Category Archives: Estate Planning

Situations That Will Require You to Change Your Last Will & Testament

As an estate planning and elder law attorney, of course I’m going to recommend you make it a point to always reexamine and update your will; however, there are certain instances when you should definitely consult your lawyer and make a change to your last will and testament. I’ve listed these situations below: 

1. You Have a Kid – Or You Get Some Grandchildren.

Obviously when you take steps to have children–or add to your current clan of kids–you’ll want to reexamine your will and make changes to reflect that. However, some forget to make changes to their will in old age, you should always reexamine your estate planning when you’re in your golden years, especially if grandchildren are a big part of your life and/or will

2. You Have New Stuff, or You Got Rid of Old Stuff.

When you make a big purchase (a new car, vacation home, piece of jewelry, etc.) you should consider altering your will to include it. You can name a beneficiary or include it in part of the assets allotted to a current beneficiary. Perhaps you inherit property, this may require altering your current last will and testament.

3. You Get Married or You Divorce.

Any change in your marital status should prompt a review and alteration of your will. Consult your attorney to set the best course for a change in any instance. What’s kosher in one state or jurisdiction may be different in another. 

4. You Change Your Mind About Something or Someone. 

God forbid you have a falling out with a relative, friend or beneficiary. However, if you do it’s likely you want to change your will – do this with your lawyer so that you can make sure there are no loopholes. Also remember that you must be of sound judgment when you change your will. So in other words, wait until the whiskey wears off.

5. You Have a New Partner (or Maybe Even Some Stepchildren You’re Close To).

If you’re not in a state where gay marriage is legal, you’ll (again) best to seek the counsel of an elder law or estate planning attorney. Also, if you get remarried and decide you’d like to include your stepchildren in your will, you should arrange it as soon as you make up your mind that’s what you want.

6. Someone Named in Your Will Dies.

If a death in the family or a death among one of your beneficiaries occurs, it’s time to change your will. It’s not the first thing you’ll think of after a devastating loss, however it’s important you address it in due time.

Ways to Change Your Will

Consult an attorney before you make a change to your will. That’s a surefire way to ensure that your wishes are carried out as you please. Creating a last will and testament can save your family a lot of heartache, stress and trouble after your passing. They’re going to go through enough, so stay on top of your will and keep it updated to avoid any family tension or ambiguity in the future. Remember that in some states it’s imperative that when you change your will you also revoke the old will.

Execution of Codicils

You might want to make a minor change to a will without rewriting the whole document.  Such changes, amendments, or clarifications are called “codicils”.  Florida will recognize these changes to your will, but only if a codicil meets the formal requirements for the original will’s execution. This is why it’s best to check with your attorney before changing your will. 

Heidi S. Webb Attorney at office

 

About Heidi S. Webb, Attorney at Law – Heidi is an estate planning, elder law and small business attorney located in Daytona Beach, FL. She serves clients in Daytona, Ormond, Port Orange, and surrounding areas. Her office is located in the historic Kress building on Beach Street in Daytona. 

What Makes $14,000 a Magic Number in Estate Planning?

Estate Planning and Gift Tax Returns – Knowing Your Numbers… 

Why is $14,000 a magic number in estate planning? Well, this is the amount of the current (2014-2015) tax exclusion, which means that anyone that gives away (or gifts) $14,000 or less to any one individual does not have to report the gift to the IRS. For those lucky people with an excess of funds, this can be a great way to ensure that your family and heirs get more of what might otherwise be their inheritance when you kick the bucket (hence, the IRS doesn’t take such a large percentage of your estate when you go).

This means someone with a decent amount of money could choose to gift $14,000 a year to one or more grandchildren. That way they–or their grandchildren–can avoid at least some of the hefty taxes that come along with the exchange of a rather large estate. These smaller gifts are made in their lifetime. 

If you gift more than $14,000 to any one person (other than your husband or wife) you will have to file a gift tax return (…in some cases this doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll pay a gift tax: You only have to pay a tax if your reportable gifts total more than $5.43 million [figure from 2015] during your lifetime). 

If you have this kind of money to give, you can give this amount to as many people as you like. However, even if you’re wealthy, you need to be cautious about a few things before taking advantage of this magic number.

What You Need to Know:

If you think there is a chance that you will ever need to apply for Medicaid long-term care coverage, you should definitely consult a knowledgable elder law attorney before setting up any sort of gifting plan. Otherwise you may find that a gift you made to a child or grandchild could hurt your chances of getting Medicaid coverage for long-term care costs.

The IRS may not tax you if you stay mindful of the magic gifting number; however, IRS rules and Medicaid asset transfer rules are two separate entities: If you apply for Medicaid long term care coverage within 5 years of gifting, you may face stipulations or consequences when it comes to securing long term care in a nursing home. 

When Gifting: Plan Ahead, but Expect the Unexpected

You never know what life will bring. It’s important to make sure that you’re taken care of before you distribute your assets to loved ones. Make sure that you seek out an attorney that can help you navigate the multiple avenues of estate planning so that you can live with peace of mind and security. 

 

Heidi S. Webb Attorney at office

Heidi S. Webb Attorney at Law is an estate planning and small business attorney serving clients in Daytona Beach, Ormond Beach, Port Orange, and surrounding areas. Contact Heidi today for a free consultation: (386) 257-3332.

Law office located on the 3rd floor of the historic Kress building on Beach Street in Daytona (handicap accessible). 

Can I Write My Will On A Napkin? Burning Questions About Estate Planning

napkin

Estate planning can be a complex process, and it is never pleasant to predict the end of yours or a loved one’s life. However, a carefully-planned estate can help your family avoid the headache of dividing an inheritance, a problem that has strained many relatives’ relationships in the past. You can write your will yourself; and yes, I suppose you could essentially write it on a napkin––but without an attorney’s help your decisions can easily be contested by the state, your heirs, and other parties you may not want to mess with your property, your rights or your decisions.  

There are four documents that every person, no matter his or her age, should have in the event of an untimely tragedy:

  • Last Will & Testament
  • Living Will
  • Durable Power of Attorney
  • Health Care Surrogate

What is Power of Attorney, and Who Has It?

Power of Attorney designates who makes legal decisions concerning your estate if you have reached an end-stage condition or passed away. You can name anyone you like, from a trusted family member to an attorney you already have on retainer. Just remember: they will be signing on the dotted line for all of your legal matters.

Perhaps the person possessing power of attorney is also your Health Care Surrogate and can execute both living wills and last wills & testaments (decisions about your healthcare vs. decisions about your property/finances).

How Old Do I Have to Be To Write a Binding Last Will and Testament?

In most cases, you must be a legal adult (18 years of age or older) to write a Last Will & Testament. It must be written in sound judgment and mental capacity, and you must name an executor to carry out your wishes after your death. In many cases, the executor also holds durable power of attorney. An executor is responsible for the following:

  • Taking inventory of property
  • Appraising and distributing assets to beneficiaries
  • Paying taxes to Federal and State Governments
  • Settling debts owed by the deceased

How Often Should I Update My Will?

A Last Will & Testament can be updated at any time by the person whose estate it concerns. There are a few key lifestyle changes that can signal when it might be time for a revision:

  • Has the value of your assets changed?
  • Are you recently married, divorced or remarried?
  • Have you recently had a child?
  • Have you moved to a different state?
  • Has your executor become incapacitated, or has your relationship changed in a substantial way?

Generally, an Estate Planning Attorney is an excellent option for making sure that you have at least a basic will and that your will is up-to-date and reflects both your current lifestyle, assets and relationships—and they are trained to keep an eye out for changes that might affect the disbursement of your estate.

So the answer is yes, you can write your will on a napkin—it probably just won’t be distributed the way you truly want it to. To ensure that your Last Will & Testament is carried out to the letter, it’s best to enlist the help of a qualified Elder Law attorney in your area. That way, you can save your family the sometimes bitter fighting that comes with dividing up a deceased loved one’s belongings.

Attorney Heidi S. Webb specializes in Estate Planning and Small Business Law. Her office is located in Daytona Beach, FL, but she serves clients throughout Ormond Beach, Port Orange, and surrounding areas. Contact (386) 257-3332 to set up a free consultation. 

 

Pet Trusts: Will You or Won’t You? Unusual Story of Estate Inheritance Leaves Dogs With 14 Million

When Eleanor E. Ritchey passed away in 1968, she left a lasting gift of her multi-million dollar estate to… her dogs? Mrs. Ritchey had 150 of them, according to court documents, and she left the entirety of her Quaker State Refining Corporation fortune to them when she died. Her will, which stated her wishes, was contested by her family.

The pups eventually received $9 million dollars in a settlement (must’ve had some lawyer), and the figure jumped to $14 million by the time it was disbursed.

When the last of Eleanor’s beloved pets died in 1984, the remainder of the balance was transferred to Auburn University, where it went to a research foundation dedicated to animal diseases. It just goes to show that a solid, well-written will is one of the most binding legal documents you can have, should something unfortunate happen to you or a loved one.

Each pup was tattooed to prove their membership in the original 150. The pets lived out their final days at a sprawling ranch in Florida.

Each pup was tattooed to prove their membership in the original 150. The pets lived out their final days at a sprawling ranch in Florida.

Every Estate is Different, So Why Should Wills Be The Same?

Mrs. Ritchey’s case is not the only time a will has surprised its intended beneficiaries. Each individual and their estate is different, and the services of a dedicated legal advisor can help make sure there are no unpleasant findings when it comes time to disburse the material belongings a loved one has left behind.

In Pets We Trust: Looking After Your Companion in the Afterlife

Most states do not allow for pets to be named as direct beneficiaries in a will or last testament. Instead, it is advisable to set up what is call a “Pet Trust:” simply name a (human) beneficiary who you would want to take care of your furry friend, and establish a monetary trust with them as the beneficiary.

The caretaker of your pet (chosen by you) will then be supervised by a trustee, someone who is responsible for ensuring that Lassie is getting the care provided for her in your will. In most cases, it is wise to choose both a primary and secondary caretaker and trustee, in the case that your first choice is either unwilling or unable to perform their duties.

(Tip: Be sure to list the pet’s name, age, breed, genetic characteristics and defining physical traits in the legal document establishing their trust. This can help to prevent fraud.)

This type of “trust” legal structure allows for your pets needs to be met, and also eliminates any potential legal wrangling that may result from naming your cat or dog as a recipient of your estate.

Heidi Webb is a fully-qualified Estate Planning and Elder Law attorney. She practices primarily in Volusia and Flagler Counties, and is also well-versed in small business law. Heidi’s purpose as a lawyer is to make her clients lives just that much easier during what can be a very trying time, guiding them through a legal process that can seem overwhelming at times. If you live in Port Orange, Ormond Beach, Daytona Beach, or the surrounding areas, Contact Attorney Heidi S. Webb at (386) 257-3332 for a free consultation, and get the affordable, dedicated and compassionate legal counsel you need.

What Happens If You Die Without A Will?

If you die without a will in Florida, you have no say over who will get your assets. Instead, the state decides who gets what. Assets will be divided among your closest relatives under the direction of “intestate succession” laws.

If your estate must be settled through probate, a significant amount of your assets may go toward legal fees and court costs. The expenses of the probate process must be covered while they are working to settle your estate, so your assets will be used to cover those expenses. If you plan ahead, a lot of that can be avoided.

Basically, to sum it up, your hard earned assets will go toward expenses rather than to your loved ones. Basic estate planning enables you to distribute assets as you see fit, and if you choose to do so, provisions can be set up so the probate process can be avoided all together.

With proper planning and guidance from an experienced estate planning attorney, you can ensure that your beneficiaries get more of your assets. Proper planning can also result in much less tax liability and avoid the legal expenses that result from the probate process.

Now is the Time to Take Action

When it comes to estate planning in Daytona Beach and surrounding areas, you can call Heidi S. Webb Attorney at Law for a free consultation. She will work with you and carefully scrutinize your individual situation in order to make the best recommendations for your needs. As an experienced attorney skilled in all aspects of estate planning––including preparation of last will and testaments, durable power of attorney, various kinds of trusts, healthcare directives, and more––Heidi Webb is a lawyer you can trust to handle all matters regarding the proper planning of your estate.

 

Heidi Webb Daytona Beach Attorney

Don’t put off planning for your future and for your loved ones. You have worked hard for what you own, and you want to have the final say in who gets what. Take action now and proceed with estate planning. Whether your needs are complicated and detailed or you just need a basic estate planning package, we can promptly and adequately address your wishes. Contact Heidi today to get started. 

Estate Planning Basics – 4 Pieces of Paper Everyone Should Have

Estate planning advice can get flowery and complex, and I’m here to clear the air and give you some free advice – straight from an attorney who knows firsthand the importance of planning your estate properly. It’s not as big a hurdle as you may think, read on!

When it comes to estate planning and will preparation, it’s important to understand that these are not serious, “end-of-life” decisions – but really just basic financial and medical designations that you should have into place as a semi-responsible adult. You can be healthy, unmarried, and free of kids – and the fact is you should still be ironing out your estate planning groundwork.

Fear Not. The process of gaining peace of mind should never take away peace of mind. So here’s an easy breakdown of the 4 documents you need to consider to set up a basic Estate Plan:

1. Last Will and Testament – If you don’t want “the man” deciding what to do with your property and assets in your absence, then simply draft up a basic will and testament. This will accomplish a few important but straightforward things…

  • It’ll set into place what you have and how and where it will be parceled out.
  • It will also name someone you trust to oversee the process: the personal representative of your estate.
  • If you do have kids (and they’re minors) this document will designate a legal guardian. Pet clause, anyone?
You don't have to have grown children to get your affairs in order! But be warned that "Bad things happen to good people's families when you don't have an estate plan."

You don’t have to have grown children to get your affairs in order! But be warned that, “Bad things happen to good people and their families when you don’t have an estate plan.”

2. Living Will – You’re taking care of both yourself and your loved ones when you “get-to-getting” on the whole living will thing: This document states your wishes should you end up on life support or in an “end stage” condition. If you wish not to be kept artificially alive, then you need this document to protect your rights. If you don’t want your family members to live with the stress, guilt and worry associated with this decision––simply make it now.

3. Durable Power of Attorney – Who takes charge of all those everyday things in your stead? Opening your mail, paying your bills, deciding how to proceed with business and any other non-medical decisions. This document will name an individual responsible for maintaining and managing financial, legal, and general life decisions in your absence. 

4. Health Care Surrogate – The designation of a health care surrogate is similar to power of attorney, but it has to do with your medical decisions. If you should become incapacitated the person named in this document will make your medical decisions for you. This could deal with doctors, procedures, medication, decisions on operations, and more. It’s important to have a health care surrogate in place; if not, you may be issued a court-appointed guardian should your health or mental state decline.

Relax. You don’t have to throw yourself into a tailspin to get prepared and settled with your estate plans. And it won’t be a long and painstaking process either. In fact, it’s quite easy with the right attorney to help you along.

Contact Daytona Beach Attorney Heidi S. Webb to receive a free consultation on your estate planning needs, it’s never too early (or to late!) to get prepared. 

Heidi S. Webb is not your typical attorney, if you’re looking for an affordable, no-nonsense lawyer with compassion, integrity, and a quick turnaround when it comes to your needs for legal guidance, look to Attorney Heidi S. Webb for help with Wills, Trusts, Estate Planning & Probate, and Small Business Law. Located at 140 Beach Street, Suite 310 in Daytona Beach, FL, Attorney Webb also serves clients in Ormond Beach, New Smyrna Beach, Palm Coast, Port Orange, and beyond. Call 386-257-3332 to speak with Heidi today. 

Living Wills – You Don’t Have to Like Them, but You Shouldn’t Ignore Them Either  

There is nothing more certain in life than the simple fact that we were born and we will one day die. Yet, while birth is celebrated as much as any occasion in life, death is viewed as something you should never talk about and many people absolutely refuse to plan for it.  This is especially true for today’s aging population who were taught to ignore death when they were growing up.  As a result of this, often times it leaves some extremely stressful and agonizing choices for the dying person’s loved ones, who are already suffering having to watch their loved one slip away.  A couple hours of deep thought and a trip to see your lawyer about a Living Will would not only make it easier on the ones you are leaving behind, but also let you be the one who decides how your last few days will play out.

Alexandria National Cemetery, VA

Alexandria National Cemetery, VA

I just recently read the story of a dying World War II veteran who was alive after surviving three strokes, vegetative but still technically alive. They were asking his wife to make a choice and none of the options were great. In an already difficult time they were now asking her basically which way her husband should die, because no matter what they did death was inevitable. She made the most difficult choice and chose to comfort him as much as possible but to stop any other treatment, but it was a choice for her that no doubt will leave her wondering if she had done the right thing and possibly feeling guilty because of that. A Living Will would have taken that ultra-tough decision out of her hands and put it in her husband’s, where it belonged. Guilt is nothing anyone should ever have to carry around, especially when a signature on a carefully thought out legal document would prevent it from ever happening. Simple, yet so few do it.

Death is coming for us all, we don’t have a choice in that matter; but we do have a choice in how it all ends and that choice will save your loved ones from an even heavier burden in an already difficult time. The next time you take that long hot shower to relax or sit down in one of your favorite places, take some time to think about a Living Will seriously.  After that go see your lawyer and get it done legally on paper. You will not only feel better about having that unpleasant chore out of the way, but you will also have the peace of mind that sometime down the road you will have done a truly wonderful thing for your family.

Heidi Webb is an Attorney practicing in the Daytona Beach area.  She serves clients from all of Volusia & Flagler Counties, as well as across the State of Florida.  She focuses her practice on Estate Planning, Wills, Trusts, Probate & Small Business matters.  Contact her today for a free consultation.

Probate and Estate Administration 101

Upon the death of a loved one, their Estate must be settled [their money & ‘stuff’ dispersed]. At a highly emotional time this can seem overwhelming to someone with no legal experience so I thought I’d write a very basic outline that folks can find while Googling late at night wanting answers.  

In a nutshell, absent a Trust or other Probate avoidance steps being taken while your loved one was alive, their Estate [with or without a Will] will be handled through a court process, which is known as Probate. Through this court process, assets are managed and then ultimately distributed. 

While every case is different, there are several basic steps that must be followed when an Estate is going through probate in the Daytona Beach area. The first step is to find an attorney you feel comfortable with to file the Petition with [or without] their Will with Probate court.  In Florida you must have an Attorney for the Probate process.  At that point, a Personal Representative is appointed.  A Notice will be sent to the heirs and known creditors, as well as a publication notice to alert any unknown creditors.  The Personal Representative will then to prepare an inventory and conduct an appraisal of the assets of the estate and prepare to pay any estate debts to the creditors.  As the probate process nears an end, the assets of the estate are sold. If required, any estate taxes are paid. Ultimately, the remaining assets are distributed to the heirs accordingly.  At best this is a six month process from start to finish.

Not only is the process lengthy but during the probate process, someone can opt to “contest” a will. In this case, that means they do not agree with the division of assets. This can be a result of children not getting equal shares, disputes over a Will being changed or even a disagreement about the whom should be the Personal Representative of the estate. These disputes can be very expensive and can extend the time that it takes to settle an estate.

With proper Estate Planning you can make the settling of the estate much easier on your family.  Estate planning can make it less costly and the process move more smoothly.  If you need help with the Probate process, Estate Planning or any aspect of planning for your future needs and the needs of your family, call me today to set up a consultation that focuses on your individual needs and the needs of your family.

The Number of Dementia Cases Increase, Handle Estate Planning Early

The number of people being diagnosed with dementia and/or Alzheimer’s Disease each year is increasing. Honestly, the statistics released by the Alzheimer’s Association are startling. When a woman reaches her 60s, her lifetime risk for an Alzheimer’s diagnosis increases to 1 in 6, greater than the chances of a breast cancer diagnosis. In 2014, estimates show 5.2 million Americans suffer from Alzheimer’s. Unfortunately, the number of people younger than 65 who are being diagnosed with early onset of the disease is increasing with estimates indicating as many as 200,000 Americans prematurely suffer from the disease.

With statistics like this, it becomes obvious that Estate Planning is essential. We never know when dementia can strike, so it is imperative to be prepared in the event that it does impact our families. I know firsthand, as I lost my mother to Alzheimer’s disease two years ago. It was a long road from diagnosis to the end stages and it is better to prepared in advance, so your family doesn’t have to face difficult decisions at a very emotionally charged time.

Dementia has a stressful impact on your family and caregivers as well, but you have the opportunity to reduce some of that stress by being prepared with a basic estate planning package in place. With proper guidance, your family has the opportunity have a plan in place.

Take the time to remember those who suffer from Alzheimer’s on The Longest Day, which is June 21 this year. It is a team fundraising event that enables people around the world to honor those who are facing the disease. Also, don’t put off planning ahead for your family. Now is the time.