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Melbourne Florida Estate Planning Law Blog

Reasons to include art in an estate plan

Florida residents who collect art generally do so because they enjoy it. They may also do so because they hope or expect that their collection will increase in value over time. In most cases, they plan on buying a piece and holding it until their death. However, art collectors may not necessarily account for their holdings when creating an estate plan.

One way to handle an art collection is to transfer ownership while alive to a corporate entity. This may remove the need for probate while also answering questions about who owns the art after the collector dies. In many cases, collectors are unsure who to give their collection to after they pass, which may increase the odds for conflicts among family members. It may also be worthwhile to donate art to a museum or similar entity after the original owner passes away.

Mistakes to avoid with trusts in estate planning

You might be in the midst of reviewing your estate plans when you arrive at the conclusion that you need to add a few trusts. Trusts are very useful planning tools that can help you to protect your estate and loved ones’ inheritances. But they are not ideal for every situation or person. 

Take a few moments to review some mistakes to avoid with trusts to prevent issues with your estate plans and end-of-life wishes. 

Decluttering finances and estate planning

When planning for retirement in Florida, many people decide it is time to create an estate plan. Estate plans do not have to be messy and complicated. Just as taking the clutter out of a room can make it easier to access and enjoy, decluttering one's finances can make estate planning simpler and easier.

Consolidating bank accounts and setting up automatic drafts for bills can make managing and tracking funds much easier. An important fact to keep in mind is that FDIC insurance is limited to $250,000 per depositor at each institution. Selling individual stocks and investing in a professionally managed mutual fund can help simplify investments.

Medicaid planning can be important for couples needing care

For people in Florida, preparing for future medical expenses can be a major concern. This is especially true when someone needs to take advantage of the long-term care provisions of Medicaid when dealing with serious disabilities or a need for memory care or other residential facilities. Spouses in particular may be concerned about the way Medicaid's rules about assets relate to their future planning.

For a single person who needs to access Medicaid, including its nursing home coverage, they must have no greater than $2,000 in assets. Married couples are treated somewhat differently, and transfers of assets between spouses do not affect Medicaid's assessment of a couple's wealth. Some assets are excluded from the assessment, including the primary home if one spouse is able to live in it, one car and term life insurance that does not have cash value during life. All other assets are countable for Medicaid purposes, and the healthy spouse can retain up to approximately $121,000 of remaining assets.

Flare-ups will now need to be considered in disability ratings

A recent ruling by the Court of Appeals for Veteran Claims may make it easier for veterans in Florida to obtain higher disability ratings. The court considered a case involving a veteran who had musculoskeletal injuries that caused pain flare-ups for which he had received a 10 percent disability rating.

In Sharp v. Shulkin, the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veteran Claims reviewed how the Veterans Administration evaluates medical conditions when determining disability ratings for musculoskeletal injuries. The court was specifically interested in how the disability rating is assessed in cases in which the veterans experience flare-ups of pain, which can be debilitating.

Digital assets and estate planning

Florida is one of the states that has adopted the Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act, Revised. This is part of an attempt to clarify who has rights to digital materials after a person's death. In the past, a fiduciary could go through a person's physical effects and decide what to do with them, but even if the fiduciary has been given passwords to the deceased's online accounts, it may still be against the website's terms of service to access the site.

According to the RUFADAA, if the site offers tools that the person has used to designate a fiduciary to manage the account, this remains valid. If the user did not use the tools or there is no such option, the user can give the fiduciary access in a will, a trust or another written document. If there is no direction from the account holder, then the terms of service regulate what the fiduciary can do. If there are no instructions from the site or the user, the fiduciary can access information, such as email addresses, but not content.

The important of updating estate plans

Many people in Florida don't like thinking about estate planning and also believe that this topic is something that only needs consideration once. However, updates might be necessary as time passes and things change. Here is some advice from one financial planner about updating accounts.

When divorcing, this financial planner kept her IRA while her husband kept his. She listed her father as the beneficiary since her children were minors at the time. Though she counseled clients to ensure they had the correct beneficiaries on their accounts, she didn't update her own IRA for 20 years. At this time, her children were adults while her elderly father had remarried after his wife passed away. If she had died, getting the funds to her children would have been much more complicated than it needed to be.

Veterans' benefits to help with long-term care costs

In Florida, some veterans and their spouses may be eligible for a long-term care benefit through the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs. Despite the availability of this benefits program, only 5 percent of the funds are accessed each year because many people simply don't know about the program's existence.

The Veterans Aid & Attendance Pension benefit program offers monthly payments to people who are eligible for all types of long-term care, including assisted living, in-home care, nursing home care and board and care. The money is not taxed and may be used along with other types of benefits programs.

When a will isn't enough

While a will may be an effective estate planning tool for Florida residents, it may not be the only document a person may need. For instance, a living will may provide direction as to what medical treatments a person wants if incapacitated. A healthcare power of attorney has the authority to make broader decisions about an individual's care in the event that he or she becomes incapacitated.

It may be a good idea to list an alternate person or entity to make these decisions. This can be helpful if the original party dies or becomes incapacitated. A durable power of attorney handles other issues that may arise if an individual is unable to make decisions on his or her own. Typically, such a document gives a person or entity the power to pay bills and handle other routine events in a person's life.

Estate Planning for National Alzheimer’s Awareness Month

It is National Alzheimer’s Awareness Month. You may not realize it, but as you get older, the chances of you developing this condition increase. As you get ready to spend some time with your loved ones in Florida this holiday season, be sure to set aside some time to discuss your end-of-life plans with them. 

You do not want to cause your family members hardship and financial duress if you were to develop memory and cognitive issues that ultimately lead to you needing special care. Now is a good time for you to consider what your health and legal needs may be, so you can include provisions for them in your estate plans. Consider the following information about end-of-life plans and Alzheimer’s disease

Consult Our Florida Lawyer for Veterans Aid & Attendance

Feel free to contact us and schedule an initial consultation where we can review your circumstances in an intimate setting and discuss how our Brevard County Elder lawyer can help you. Simply call Amy B. Van Fossen, P.A., locally at 321-426-1848 or toll free at 800-495-9153. We look forward to meeting you.

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