“By Failing to Prepare, you Prepare to Fail” - Benjamin Franklin

Are you a Florida senior? Are you finding it hard to believe that the end of the year is approaching? In fact, is it even harder to believe that in just a few short weeks it will be 2023?  Are you busy finalizing your end of the year holiday plans with your children and grandchildren? Do you need to purchase last minute holiday gifts, prepare special family holiday dishes and finalize arrangements to spend time with your family? Actually, as you rush to make sure you have holiday gifts for all your children and grandchildren, we want to recommend the best gift you could give this year that does not even require gift wrapping!

What gift could we possibly be writing about?  We are writing about creating a comprehensive Florida estate plan. This gift will let you make decisions about your assets and their distribution, choose your trusted agents to take care of your finances and your healthcare decisions and protect the legacy you want to continue when you pass away. With this gift you will give yourself and your loved ones peace of mind now, in the future and when you pass away. 

As a Florida senior, are you wondering how to begin preparing an estate plan?  Or do you have a Florida estate plan but have not looked at it in years? Or, finally, did you move to Florida from another state with an estate plan and never thought to make a Florida estate plan? Do you now have questions and wonder how to start? Do your thoughts include questions such as:

All of the above questions are important and we often hear questions just like them from our clients and their family members. As you work with your qualified Florida estate planning attorney to create your estate plan, you need to be assured that your estate plan will work when you need it to. This holiday season, a completed Florida estate plan that lets your loved ones know what you want for yourself and for them is quite possibly the best gift you can give and it does not even need to be gift wrapped. 

Finally, we want you to know that while Florida estate planning is a critical part of your health and well being there is a second planning component that needs to be addressed and completed as well. This is your long-term care planning. Unfortunately, the majority of Americans will need some form of long-term care once they reach the age of 70, so the time for planning is now.  You need to know that much of this care is not covered by Medicare and will, instead, fall on you, the Florida senior, to pay for out of pocket. As Florida estate planning and elder law attorneys we can assure you it does not have to be this way.  We can work with you to create not only an estate plan but also a long-term care plan that can protect the estate plan you are putting in place and allow you to be able to leave a legacy for your family, no matter what the future holds.

We know this article may raise more questions than it answers.  Our office is here to help you navigate the legal issues related to seeking and covering the cost of memory care. We encourage you to contact us and schedule a meeting with our attorneys.

As a senior, have you thought about what would happen if you were to suddenly become incapacitated? Who would take care of you and where would the care take place, in your home or in a nursing home? With less than half of all Americans today having an estate plan, is it any wonder that even fewer have planned for their long-term care needs. Long-term care planning addresses the need for a possible future where you may need to rely on another person each day due to physical or mental cognitive issues. This means, in simple terms, a time when you cannot safely care for yourself.

We speak with seniors and their loved ones each day on what it means to need long-term care and how to plan successfully to meet those needs.  We want to share some quick planning tips that can make a difference for Florida long-term care that you can use and begin to get the answers that you need.

1. Start planning now, do not put it off! When it comes to long-term care most people either do not plan at all or start planning too late. Of course, no one wants to think about a future that would involve the need for long-term care, but the best gift you can give yourself is to have a plan in place so that should the time come, you are prepared and not at risk.

2. Start researching long-term care, the cost of long-term care and how you can pay for it. Long-term care in any setting is expensive. So begin by looking at your finances. You can learn the cost for the type of care in our state by using this link from the Genworth Cost of Care Survey.  Become familiar with the different types of long-term care. Most people do not want to live in a nursing home, however, there are many steps in between nursing home care and home care. These steps range from homebase care to independent care to assisted-living care and skilled nursing home care, there are many options. You can use this link we want to share with you from the AARP website.

3. Start looking into long-term care insurance, now, before you need it. Long-term care insurance is a type of insurance that can provide financial assistance should you need long-term care. Find out now if long-term care insurance is an option for you.  In addition, if you have a new diagnosis or a chronic condition, speak freely with your doctor about what you should expect in the future. While your long-term care needs are unique to you, your doctor knows you and will be able to give you advice on what to understand and potentially plan for. You should not put off speaking with a long-term care insurance agent to learn more about what your options might be.

4. Speak with an experienced Florida elder law attorney who knows long-term care planning. An experienced elder law attorney will be able to advise you on what your options are for long-term planning in numerous circumstances. He will help you devise a plan to make sure you, your family, and what you care about most, is protected. In addition, your attorney can be sure your estate plan is up-to-date and reflects what you want. While it is not a long-term care plan, through your estate plan you can give legal authority for healthcare and financial decisions to another person that you trust. You can also designate this person or persons the authority to make decisions when you are not able to do so independently. Long-term care, the aging process, and family relationships are all complicated. Your experienced Florida elder law attorney is there to assist you in all your decisions in regard to your Florida long-term care and estate plan.

We know this list may seem daunting. We also know you may have more questions now that you have read it.  Our office is here to help you navigate the legal issues related to seeking and covering the cost of memory care. We encourage you to contact us and schedule a meeting with our attorneys.

Have you wondered whether to add a trust to your estate plan? Are you hesitant because you have heard that sometimes a trust will fail? On the other hand, did you know that trusts are often considered one of the most useful estate planning instruments? For example: They can keep an estate out of probate. They can be utilized for tax planning purposes. They can be used as a vehicle for long-term care planning by structuring a person’s assets in a way that makes him or her eligible for Medicaid to cover the expense of a nursing home. However, we are aware that trusts may also fail. That is why we would like to share with you three of the top reasons why a trust may fail.

1. Failure to fund. Is a trust complete once it is drafted and signed? Absolutely not! The trust must now be funded. All of the assets described in the trust should be moved into the trust in order for the trust to be funded. Unfortunately, the trust’s beneficiaries may find that they will not receive anything from the trust because it was never funded.

Be aware that this means that the trust must hold title to all of the assets. This involves changing the deed on the home, the title to cars, boats, RV’s, the ownership of bank accounts and stock certificates intended to be transferred into the trust. So do not forget, even though funding a trust is a critical step in properly establishing a trust, it is also one that may be overlooked.

2. Failure to update. It is very important to know that a trust is not a document that is created and then placed in a drawer or safety deposit box. Whenever there is a significant life change, such as the birth or death of a loved one, a divorce or a remarriage, or even the death of your trustor, a trust should be updated or, at least, reviewed. All life events can impact who inherits from your estate.

3. Failure to reflect current law. Because the laws on trust and estates may change, you should have your trust reviewed. Your trust may have been drafted under one set of laws, but there may be new or updated laws at the time of your passing, which have the potential to invalidate portions of your trust. The best solution to this problem would be to work with a Florida estate planning attorney. He can provide periodic bulletins regarding significant changes in the law, which can alert you to the need to have your trust revised. Make it a point to have your trust periodically reviewed by your Floria estate planning attorney to assure that it is supported by current law.

Our office is here to help you navigate the legal issues related to seeking and covering the cost of memory care. We encourage you to contact us and schedule a meeting with our attorneys.

The holidays have ended, the New Year is here and the question is, did you make any resolutions?  In January we know many Floridians are focusing on how they will reach the resolutions they set. If you did make resolutions, what are they? Did you focus on work, or health, or family?  Did you include creating or updating your Florida estate plan?

We strongly recommend that one of the most important New Year’s resolutions you can make this year is to create or update your Florida estate plan. Your estate plan can protect you both during life and at the time of your death. By working with your attorney during your lifetime you can create a plan that ensures your choices for your health care and finances are honored by your chosen decision maker. Your attorney will also show you how you can ensure that your family will be provided for when you pass away. 

Do you have an estate plan? If your answer is yes, this is great news. However, if you already have a plan in place, time is of the essence to make sure that it reflects your wishes for yourself and your loved ones. As everyone knows, many changes can happen within your family, your business, and your finances in a year. It is important to make sure your estate plan remains effective in not only summarizing the desired future for you and your loved ones, but also has the best tools in place to accomplish those goals. 

Are you ready to get started? We want to share four tips you may use as you work on your Florida estate plan in the new year.

1. If your immediate family members have changed, make it a priority to update your Florida estate plan. This is critical. Whenever there is a birth, death, divorce, or other life update, contact your attorney to determine if your estate plan needs any updates or significant changes.

2. If you do not have a Florida estate plan, you are truly unprotected if you are over 18 years of age. In the event of a crisis or death, there will be no guidance for your family, your bank, your friends, or the court system. By not taking the time to create an estate plan, the court in Florida may be required to step in, in order for there to be legal authority for another to act on your behalf. This can be time consuming, costly, and public, and can be avoided by completing your estate planning while you have the capacity to do so.

3. Get started now, not later, with creating a plan or updating it! To maximize the potential benefits a Florida estate plan has to offer, it is important to put the plan in place sooner rather than later.

4. Your best resource for creating or updating your estate plan is your Florida estate planning attorney.  He can discuss with you the importance of lifetime planning using tools such as the durable power of attorney for your finances. He can help you choose your decision maker, as well as a back up decision maker, for times of crisis. He can also discuss with you the difference between will based estate planning and trust based estate planning. 

We know this article may raise more questions than it answers. We want to help you achieve the New Year’s resolution of having a Florida estate plan that can meet your needs. We strive to provide our clients with the security and peace of mind that comes from knowing their estate plan is in proper order and that our team of friendly professionals is always ready to help their family in times of need. We encourage you to contact us and schedule a meeting with our attorneys.

Did you know that Estate Planning Awareness Week is recognized in October? No matter your age or how much money you have, estate planning can be an important part of your financial health. Estate planning is critical for Florida residents who want to ensure their wishes are respected in the event of temporary incapacitation or upon their death. Knowing the uncertainty of what tomorrow might bring, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic, having an estate plan in place provides security and peace of mind. Also, regularly updating what you have put in place can help ensure that security and peace of mind will continue.

Estate planning may be simple or complex, depending on your age, marital and parental status, and what kind of assets you have. For most people, creating a will, choosing a power of attorney and health care surrogate, and designating specific beneficiaries for bank and retirement accounts are what they want to protect the future they desire for themselves and their loved ones.

The first step is often writing a last will and testament. You decide to whom you would like to leave any assets, how to divide your estate, and whether you want to set up a trust that would allow your spouse or partner to live comfortably while preserving assets for children and grandchildren. It is also important to designate specific account beneficiaries for bank and retirement accounts, and make sure the beneficiary you have chosen is in line with your will.

A power of attorney can allow you to choose someone to make financial or legal decisions on your behalf. If durable, this power will survive, even in the event you become incapacitated. A healthcare surrogate will allow you to choose someone to make medical decisions on your behalf should you become incapacitated. You can choose a trusted loved one to fill both roles or choose two different people who may be better suited to one or the other. The important part is that, by planning ahead now, you get to make your own choices.

Remember, it is very important to check in regularly with your estate plan and to make any changes that may be necessary due to life events, changes in law, or under other circumstances. Also, regularly updating your account beneficiaries ensures they are in line with what you have in your will and broader estate plan.

This Estate Planning Awareness Week, take the time to learn more about the importance of estate planning and the steps you need to take in order to establish a strong estate plan. In times of great uncertainty, an estate plan can bring much needed peace. For more information, please reach out to our office and schedule a time to meet.

You may not think you have enough assets for estate planning to matter.  Perhaps all you have is your primary home. You may be a widow, with a few adult children who enjoy visiting you often with your grandchildren in tow. They all get along well with each other. They should be able to sort things out after you pass away, right?

Unfortunately, this is not always the case. If you do not have an estate plan in place at the time of your death, your children may have trouble sorting out your estate. Let us discuss three reasons why you need at least a last will and testament in order to ensure your estate is passed on to your heirs as you would see fit.

1. Without a Will, You Die Intestate. If there is no will, you are considered to have passed away intestate. Your assets will be divided according to the intestate laws of the state, and signed off on by the judge. State intestate laws often distribute assets according to the level of familial relationship of any person surviving the person who passed away. This may not be how you wish for your assets to be distributed.

2. Your Children May Not Agree. No matter how well your kids get along, they may not be able to agree on how to divide your estate. Each child may mean well and think he or she knows what you wanted, but his or her interpretation of what you wanted may differ from the rest of the family. A will is a way to ensure they all know what you wanted, and everyone is on the same page.

3. It is Not Just About Money. Leaving a will can be a way to minimize any family squabbles that may arise during an emotional period for your children and grandchildren. A last will and testament can be a way to help your loved ones, so they can focus on supporting each other and on their memories of you.

If you need assistance establishing a strong estate plan, we are here to help. Please contact our office to schedule an appointment time.

Do you have a new year’s resolution to handle estate planning, such as update your will or set up a trust, but do not know where to start? Let us review a checklist of 5 actions you can take to achieve your goals:

1. Catalog your assets and debts. List valuable items you own. Examples may include real property, such as your home or other land you own, and personal property, such as jewelry, vehicles, art, laptops, equipment. It can include intangible assets too, such as investment accounts and life insurance policies. Separately, create a list of your debts, for example, mortgages, auto loans, home equity lines of credit, and other obligations. 

2. Select your trusted representative. Estate planning often requires several representatives, such as a personal representative to follow your instructions about your assets after you pass away. An estate attorney can offer you guidance in selecting these representatives as they can play an important role in the probate process and other circumstances.

3. Complete your documents. In addition to a last will and testament, a central part of many estate plans, you may also want to create a trust or trusts. Work with your estate planning attorney to develop the documents that work best for you and your needs.

4. Share the documents. First, you can share your lists of assets and debts with trusted loved ones, such as the person who you expect to be your personal representative or your spouse. It helps to include account numbers, agreements, and contact information for each item listed. Next, give copies of your completed documents with your attorney and personal representative.

5. Review accounts and documents. Review retirement accounts, insurance policies, and memberships. The listed beneficiaries take precedence over direction given in a will or trust, so update beneficiary information regularly. You should also review the documents you created at least once every two years and after major life events such as marriage, divorce, or the birth of a child in the family. 

For more assistance developing a strong estate plan, our office is here to help. Please reach out to us today to schedule a time to meet.

How do you choose a nearby estate planning attorney? Choosing the right estate planning attorney for your family can be an essential part of planning for your future and preserving your legacy. Consider what is most important to you in this regard. Do you have a complicated family situation that requires your estate to be divided unevenly among children or other relatives? Are you concerned about passing down property located in multiple states? These are just a few situations in which it may take a discerning hand to draft your estate planning documents appropriately. Whatever your situation, when choosing an estate planning attorney, it may be important that your choice be experienced in working with individuals and families in a similar situation and stage of life to you.

When considering how to choose an estate planning attorney, consider a potential attorney’s experience in estate planning. Many attorneys practice in multiple specializations, providing services including the writing of wills, real estate closing documents, and divorce agreements to their clients. If you live in a rural area without many attorneys, this sort of attorney could be a valid option, particularly if your choice has a good reputation in your community. In suburban and urban areas with many attorneys to choose from, however, it can be wise to look for an attorney who specializes in estate planning. 

An attorney with specific estate planning credentials is more likely to be knowledgeable about current trends and have a greater understanding of the different techniques that may need to be used to ensure that your wishes are carried out as you desire. Ultimately, if you have the choice, it may be prudent to seek out an attorney who works with clients in similar situations to you. If you have young children, look for someone who works with young families and is experienced in drafting guardianship documents. If you run a family business, perhaps an attorney well-versed in planning for both personal and business succession would be the right choice. When considering how to choose an attorney near you, consider this kind of specific experience. It may not only help your estate planning attorney understand your situation, but it may help you feel more comfortable with the attorney handling your case.

Location matters and that is why it can be important specifically to find out how to choose an estate planning attorney near you. There are thousands of estate planning attorneys in the United States. Some may advertise that they practice in multiple states, or in multiple cities within the same state. Since each state has different rules regarding probate and estate planning, and different municipalities have their own regulations within each state, it is usually best when choosing an estate planning attorney near you to find an attorney who practices frequently in your local area.

Our firm is here to develop strong estate plans for you and your loved ones. Reach out to us to schedule an appointment.

We understand that planning for the end of life, a disability or aging can be complicated and emotional. We are here to help you.

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