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Sunday, May 20, 2012

Family Feud?!

Avoid Family Feuds through Proper Estate Planning

A family feud over an inheritance is not a game and there is no prize package at the end of the show. Rather, disputes over who gets your property after your death can drag on for years and deplete your entire estate. When most people are preparing their estate plans, they execute wills and living trusts that focus on minimizing taxes or avoiding probate. However, this process should also involve laying the groundwork for your estate to be settled amicably and according to your wishes. Communication with your loved ones is key to accomplishing this goal.

Feuds can erupt when parents fail to plan, or make assumptions that prove to be untrue. Such disputes may evolve out of a long-standing sibling rivalry; however, even the most agreeable family members can turn into green-eyed monsters when it comes time to divide up the family china or decide who gets the vacation home at the lake.

Avoid assumptions. Do not presume that any of your children will look out for the interests of your other children. To ensure your property is distributed to the heirs you select, and to protect the integrity of the family unit, you must establish a clear estate plan and communicate that plan – and the rationale behind certain decisions – to your loved ones.

In formulating your estate plan, you should have a conversation with your children to discuss who will be the executor of your estate, or who wants to inherit a specific personal item. Ask them who wants to be the executor, or consider the abilities of each child in selecting who will settle your estate, rather than just defaulting to the eldest child. This discussion should also include provisions for your potential incapacity, and address who has the power of attorney.

Do not assume any of your children want to inherit specific items. Many heirs fight as much over sentimental value as they do monetary items. Cash and investments are easily divided, but how do you split up Mom’s engagement ring or the table Dad built in his woodshop? By establishing a will or trust that clearly states who is to receive such special items, you avoid the risk that your estate will be depleted through costly legal proceedings as your children fight over who is entitled to such items.

Take the following steps to ensure your wishes are carried out:

  • Discuss your estate planning with your family. Ask for their input and explain anything “unusual,” such as special gifts of property or if the heirs are not inheriting an equal amount.
     
  • Name guardians for your minor children.
     
  • Write a letter, outside of your will or trust, that shares your thoughts, values, stories, love, dreams and hopes for your loved ones.
     
  • Select a special, tangible gift for each heir that is meaningful to the recipient.
     
  • Explain to your children why you have appointed a particular person to serve as your trustee, executor, agent or guardian of your children.
     
  • If you are in a second marriage, make sure your children from a prior marriage and your current spouse know that you have established an estate plan that protects their interests.
     

 

 


Sunday, March 25, 2012

Beware of "Simple" Estate Plans

“I just need a simple will.”  It’s a phrase estate planning attorneys hear practically every other day.   From the client’s perspective, there’s no reason to do anything complicated, especially if it might lead to higher legal fees.  Unfortunately, what may appear to be a “simple” estate is all too often rife with complications that, if not addressed during the planning process, can create a nightmare for you and your heirs at some point in the future.   Such complications may include:


Probate - Probate is the court process whereby property is transferred after death to individuals named in a will or specified by law if there is no will. Probate can be expensive, public and time consuming.  A revocable living trust is a great alternative that allows your estate to be managed more efficiently, at a lower cost and with more privacy than probating a will. 

Minor Children - If you have minor children, you not only need to nominate a guardian, but you also need to set up a trust to hold property for those children. If both parents pass away, and the child does not have a trust, the child’s inheritance could be held by the court until he or she turns 18, at which time the entire inheritance may be given to the child. By setting up a trust, which doesn’t have to come into existence until you pass away, you are ensuring that any money left to your child can be used for educational and living expenses and can be administered by someone you trust. 

Second Marriages - Couples in which one or both of the spouses have children from a prior relationship should carefully consider whether a “simple” will is adequate.

Taxes - Although in 2012, federal estate taxes only apply to estates over $5 million for individuals and $10 million for couples, that doesn’t mean that anyone with an estate under that amount should forget about tax planning.

Incapacity Planning – Estate planning is not only about death planning.  What happens if you become disabled?  You need to have proper documents to enable someone you trust to manage your affairs if you become incapacitated.  Effective Oct. 1, 2011, there is an entirely new statute governing Durable Powers of Attorney.  

By failing to properly address potential obstacles, over the long term, a “simple” will can turn out to be incredibly costly.   An experienced estate planning attorney can provide valuable insight and offer effective mechanisms to ensure your wishes are carried out in the most efficient manner possible while providing protection and comfort for you and your loved ones for years to come.

 

 


Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Mortgage Relief Deal Under Discussion

Mortgage Relief Deal Under Discussion

If Florida chooses to opt in, there could be some guaranteed relief ahead for Florida homeowners struggling to pay their mortgage.  Check out the article by clicking here.


Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Top 3 Real Estate Tips for Small Businesses

Top 3 Real Estate Tips for Small Businesses

For the vast majority of small businesses, the company’s first and only real estate transaction is entering into a lease for commercial space. Whether you are considering office, manufacturing or retail space, the following three tips will help you navigate the negotiation process so you can avoid any unpleasant surprises or costly mistakes.

“Base Rent” is Not the Only Rent You Will Pay
Most prospective tenants focus their negotiation efforts on the “base rent,” the fixed monthly amount you will pay under the lease agreement. You may have negotiated a terrific deal on the base rent, but the transaction may not be the best value once other charges are factored in. For example, the majority of commercial lease agreements are “triple net,” meaning that the tenant also must pay for insurance, taxes and other operating expenses. When negotiating “triple net,” ensure you aren’t being charged for expenses that do not benefit your space, and that you are paying an amount that is in proportion to the space you utilize in the building. Another provision to watch for is “percentage rent,” in which a tenant pays a percentage of revenue in excess of a specific amount. This may not be a bad thing, as it provides the landlord with an incentive to help ensure your company is successful.

There’s No Such Thing as a “Form Lease”
Most commercial property owners and managers offer prospective tenants a pre-printed lease containing your name and various terms. They often present these documents and adamantly explain that it is the landlord’s “typical form lease.” This, however, does not mean you cannot negotiate. Review every provision in the agreement, bearing in mind that all terms are open for discussion and negotiation. Pay particular attention to the specific needs of your business that are not addressed in the “form lease.”

Note the Notice Requirements
Your lease agreement may contain many provisions that require you to send notification to the landlord under various circumstances. For example, if you wish to renew or terminate your lease at the end of the term, you will likely owe a notice to the landlord to that effect, and it may be due much earlier than you think – sometimes up to a year or more. Prepare a summary of the key notice requirements contained in your lease agreement, along with the due dates, and add key dates to your calendar to ensure you comply with all notice requirements and do not forfeit any rights under your lease agreement.
 

 

 


Saturday, October 29, 2011

Top 10 Life Insurance Mistakes

Top 10 Life Insurance Mistakes

Here is a list of the top ten mistakes people make with regard to their life insurance policies:

1.     The Insured’s Estate Has Been Named Beneficiary.  This would require a probate proceeding, when one of the goals of life insurance is to avoid the hassle of probate.  With named beneficiaries (i.e., not the estate of the insured), the life insurance proceeds pass outside probate.

2.     The Policy Has No Named Contingent Beneficiaries.  If the primary beneficiary predeceases the insured, the next default beneficiary is usually the estate – and that means probate is necessary.

3.     Minors Or Other Impaired Persons Have Been Named Beneficiaries.  If young children are in line for life insurance money, it usually means a court has to supervise the process and administration of the funds.  That can be avoided with proper planning.  If someone is receiving Social Security Supplemental Income benefits (SSI), the benefits will cease if life insurance proceeds are payable directly to him or her.  Proper planning can avoid such an unfortunate result.

4.     The Beneficiary Language Is Wrong Or Unclear.  Estate planning attorneys run into circumstances all the time where the beneficiary designation does not match the insured’s intentions.

5.     Family Needs Are Not Adequately Addressed.  It used to be that a million dollar insurance policy felt like it was enough to take care of family needs in the event of the breadwinner’s death.  For many, that is not nearly enough anymore.

6.     The Wrong Ownership Was Chosen For The Problem To Be Solved.  Most people choose to own their life insurance policies personally.  That can be a mistake in certain business situations, or where there are family estate tax issues.

7.     The Ownership Chosen Creates An Income Tax Problem. Sometimes having a policy owned by a third party can create an unintended income tax problem.

8.     Section 101(J) Requirements Have Been Neglected For A Business Policy.  In 2006, Congress created new rules for business-related life policies.  Careful guidance is needed to be sure business policies are structured properly.

9.     Buy-Sell Funding Policies Have Not Been Properly Reviewed.  Business owners sometimes use life insurance to help make sure the business will continue after an owner’s death.  Even where a plan has been put in place, failure to update it can have disastrous consequences for the owners and their families.

10.  Policies Have Not Been Reviewed After Divorce (Or Other Life Event).  People sometimes forget to remove an ex-spouse as beneficiary under a life insurance policy.  They also sometimes forget that their divorce papers require them to use existing life insurance policies in certain ways.

If you have not done so recently, we strongly recommend that you review your existing life insurance policies with your insurance representative, and/or call our office at (813) 265-0004 and we will be happy to set up an appointment to review your policies for one or more of these mistakes.


Sunday, October 2, 2011

New Florida Power of Attorney Law

Effective October 1st, 2011, there is a new Power of Attorney statute in Florida.  There are significant and important changes.  The “durable family power of attorney” is a vital part of your estate planning arsenal, so be sure you consult with an attorney who is aware of these changes in the law.  The new law is summarized below.

The new law conforms Florida’s power of attorney law under Chapter 709, Florida Statutes, to the Uniform Power of Attorney Act adopted by the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws, with some modifications to achieve greater consistency among state laws.

The revised power of attorney law applies only to powers of attorney created by an individual. Powers of attorney validly executed under Florida law before October 1, 2011 will remain valid. If the power of attorney is durable (a power of attorney that is not terminated by the principal’s incapacity) or springing (a power of attorney that does not take effect until the principal loses capacity), it will remain durable or springing under the new law. To be effective in Florida, powers created on or after October 1, 2011 must be exercisable as of the time they are executed. The meaning and effectiveness of a power of attorney are governed by ch. 709, part II, F.S. A power of attorney executed in another state that does not comply with the execution requirement of this part (ch. 709, part II, F.S.) is valid in Florida only if the execution of the power of attorney complied with the law of the state of execution.

Powers of attorney that are executed after October 1, 2011 may not create springing powers, with an exception for military powers. Qualified agents as defined in the bill are entitled to reasonable compensation. The revised power of attorney law provides requirements for written notice with special notice for financial institutions, and special rules for banking and investment transactions; provides default duties for the agent; creates co-agents and successor agents; prohibits blanket or default powers granted to an agent; prescribes requirements for the rejection by a third person of a power of attorney; prescribes requirements for an agent’s liability under a power of attorney; and provides grounds for judicial relief and dealing with conflicts of interest.

Let us know if we can help with your estate plan or planning for your parent(s) or loved one.


Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Is ignorance of the law an excuse?

Should the criminal KNOW he or she is breaking the law and intend to do so?  Or is the act of breaking the law what counts?  This is an old debate in the law, but this study shows that “mens rea” (criminal intent) is increasingly not a factor.

As Federal Crime List Grows, Threshold of Guilt Declines


Monday, September 26, 2011

Know Your Rights About Medical Records

Did you know that you have the right to a copy of all of your medical records?  Read about it here.


Saturday, September 17, 2011

An Attorney’s Tips on Preventing Identity Theft

A corporate attorney sent the following out to the employees in his company:

1. When you are writing checks to  pay on your credit card accounts, DO NOT put the complete  account number on the ‘For’ line.  Instead, just put the last four  numbers. The credit card company knows the rest of the number, and anyone who might be handling your check as it  passes through all the check processing channels won’t have access to it.

2. Put your work phone # on your  checks instead of your home phone. If you have a P.O. Box use that instead of your home address. If you do not have a P.O. Box, use your work address.  Never have your SS# printed on your checks.  You can add it if it is necessary, but if you have it printed anyone can get it.

3. Place the contents of your wallet on a photocopy machine. Do both sides of each license, credit card, etc.  You will know what you had in your wallet and all of the account numbers and phone numbers to call and cancel. Keep the photocopy in a safe place.

4. Carry a photocopy of your passport when you travel either here or abroad.

We’ve all heard horror stories about fraud that’s committed on us in stealing a name, address, Social Security number, credit cards.

The corporate attorney who sent his employees the memo was motivated because he had recently had his wallet stolen.  Within a week, the thieves ordered an expensive monthly cell phone package, applied for a VISA credit card, had a credit line approved to buy a Gateway computer, received a PIN number from DMV to change his driving record information online, and more.

Here is some critical information to limit the damage in case this happens to you or someone you know:

5. We have been told we should cancel our credit cards immediately. But the key is having the toll free numbers and your card
numbers handy so you know whom to call. Keep those where you can find them.

6. File a police report immediately in the jurisdiction where your credit cards, etc., were stolen. This proves to credit providers you were diligent, and this is a first step toward an investigation (if there ever is one).

But here’s what is perhaps most important of all:

7. Call the 3 national credit reporting organizations immediately to place a fraud alert on your name and also call the Social Security fraud line number. I had never heard of doing that until advised by a bank that called to tell me an application for credit was made over the internet in my name.

The alert means any company that checks your credit knows your information was stolen, and they have to contact you by phone to authorize new credit.

By the time the corporate attorney was advised to do this, almost two weeks after the theft, all the damage had been done. There are records of all  the credit checks initiated by the thieves’ purchases, none of which the attorney knew about before placing the alert. Since then, no additional damage has been done, and the thieves threw his wallet away (someone turned it in). It seems to have stopped them dead in their tracks.

Now, here are the numbers you always need to contact about your wallet, if it has been stolen:

1.) Equifax: 1-800-525-6285

2.) Experian (formerly TRW):  1-888-397-3742

3.) Trans Union :  1-800-680 7289

4.) Social Security Administration (fraud line):  1-800-269-0271

Please share these tips with everyone you know so we can all prevent identity theft or at least know which steps to take to resolve identity theft.


Saturday, August 14, 2010

Bad Facts Make for Bad Law

The Florida Supreme Court recently issued an opinion in the Olmstead case that does not bode well for small business owners in Florida.  The result in the case was appropriate based on the circumstances – a couple of small business owners scammed thousands of consumers out of millions of dollars. But the rule of law that emerges means that single member owners of limited liability companies are now exposed to the claims of creditors, whereas they were not so exposed prior to this ruling.

Our firm has for years recommended the “single-member LLC” as a preferred vehicle for small business owners because of the many benefits afforded by this form of entity.  However, the Olmstead decision now casts a dark shadow on this choice of entity.  Fortunately, there are alternatives available with proper planning. If you or someone you know has a single member (or even a few member) Florida limited liability company, we recommend that you contact us for an appointment to discuss alternatives, or contact another experienced practitioner in this area of the law.

FURTHER READING ON THIS TOPIC:

The Olmstead opinion

Tampa Tribune article

 


Friday, August 6, 2010

Update on the Estate Tax

What’s going on with Federal Taxes?  Here’s a recent article that will get you up to speed, with all the political angles included!




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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