Florida Estate Planning Checklist

Florida Estate Planning Checklist

The new year is always a good time to take stock of your estate plans and be sure they are up to date. You’ll want to leave your affairs in the best shape possible so when the time inevitably comes (hopefully many years from now), your family will be financially protected.

Here is a quick estate planning checklist to get you started:

 

  1. Be sure you have all necessary documents, including a will, living will, healthcare power of attorney, and more. These items were discussed in my blog last new year’s, so I won’t go into detail about them here.

 

  1.  Look into buying life insurance. If you have a spouse, young children, or elderly parents you support, life insurance may be a good idea. Contact an agent or get quotes online from Esurance or other sites.

 

  1. Update your beneficiary forms. Some assets, including bank accounts and retirement plans, allow you to bypass the probate process after your death if you name a beneficiary on these accounts. The money then goes immediately to the person you have designated. You can similarly tell your broker to list a beneficiary on your stocks, bonds, or brokerage accounts.

 

  1. Consider how you want to die. Most Americans don’t give that enough thought—leaving their loved ones to figure out how you want to spend your last months and days, and what type of ceremony you want after you’re gone. That’s why, in consultation with hospice experts, my firm created the free document My Last Emotional Wishes. This form does not replace a will or living will and is not a legally binding document. But it gives your family peace of mind that they’re acting as you would want them to. Download this free form at the bottom of the home page of my website.

 

  1. Protect your business. If you are the sole proprietor of a business, be sure to make a succession plan. Even if you have partners, a buyout agreement for them to pay your heirs for your portion should be in place.

 

  1. Make your final arrangements. Purchase a burial plot or cremation package, so that expense won’t fall to your heirs.

 

  1. Store all your documents carefully. Legal documents, from wills to funeral prepayment plans, should be carefully stored in a lock box or fireproof safe in your home. Your attorney can also store your legal documents in the office vault. Either way, it’s critical that you tell your close relatives where they can find all these important papers. Never store them in your bank’s safety deposit box; your heirs will not be able to access that box without a court order.

Contact the Law Offices of Gary M. Landau for a free consultation about your probate, real estate, or estate planning matters, by calling 954-979-6566 or emailing.

How to Revoke a Revocable Trust

How to Revoke a Revocable Trust

Maybe you set up your revocable trust as a married couple before you got divorced. Perhaps you’ve decided to change who the successor trustee will be. Or maybe you’ve decided it’s too much work to keep putting newly acquired assets into the revocable trust (also called a living trust).

Whatever your reason, if you decide to revoke the revocable trust, it is possible (which is why it’s named as it is).

To do that, first, see if inside the trust itself is a procedure for how to dissolve it. If not, you’ll need to follow these basic steps:

  1. Remove all of your assets from the revocable trust. This includes having your attorney change the title of your real estate and transferring ownership of other assets from the trust back into your name.
  2. Have your attorney draft a “dissolution document,” which must be signed and notarized and have two witnesses. As with the original trust documents when they were created, this document must be stored carefully, since in most cases it is not filed with the court.
  3. Draft a new will or create a new trust. Now that you don’t have that trust ensuring the distribution of your assets, you’ll need to draft a new will. Alternatively, if you want to create another trust with different assets or successor trustees than your former trust, that should be done right away.

Having the Law Offices of Gary M. Landau by your side during each step in a real estate or probate matter helps insure that the process goes as smoothly as possible. For more information, call 954-979-6566 or email for a free consultation.

5 Reasons You Should Not Have a DIY Will

You can download just about anything online these days: movies, games, and even a do-it-yourself will.

But, just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should do it, and a DIY Will definitely falls in that latter category. Even if you think your estate is simple, there are often things you don’t consider.

As a longtime probate lawyer in South Florida, I’ve seen too many cases of people who thought they would save money by drafting their own will, only to leave behind complications, delays, and in many cases, extra expenses for their heirs. For a document so important to your family and friends, a will is one area where you should definitely hire a professional.

Here are 5 reasons a DIY will is a bad idea:

  1. Florida law constrains who can be your personal representative. A PR is the person you name to find all your assets and work with the courts to properly pass them to the rightful heirs. You may want to choose someone who cannot serve according to Florida law. Similarly, most people making a DIY will don’t think about what happens if the PR they name predeceases them or doesn’t want to serve. A professional takes all of that into account when drafting your will with you.
  2. Typos in DIY wills are more common than you think. According to an article in Forbes magazine advocating against drafting your own will, one person left “200.000” to his sister, inserting a period where there should have been a comma, which set off a battle among the family. Another neglected to change the “insert name here” space-filler in his downloaded will to an actual name, so no one knew who he meant to leave that money to. I have also seen wills that leave assets to someone listed only by first name rather than their full name, and a will where the sentence stipulating what was to happen to his prized possession was cut off the page.
  3. Some assets don’t get passed to heirs via a will. You may think you’re evening the score by leaving your bank account to your son and your property to your daughter, but if your bank account is a joint account in the name of you and your brother, that money automatically goes to your sibling, bypassing the probate altogether. Ditto for life insurance, many pensions, and CDs. To have these properly left to the people you want them to, you need to name them as beneficiaries in the documents themselves.
  4. You miss out on important legal counsel. I spend a lot of time walking clients through their various options. This is especially important for people on second (or third) marriages, parents estranged from children, or those with grown kids of varying income potential. What’s more, people often forget to name a guardian for their child (perhaps the most important element of a will if you have underage kids), leave assets to their pets (they cannot inherit under the law), or place illegal conditions on an heir’s inheritance.
  5. A will’s execution must be perfect. Courts will toss out a Florida will if it doesn’t exactly adhere to state law, such as having two witnesses who sign in each other’s presence. An improperly executed DIY will is the biggest heartbreak I see. Rather than having the estate divided according to the person’s wishes, the court invalidates the will and divvies up the assets based on the law for someone dying without a will, which is often markedly different.

Don’t let this happen to you or a loved one. These days, most attorneys charge a reasonable fee for a will, which should also be drafted with other important documents such as a living will and a healthcare proxy.

If you would like to speak with an experienced probate attorney in South Florida, contact the Law Office of Gary Landau for a FREE legal consultation at 954-979-6566 or by email. Attorney Gary Landau personally returns all calls and emails to him.

What is a Pour-Over Will?

What is a Pour-Over Will?Wikipedia gives this definition of a pour-over will: “A pour-over will is a testamentary device wherein the writer of a will creates a trust, and decrees in the will that the property in his or her estate at the time of his or her death shall be distributed to the Trustee of the trust.”

Huh?

Put simply, a pour-over will is a type of will you need to create if you have a living trust. With a living trust, your assets are held by a trust, rather than by you, although as the named trustee you have complete control. Living trusts were all the rage some years back, and they’re still useful in some cases.

People often think that if they have a living trust they don’t need a will. But that is a big mistake you don’t want to make.

The problem with a living trust is that every single asset in your name has to be transferred into the trust when you create it. And every asset you acquire after you create the trust needs to be held in the trust’s name. But in the real world, things are often missed.

People forget to transfer every asset, so when they pass away, these assets don’t simply pass to the successor trustee the way they’re supposed to.  That’s where the pour-over will comes in.

The will provides direction to “pour over” (hence the name) into your trust any probatable asset that is in your name, outside of the trust, at the time of death. This is important because, without this will, those assets will pass to your heirs according to state law—so your long-estranged husband or child might get an asset you’d prefer goes to someone else.

Unfortunately, because it’s a will, if you do have these assets in your name, your estate will have to be probated—one of the main things people who create a living trust think they’re avoiding.

So it’s not only important to create a pour-over will, it’s important to sit down with your documents once each year and be sure you haven’t acquired any property or other assets that are not in the trust. If there are, move them now.

If you would like more information about estate planning in South Florida, contact the Law Office of Gary Landau for a FREE legal consultation at 954-979-6566 or by email. Attorney Gary Landau personally returns all calls and emails to him.

Estate Planning for Single Parents

No one with young children wants to think that something might happen to them. But for a single parent, that difficult thought brings on added worries. After all, what will happen to your child should the unthinkable happen.

Estate Planning for Single ParentsEveryone with children should prepare a will and other important documents. In my law practice in South Florida, I help single parents carefully think through what they would want to happen to their child if they unexpectedly passed away or became incapacitated. Here are a few guidelines to help.

Make a Will

Younger people often think a will is something older people need. But parents of young children, and especially single parents, need a will more than almost anyone else. That’s because in addition to money and property, you have the care of your child to consider. Whether your assets are vast or modest, a will carefully lays out your wishes. This keeps your children from experiencing a lengthy court battle among various relatives, which happens more often than you might think. You’ll want to revisit and update the will as your children grow.

Name a Guardian

One of the most important sections of your will is to name a guardian. This person, a very close relative or friend whom you trust deeply, will care for your child if you pass away and the child’s other parent is not alive or has no parental rights; a guardian can also manage the money that goes to your children from your will.

You can additionally name a guardian in a document outside of your will. Florida law allows you to designate a “preneed guardian,” a person who will be legally responsible for your children if you become incapacitated, a condition that does not trigger the will. This simple document can be drafted by an attorney when they make up your will.

You’ll want to revisit your choice of guardian over the years. Someone who might be appropriate for your children when they are young might not be best if they are teenagers, especially if that would mean uprooting them to another state.

Consider a Trustee

If you prefer to break up the roles of the person who would care for your children and the one who oversees their money, you can name a trustee in your will to manage your child’s assets.  The trustee’s role can terminate when your child reaches adulthood, or can continue for as long as desired.

Determine If You Need a Special Trust

If you have a lot of money or a child with special needs, you might want to create a trust for your children. This money is placed into the trust at a bank when you create it. Your child cannot access this money until they reach the age you specify, typically 21 or later.

Life Insurance

You can name your minor child as a beneficiary of your life insurance. But if you pass away before they become of age, their guardian or trustee will be in charge of the money.

If you are interested in drafting a will or other documents for your estate planning in South Florida, contact the Law Office of Gary Landau for a FREE legal consultation at 954-979-6566 or by email. Attorney Gary Landau personally returns all calls and emails to him.