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Melbourne Florida Estate Planning Law Blog

Estate planning for blended families

Roughly half of all marriages in the U.S. end in divorce, so the odds are reasonable that even the most financially diligent individual in Florida may have to split things up among a blended family. When people from two different families are suddenly part of the picture, estate planning becomes more complex if important steps are taken.

With complicated estate planning of this nature, it's advised that estate plans be reviewed and updated. Failing to make changes to wills, trusts and other documents could present unforeseen obstacles for children from previous marriages. But certain changes could be problematic. For example, if a new spouse is named the sole beneficiary on life insurance policies, retirement accounts and similar documents, he or she will not be legally obligated to share assets with children from other marriages.

Chronic disease increases the importance of estate planning

Chronic diseases afflict over 130 million people nationwide. Many of them live in Florida, and they could spare themselves and family members financial headaches and losses with proactive estate planning. Chronic disease makes people prone to sudden medical crises or continuous deterioration that could interfere with the ability to manage finances or express preferences for medical care.

People can prepare for the threat of incapacity by executing HIPPA releases and medical powers of attorney. These documents give agents access to medical records and the ability to make medical decisions. On the financial front, people incapacitated by illness should make a financial power of attorney and perhaps consider a revocable trust for the protection of assets.

Blue Water Navy veterans to receive VA Agent Orange benefits

Blue Water Navy veterans in Florida and around the country are now eligible to receive disability benefits from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs for medical conditions linked to their exposure to Agent Orange during the Vietnam War. The new rules went into effect when President Trump signed H.R. 299, which is also known as the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act, on June 25. The law extends the benefits made available to land-based Vietnam War veterans and U.S. Navy personnel who served in inland areas by the 1991 Agent Orange Act.

Agent Orange is a chemical herbicide that was used extensively in Vietnam to defoliate jungle regions and deny cover to enemy forces. In the years following the conflict, Agent Orange was linked to a series of deadly diseases including various forms of cancer, diabetes and Parkinson's disease. VA benefits relating to Agent Orange exposure are now available to all military personnel who served within 12 nautical miles of the Vietnamese coastline between January 1962 and May 1975.

About financial durable power of attorney

Florida residents who are concerned about the unexpected should make sure to include a durable power of attorney in their estate plan. They can use the document to give someone they trust the authority to make certain financial decisions on their behalf should they unexpectedly become incapacitated or ill.

If the document is not in place, the family of an incapacitated person will likely be required to ask the courts to step in. It is a legal process that can be very expensive and time-consuming for the family who will already be under significant emotional strain.

Using a trust

Individuals in Florida who are developing their estate plans should know that the inclusion of a trust can help make their estate plans more effective. A trust is a legal agreement between a settlor and a trustee. For estate planning purposes, a trustee agrees to receive, manage and safeguard the assets that are presented by the settlor. The trustee also agrees to manage the assets in accordance to the instructions provided by the settlor and to distribute the income and principal of the trust as stipulated by the trust provisions to benefit the trust beneficiaries.

A trustee is a fiduciary and is required to use reasonable care when taking administrative actions for the trust and when choosing trust investments. The trustee is also obligated to avoid instances of conflict of interest when selling, holding or buying trust asses. Additionally, the trustee should make every effort to not breach any of the assigned trustee duties with regard to the settlor and the beneficiaries of the trust.

Estate planning tips for online accounts

When Florida residents think about making an estate plan, they often first address tangible assets like real estate, vehicles or even bank accounts and investment funds. However, some of the most important items that people own today are digital assets. These can include e-mail accounts, social media profiles, subscription services or even cryptocurrency wallets. Access to these digital accounts can be critically important for anyone seeking to manage a loved one's affairs if they are incapacitated or have passed away. Nevertheless, many estate owners fail to make a plan to cover how their digital assets ill be handled.

A growing number of states are introducing standard procedures for dealing with digital files after death, especially as many companies have disparate procedures and may hesitate to allow even the executor of an estate to access an account. However, there are also some tips that an estate owner can keep in mind to develop a clear plan for how their online accounts will be handled. For staters, it's important to make an inventory of the digital items available, including hardware and accounts online.

Tips for high net worth estate planning

Estate planning can introduce some particular challenges for people in high net worth families in Florida. First, property owners need to be as thorough as possible. This means fully understanding whether there are any special issues that need attention. For example, if a person has property in another country, an estate plan created in the United States may not cover it.

Some people may assume that a safe deposit box is the right place to keep estate planning documents, but it may be impossible for someone to access this without proof of being the executor. It is important for the executor to have access to these documents along with a list of assets and any necessary passwords. People should also consider discussing the estate plan with family members. This can reduce the likelihood of any surprises that could lead to conflict. Some families may bring in a counselor or another third party to have this meeting.

Why single parents may need an estate plan

The primary concern for Florida single parents of minor children may be making sure their children are cared for by a guardian of their choice and that they can access the parent's assets. In some cases, the child may be able to live with the other parent. However, if that parent is dead or otherwise unable to parent, it may be necessary to appoint someone else as guardian.

Parents should think about who they want the child to live with and who will have the right to make important decisions about such elements of the child's life as health care and education. Information such as this can be included in a trust that they set up for the child. The parent's assets, including life insurance and any compensation that comes from lawsuits related to the parent's death, can go into the trust. The parent also has the opportunity to determine who will be the trustee, what the money will be used for and how much control the child will have over the trust.

Family conflicts and how they affect estate planning

Sibling rivalries and blended families may be among the issues a person in Florida has to consider when creating an estate plan, and the problem can become even more complex if the family is wealthy. Estate planning advisers suggest including a letter of intent that explains the reasoning behind the estate plan as well as open communication with family members to help reduce the conflict that may arise after a person's death.

Trusts can be useful if an heir is irresponsible with money. They can also protect assets against undue influence from others, divorce and creditors. A trust can be structured so that distributions are only allowed for certain reasons, such as to purchase a home, or when a person reaches a milestone, such as a certain age.

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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