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Melbourne Florida Estate Planning Law Blog

Trusts for beneficiaries with substance abuse problems

Some estate owners in Florida may have intended heirs who are addicted to alcohol or opioids. When creating an estate plan, this type of situation can present many complications. However, certain trust provisions can provide a range of solutions.

Using a trust for beneficiaries who are minors is a standard and logical practice, but some consideration must be given to what types of trust to use. Trusts that are created for minor children with disabilities who are unable to work will be very different from trusts that are created for kids who are substance abusers. This is because the purposes of the trusts are completely different.

Key elements of the probate process

You work hard throughout your life to secure and maintain your assets. Once you pass, it is only right that those you leave behind distribute your assets as you wish.

A proper estate plan is an important first step in making sure that happens. The probate process is also essential, and there are a few key elements you should be aware of.

The new Florida "Do Over Trust" code

In life, things change. The reasons for doing something 20 years ago may no longer exist. This is one of the inherent problems in estate planning as a client and their estate planning attorney attempt to project investment needs, personal budgets and business plans far into the future. People in Florida may have created irrevocable trusts many years ago for solid and valid reasons, but life might have changed to the extent that the trust provisions are burdensome.

Florida and other states are now permitting trust owners to decant certain irrevocable trusts in what is being referred to as a "Do Over Trust." In the provision, a trustee can move the corpus or assets of the trust to another with less burdensome terms that are more favorable provisions. Only certain trustees are permitted to do so.

A revocable trust can be an effective estate planning tool

As the name implies, a revocable trust can be changed or revoked. This is an important consideration for many Florida residents who are in the process of creating estate plans. The grantor, or creator, of a revocable trust can maintain control over all the trust assets in his or her lifetime. Only at the time of the grantor's death does the revocable trust then become irrevocable with the distribution of estate assets to named beneficiaries.

Of course, accomplishing the goal of transferring property to intended beneficiaries upon passing is an essential goal of estate planning, and a revocable trust can do so in a manner that is preferential to a will. Although a will can legally name the beneficiaries to receive the property, probate will be necessary to transfer a legal title from the deceased person to the heirs. Legal experts explain that is not the case with a trust.

Young, single people can also benefit from estate planning

For many people in Florida, estate planning may seem like an unnecessary bother. This is reflected in some troubling statistics; over 50 percent of all adult Americans and 78 percent of millennials do not have key documents in place, including a will. At the same time, many people think of wills and trusts as the sort of documents that are only necessary for people older and wealthier than themselves. They may not see any immediate benefit for these documents until the point they marry or have children.

However, there can be important reasons to consider key estate planning documents for younger adults, including those without significant assets. Health care advance directives or living wills can be important at any stage of life. This kind of document states a person's expectations and desires for the type of treatment and lifesaving measures they will receive in case they are severely incapacitated in an emergency. Many people have strong opinions about these matters, and this kind of estate document is a legal record of the creator's decisions. In addition, people can name a health care proxy to make decisions about medical treatment.

Three important estate planning documents

Estate planning for Florida residents can mean a wide variety of things depending on the specific circumstances and goals of the people involved. A person who is in his or her third marriage with children from previous relationships, for example, is likely to have more complicated estate planning needs than a person who has no children and has never been married. Regardless of the situation though, there are three estate planning documents that are generally more important than others. These are wills, living wills and powers of attorney.

A will is a document that establishes instructions for the distribution of a person's estate, including bank or brokerage accounts, jewelry, cars and other assets for which there is no named beneficiary. Some types of assets, like life insurance proceeds and retirement accounts, can pass through naming a beneficiary outside of a will. A will can also name a guardian to take care of a person's minor children if he or she dies.

Medicaid planning could protect a family's life savings

Aging Florida residents who want to make arrangements for the possibility of long-term nursing care might investigate a process known as Medicaid planning. Medicaid is a government run program for low-income people that could pay for hospital bills, nursing home care, at-home care, prescriptions and other medical expenses. Nationwide, the Medicaid program assists about two-thirds of nursing home residents. Medicaid planning describes the process of qualifying for Medicaid benefits down the road. This generally requires redefining income and assets so that they do not count against Medicaid eligibility.

State laws determine the exact requirements for receiving Medicaid. An application for benefits will direct a caseworker to evaluate a person's income and assets. Some assets will not be counted against a person's eligibility, but some will. A caseworker will also analyze finances going back up to five years in search of money or property that might have been given to someone else. These gifts might count against eligibility because the government could view them as assets that could have been used to pay for medical care. If a caseworker makes this determination, then the person might have to wait longer for benefits.

Veterans' Administration: Myths and facts for 2019

With new laws in place for Veterans' Administration programs, it is important to separate what is true from false speculation. Rumors fly, and people fear their benefits are going away.

The government shutdown and politically hostile climate may have added to a feeling of insecurity. Many veterans worry about how new laws may affect their benefits.  

Digital assets create special estate planning challenges

The emergence of the digitally connected world has resulted in many people having digital assets. Sometimes, digital assets hold significant value, like cryptocurrency or credit card reward points. Others might lack monetary value, like emails and photographs, but they could hold great sentimental value for people in Florida after the death of a loved one. Before the rise of digital assets, estate planning law accommodated the demands of transferring physical assets fairly well. However, the digital landscape presents special challenges for those want to make arrangements for the future.

When someone dies, especially when the death is sudden, surviving family members might not know where to find digital assets or that they even exist. In one case, a wife had no idea how to log into financial accounts to pay bills after her husband's unexpected death. To prevent this scenario, an estate owner could prepare a directory of online accounts with passwords. However, this information should be kept outside of a will because a probate court will make that document public.

Estate planning and art collections

Art collectors in Florida might delay decisions about who will get their holdings when they die. They might have trouble identifying appropriate heirs or even thinking about giving away their art. Collectors prefer to focus on acquisition instead of distribution. Estate plans that fail to address art collections, however, could impose hefty taxes on heirs or lead to disputes among relatives. Potential solutions require careful documentation of art ownership and the exploration of options like giving to charity, shifting ownership to a corporate entity or placing the collection within a trust.

Older works of art have a greater chance of producing questions about ownership as do pieces that have changed hands many times. To establish legitimate ownership, collectors need to assemble bills of sale, certificates of authenticity and insurance records.

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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