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Melbourne Florida Estate Planning Law Blog

Estate planning resolutions for the new year

The start of a new year is often a time for making resolutions. Creating an estate plan is one such resolution Floridians may consider. The general consensus is that being proactive with estate-related matters could minimize potential issues among heirs and even protect certain assets from estate taxes.

The first step with estate planning is the preparation of a last will and testament, which is recommended for anyone 18 and older. A will allows an individual to dictate who gets what assets and appoint guardians for children. Without a will, such decisions will be based on state laws or made by a judge.

Do veterans get benefits during a government shutdown?

There are numerous benefits programs available to veterans. Many of these benefits extend to housing, job training and counseling

Naturally, many veterans may become worried any time the government shuts down, which occurred at the end of 2018. It is vital for veterans to stay up-to-date on their benefits and know when the money will come in. Many veterans live paycheck to paycheck, so here are the facts. 

Using powers of attorney and living trusts in an estate plan

Estate planning and procrastination too often go together. People might not want to think about end-of-life planning, or they may think that they don't have enough assets to warrant the effort. Anyone in Florida, however, could benefit from estate planning. It could spare their relatives costly ordeals in the event of a medical crisis or death. At a minimum, people need to establish powers of attorney. For those with assets to pass on, a living trust could achieve their goals.

Power of attorney documents can assign a trustee to manage property, money and health care in the event of incapacity. By selecting a trusted individual to take care of these important affairs, one could prevent assets hanging in limbo when bills need to be paid. For example, a spouse would not be able to sell stocks purchased in the other spouse's name without a power of attorney granting control. Without powers of attorney, an incapacitated individual's bills could go unpaid, and loved ones might not know the person's wishes about medical care.

Life insurance as an estate planning tool for boomers

Baby boomers in Florida are part of what's considered the wealthiest generation in history. This honor was earned, in large part, because of increased diligence with savings and investments. However, it's estimated that more than 40 percent of individuals in this age group don't have an estate plan. One of the often-overlooked options for this purpose is life insurance. It can be an especially appealing choice for baby boomers with significant assets or sizable estates.

One of the benefits of using life insurance for estate planning purposes is having easier access to cash (liquidity) that may be needed to cover immediate expenses. These types of needs typically include end-of-life medical costs and funeral expenses, probating/administering fees and estate taxes, which often have to be paid in cash. Larger and more complex estates also tend to have considerable probate expenses that life insurance benefits may help cover.

Why a pour-over will may be important in an estate plan

Some people in Florida who have created an estate plan that is primarily based on a living trust might also want to make a pour-over will. The advantage of a pour-over will is that it can ensure that any assets not placed in the trust or passing through other means, such as a beneficiary designation, will become part of the trust when the person dies.

A pour-over will is intended to act as a safeguard. It is better to review an estate plan annually or when there are major changes to the family, to tax law or to assets in order to ensure that all the assets that should be in the trust have been placed there. One disadvantage of a pour-over will is that it must still go through probate. This is not the case for assets placed directly in a trust.

Veterans benefits and the new net worth limit

In October 2018, the Veterans' Administration adopted several new rules that substantially change how VA benefits work. In particular, pensions now have a specific net worth limit. The VA has also adopted a look-back period for assessing net worth.

The calculation for any specific case can become quite complex, especially when factoring in other types of benefits a veteran may receive. Careful planning can help you optimize the chances of receiving the support you need and are eligible for.

How to revoke a power of attorney

Powers of attorney can be a key tool for people in Florida looking to plan for the future and protect their interests. However, sometimes it can be important to revoke a power of attorney, especially if the relationship between the parties is no longer one of trust and confidence. A power of attorney names another person and gives that person the right to act on behalf of another in any of a range of matters. In some cases, they are active immediately, while in other cases, a power of attorney only goes into effect if its creator has become incapacitated.

Powers of attorney can terminate in several ways. Some people may choose to create a power of attorney with a fixed end date, although they are typically durable. A power of attorney can also terminate upon the death of the document's creator, except for the limited abilities to donate organs, request an autopsy or make final arrangements. However, in most cases, people want to bring an end to a power of attorney in their lifetime. A written revocation can terminate a power of attorney at any time, but it must be delivered to the person holding the power in order to be effective.

What parents can do to help adult children without estate plans

Some Florida parents might be in conflict with their children over estate planning, or lack thereof. Many baby boomers who have future finances secured do not understand why their millennial or Generation X children are not prioritizing estate planning in the same way. These children may feel too overwhelmed with the pressures of debt and daily life to worry about an estate plan.

A solution might be for parents to offer to pay for the plan. In such cases, most children will take the assistance. However, there are several caveats to using this approach. Family patterns of conflict can be hard to break, and parents should consider the best way to bring up an idea. They may want to tie the discussion to a family death or birth. Some families find that bringing along a third party can help with the discussion, but parents should not spring the discussion on their kids without warning. This could backfire.

Easing stress with detailed estate planning

Planning for what will happen after death is not enjoyable for most people, but failing to do so can leave friends and family in a difficult position or even lead to conflict among heirs. Taking the time to establish and maintain a comprehensive estate plan in Florida can make things easier for loved ones when the time comes, and it can give the planner peace of mind. When developing an estate plan, it's important to be sure that the relevant information is available to heirs and that the right beneficiaries have been designated.

When a person dies, he or she might have several different types of assets that will pass via different mechanisms. Important documents like the deed to a house, motor vehicle titles and mortgage paperwork should be kept in safe places and their locations made known to the executor of the estate or trusted family members.

Living will takes effect if patient is incapacitated

A living will, sometimes referred to as a directive to physicians or health care directive, may be an important part of a comprehensive Florida estate plan. The term is something of a misnomer as a living will isn't really a will at all. Rather, it's a document that sets forth a person's wishes regarding medical treatment in the case he or she becomes incapacitated and cannot express his or her desires.

Living wills can be drafted to fit the needs and goals of the creator, and they can include instructions to provide all available medical treatment, no medical treatment or any level of treatment in between. Many people who make living wills choose to accept some treatment options and reject others. It may help to consult with a doctor before making a living will as the document raises potentially complex medical concerns. Living wills typically do not take effect unless a person has been determined to be terminally ill or permanently vegetative.

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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