeable future. What follows is a brief description of some of  these revisions - and their impact:

  • The federal gift, estate and generation-skipping transfer tax provisions were made permanent as of December 31, 2012. This is great news for all Americans; for more than ten years, we have been planning with uncertainty under legislation that contained built- in expiration dates. And while permanent in Washington only means that this is the law until Congress decides to change it, at least we now have more certainty with which to plan.
     
  • The federal gift and estate tax exemptions will remain at $5 million per person, adjusted annually for inflation. In 2012, the exemption (with the adjustment) was $5,120,000. The amount for 2013 is expected to be $5,250,000. This means that the opportunity to transfer large amounts during lifetime or at death remains. So if you did not take advantage of this in 2011 or 2012, you can still do so - and there are advantages to doing so sooner rather than later. Also, with the amount tied to inflation, you can expect to be able to transfer even more each year in the future.
  • The generation-skipping transfer (GST) tax exemption also remains at the same level as the gift and estate tax exemption ($5 million, adjusted for inflation). This tax, which is in addition to the federal estate tax, is imposed on amounts that are transferred (by gift or at your death) to grandchildren and others who are more than 37.5 years younger than you;  in other words, transfers that “skip” a generation. Having this exemption allows you to take advantage of planning that will greatly benefit future generations.
  • Married couples can take advantage of these higher exemptions and, with proper planning, transfer up to $10+ million through lifetime gifting and at death.
  • The tax rate on estates larger than the exempt amounts increased from 35% to 40%.
  • The “portability” provision was also made permanent. This allows the unused exemption of the first spouse to die to transfer to the surviving spouse, without having to set up a trust specifically for this purpose. However, there are still many benefits to using trusts, especially for those who want to ensure that their estate tax exemption will be fully utilized by the surviving spouse.
     
  • Separate from the new tax law, the amount for annual tax-free gifts has increased from  $13,000 to $14,000, meaning you can give up to $14,000 per beneficiary, per year free of federal gift, estate and GST tax ± in addition to the $5 million gift and estate tax  exemption. By making annual tax-free transfers while you are alive, you can transfer significant wealth to your children, grandchildren and other beneficiaries, thereby reducing your taxable estate and removing future appreciation on assets you transfer.  And, you can significantly enhance this lifetime giving strategy by transferring interests in a limited liability company or similar entity because these assets have a reduced value  for transfer tax purposes, allowing you to transfer more free of tax.    

For most Americans, the 2012 Tax Act has removed the emphasis on estate tax planning and put  it back on the real reasons we need to do estate planning: taking care of ourselves and our  families the way we want. This includes:  

  • Protecting you, your family, and your assets in the event of incapacity;
  • Ensuring your assets are distributed the way you want;
  • Protecting your legacy from irresponsible spending, a child’s creditors, and from being  part of a child’s divorce  proceedings;
  • Providing for a loved one with special needs without losing valuable government  benefits; and
  • Helping protect assets from creditors and frivolous lawsuits.   

For those with larger estates, ample opportunities remain to transfer large amounts tax free to  future generations, but it is critical that professional planning begins as soon as possible. With  Congress looking for more ways to increase revenue, many reliable estate planning strategies  may soon be restricted or eliminated. Thus, it is best to put these strategies into place now so that  they are more likely to be grandfathered from future law changes.   

Further, as is well publicized, the 2012 Tax Act included several income tax rate increases on  those earning more than $400,000 ($450,000 for married couples filing jointly). Combined with  the two additional income tax rate increases resulting from the healthcare bill, income tax  planning is now more important than ever.   

If you have been sitting on the sidelines, waiting to see what Congress would do, the wait is  over. Now that we have increased certainty with relatively “permanent” laws, there is no excuse postpone your planning any longer.  If we can help, let us know.


Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Like a Scout: Be Prepared!

Preparing to Meet With an Estate Planning Attorney

A thorough and complete estate plan must take into account a significant amount of information about your assets, your family, your property, and your wishes during and after your life.  When you make your first appointment with an estate planning attorney, ask the attorney or the paralegal if they can provide a written list of important information and documents that you should bring to the meeting.  

Generally speaking, you should gather the following information before your first appointment with your estate planning lawyer.

Family Information
List the names, birth dates, death dates, and ages of all immediate family members, specifically current and former spouses, all children and stepchildren, and all grandchildren.

If you have any young or adult children with special needs, gather all information you have about their lifetime financial needs.

Property Information
For all real property you own or can reasonably expect to acquire, gather the property description, your ownership interest information, the address, market value, any outstanding mortgage balance, and the most recent tax assessment.

For any personal property of value (such as vehicles, jewelry, coins, antiques, stamps, and art), compile a list that includes a description, the physical location of each item, your ownership interest information, the market value, and any liens against the property.

Business Information
If you have an ownership interest in a business, make sure you have documents showing your ownership interest in the business, the business location, the names and contact information of other owners, and 2-3 years of past profit and loss statements.

Financial Information
Compile a list of all your financial accounts, including: checking accounts, savings accounts, investment accounts, stocks and bonds, and U.S. Treasury notes.  If any of these accounts currently have designated beneficiaries, bring that information as well.

Gather all retirement savings information, including 401(k) plans, 403(b) plans, IRAs, life insurance policies, Social Security statements, and pension information.  Make sure you have the account names, account numbers, current balances, outstanding loan balances, and currently named beneficiaries.

If any family members owe you debts, compile that information.

Questions to Think About
The following are some of the first questions your estate planning attorney will ask.  You are not required to have answers ready for all these questions, but because some of them are complex, it is a good idea to think through these issues before your appointment.

  • Who will be beneficiaries of your property?
  • Do you want to bequeath any specific items of property to specific individuals?
  • Is there anyone you do not want to be a beneficiary of any of your property?
  • Do you plan to make any bequests to any nonprofit organizations – university, church, charity, or other organization?
  • Do you know who you want to act as executor of your will?
  • Do you know who you want to act as trustee of any trusts you establish?
  • If you have minor children, who do you want to appoint as guardian?
  • Do you want to make arrangements for your health and financial well-being in the event you become unable to make decisions for yourself?
  • Do you have specific wishes for your funeral?
  • Are you a registered organ donor?

During your initial consultation, your estate planning attorney will review your family and financial situation, discuss your wishes, answer your questions and suggest strategies to protect your family, wealth and legacy.
 


Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Email @ Work: Is There Any Expectation of Privacy?

Email @ Work: Is There Any Expectation of Privacy?

The proliferation of high-speed communication devices have made us more productive and more vulnerable in terms of our privacy. Desk-bound workers may be tempted to use the office email account to engage in personal communications – however, they do so at some risk to their privacy. How much privacy can employees expect for their electronic communications at work? Practically speaking, it is safe to presume everything may be monitored by your employer.

The law generally favors employers’ interests over employees’ privacy. Employers clearly have a legitimate business interest in tracking employee time and productivity. Additionally, employers must ensure their workers are not engaging in any illegal activity or releasing trade secrets. The law permits employers to read employee email messages; if there is a company policy in place that assures employees that email messages will remain private, a worker may be able to argue that there was a reasonable expectation of privacy, but the effectiveness of that argument varies. The courts have generally upheld employers’ rights to monitor and read their employees’ email messages, particularly when there is a compelling, business-related reason for doing so.

There is, however, a law that affords employees some protection of their privacy when accessing personal email accounts, such as Gmail or Hotmail. Should the password to a personal email account fall into the wrong hands, the employer is prohibited from using that information to access the employee’s personal emails without the employee’s permission. Under the Stored Communications Act, such conduct is a crime and also creates a civil cause of action for damages. Keep in mind that accessing these accounts from a work computer can give the employer the right to read messages employees send or receive using company equipment. However, the employer is not permitted to log in and view other personal email communications.

The best practice, especially if you have concerns about the privacy of your personal email communications, is to avoid using your computer at work to send and receive personal email. An added bonus is that you'll probably be less distracted, more focused, and your quality of work will be higher!
 


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Aman Law Firm assists clients in the greater Tampa Bay area, including Tampa, Lutz, Land O' Lakes, Wesley Chapel, Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco, and Polk Counties, and throughout the State of Florida.



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282 Crystal Grove Blvd. , Lutz, FL 33548
| Phone: 813-265-0004
14502 N. Dale Mabry Hwy, Suite 200, Tampa, FL 33618
| Phone: 813-265-0004

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