Oct 112012
 
If I Die Without A Will, Will The State Get My Assets?

The answer is, possibly.  One of the most persistent estate planning “myths” around is the belief that if someone dies without a will, the State of Florida is entitled to their possessions.  While it is possible that Florida could collect a windfall upon a person’s passing, it is by no means a certainty. When a Florida resident dies without a will, they are considered legally “intestate.”  Given the relative frequency of this occurrence, it is not surprising that the Florida Statutes have a procedure in place for controlling the disposition of the decedent’s property. If there is a surviving spouse, More…

Oct 032012
 
Obtaining The Florida Homestead Tax Exemption Following Transfer To A Trust

Article VII, Section 6 of the Florida Constitution currently allows for homestead protection from ad valorem real property taxes.  The effect of this provision is to exempt the first $25,000 of property value for all purposes and also to exempt another $25,000 of value for homes worth up to $75,000 for all purposes but the property taxes calculated for schools.  This exemption may be further expanded following the 2012 election. Many people wonder how they can preserve their homestead protection from taxes if the property is transferred to a revocable or irrevocable trust.  Florida Statute § 196.031(1)(a) says that every More…

Sep 132012
 
Florida Law Removes Divorced Spouse As A Beneficiary From Non-Probate Assets

A recently enacted Florida law would nullify the designation of a spouse as the beneficiary of non-probate assets such as life insurance policies, qualified annuities, individual retirement accounts (IRA), employee benefit plans, and payable on death (POD) or transfer on death (TOD) accounts, upon the dissolution or annulment of a marriage. Florida Statute 732.703, effective July 1, 2012, states that “a designation made by or on behalf of the decedent providing for the payment or transfer at death of an interest in an asset to or for the benefit of the decedent’s former spouse is void as of the time More…

Aug 282012
 
4 Life Changing Events That Require An Estate Planning Review

Effective estate planning is not the kind of thing that is done once and then put on a shelf for the rest of your life.  It requires consistent review and alteration as circumstances change.  Here are 4 life changing instances which should cause you to pick up the phone and give your Florida estate planning attorney a call: Marriage: Anytime someone decides to get married is a good time to consider whether an estate planning change is in order.  This is true for both the individual and their descendants.  Decisions will need to be made regarding how property will be More…

Aug 172012
 
When It Comes To Florida Probate, Don’t Mess With The IRS

It is common during the course of a Florida probate for the personal representative to discover that the decedent has outstanding federal tax debt.  When this happens, it is imperative that funds which are available to pay creditor’s claims be properly allocated to the IRS.  Florida Statute 733.707, which outlines the order in which creditors of the probate estate are to be paid, states that the IRS is a “Class 3″ creditor.  This means that the funds which are available after payment of administrative costs and fees, compensation for the personal representative and the fees of the probate attorney, and More…

Aug 082012
 
When To Pay Creditors Of A Florida Probate Estate

A common question which can arise during the probate process is when exactly creditors of the estate should be paid.  As with most things legal, there is no cut-and-dry answer to this question. Florida Statute 733.707 outlines the order in which creditors of the probate estate are to be paid.  This statute sets forth the order of priorities as follows: Class 1 (First) – Administrative costs and fees, including compensation for  the Personal   Representative and  the fees of the probate attorney; Class 2 – Reasonable funeral, internment, and grave expenses up to $6,000; Class 3 – Debts and taxes with More…

Jul 172012
 

The representatives for Michael Jackson’s estate have filed legal documents which show that the estate has generated gross earnings exceeding $475 million as of the end of May and is well on its way to settling the $500 million of debt the King of Pop left behind when he died.  The lawyers estimate that the remaining debt will be paid off by the end of the year.  Jackson was found dead in his Los Angeles, California home three years ago after he overdosed on prescription drugs. While it is certainly easier to settle the debts of the decedent from estate More…

Jul 122012
 
When May A Surviving Spouse Elect To Take 1/2 Of The Homestead?

Article X, Section 4(c) of the Florida Constitution imposes restrictions on the transfer or devise of homestead property.  While living, a husband and wife who own homestead property may transfer an interest in this property only if both of them sign the deed, mortgage, or other conveyance.  Upon death, there are limits upon how an individual can devise homestead property that are largely dependent on who survives the decedent. If someone attempts to devise the homestead in a manner that is not authorized by Florida law or the Florida Constitution, the Florida Statutes determine the proper manner of descent.  The More…

Jun 292012
 

A person who is asked to serve as trustee of a Florida trust should know and understand what their potential liability may be for actions they take while serving.  The Florida Trust Code outlines the issue of breach of trust and provides some relief to limit trustee liability. Under the Florida Statues, a violation by a trustee of a duty the trustee owes to a beneficiary is a breach of trust.  In order to remedy a breach of trust that has occurred or may occur, a court may: Compel the trustee to perform or enjoin the trustee from acting; Compel More…

Jun 272012
 
Removal Of A Trustee May Be The Best Way To Settle A Trust Issue

Generally, the settlor of a Florida Revocable Trust selects the successor trustee who will be responsible for making sure that the settlor’s beneficiaries are cared for in accordance with their wishes when they have passed.  If the beneficiaries of a trust become dissatisfied with the performance of the trustee, the best solution may be the resignation or removal of that trustee.  If an agreement may be reached between the parties, the trustee may consent to resign in return for releases by the beneficiaries.  If not, removal may be possible under the terms of the trust instrument or in accordance with More…