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Estate Planning

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Estate Planning with Second Marriage

Many of our clients find themselves happily married, but planning for their children from a previous marriage. One of the key concepts in this kind of planning, among others, is that of the elective share in Florida. Essentially, Florida law prohibits one spouse from "disinheriting" the other spouse in favor of the spouse's children or other heirs. This recent article provides a very helpful update on recent changes to the elective share law in Florida. 

 

Recent Update to Florida's Elective Share Law


Read more . . .


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.


Read more . . .


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.
 


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.

 

 


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.



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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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| Phone: 813-265-0004
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