Category Archives: Probate

Eight Estate Planning Documents Everyone Should Have (and keep updated!)

Estate Plan Documents

An Estate Plan contains many documents, some that people are unaware of and need. Here is an overview of eight documents you may need to prepare for yourself and your family with the help of an attorney.

  1. LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT

A legal document used to distribute property to beneficiaries, specify last wishes, name guardians for minors and identify who is responsible for managing the estate and implementing your requests. Every adult needs one. If you don’t specify who will take care of your children and who gets your possessions, the state in which you reside will do it for you and it may not always be what you would’ve wanted.

  1. DURABLE POWER OF ATTORNEY

A Durable Power of Attorney gives someone you trust authority to handle your financial and legal matters if you’re unable to do so yourself. Of course, the person selected needs to be someone whom you trust will represent your best interests. Review my blog post here on how to choose the correct Power of Attorney (link to old blog post)

  1. HEALTH CARE SURROGATE DESIGNATION

You assign a healthcare proxy or surrogate to make medical decisions for you when you are incapable of doing so but there is an expectation of survival. This person will need relevant health information so be sure it includes a HIPAA provision that gives your physician(s) permission to disclose your medical information.

  1. LIVING WILL AND MEDICAL DIRECTIVES

A living will let you specify what types of medical treatment you want to sustain your life if you’re terminally ill or are in a vegetative state. Medical directives apply if you become incapacitated and are unable to communicate your wishes for treatment.  The difference between the Health Care Surrogate and the Living Will and Right of Privacy Declaration is that the Health Care Surrogate is written for times of poor health to allow full access to healthcare providers and information; when you are unable to make your own decisions, yet the thought is that there will be survival with quality of life. The Living Will is essentially the document that says when YOU would like to say “turn it off if there is no hope”. 

  1. REVOCABLE OR LIVING TRUST

In many states, a living trust can be used to distribute property more privately than a will –Florida is one of those states. It also helps avoid a costly and stressful probate court process allowing a more seamless administration of your Estate.  There are many circumstances that dictate a Trust being appropriate and many times that I advise they are unnecessary.  That said, I strongly recommend folks consider a Trust in the following circumstances:  When you have real property in more than one state, children or young adults that stand to inherit a substantial sum, or concerns about your mental capacity declining.

  1. BENEFICIARY FORMS

For insurance policies, retirement accounts, and some other assets, the beneficiary form prevails over the will. Whom you name in these documents will receive the assets, so make sure they are reviewed and updated every few years if needed, and your Attorney includes them in your plan.

  1. LETTERS OF INSTRUCTION

A way to share any wishes not covered by a will, such as preferences on your funeral, how to care for your pets or whether you want to donate your organs.

  1. LIST OF CONTACTS

A detailed list of people to contact in certain circumstances, including family, friends and the professionals who oversee your legal, financial, insurance and health matters.

Also, advise your family where these documents are and keep them in a safe place. If you live in the Daytona Beach, Florida area and have more questions regarding Estate Planning, call me for a free consultation.

 

Estate Planning Pitfalls

There are numerous pitfalls of which you need to be aware regarding your Estate Plan.

You’ve worked way too hard to leave your estate plan to chance. Stop procrastinating and protect your family and loved ones and your hard-earned legacy today. However, when doing so, there are numerous pitfalls of which you should be aware.

A simple Google search can reveal some harrowing examples of those pitfalls. This is part one of a multi-part series of what can happen when Estate Planning goes wrong:

Pitfall Possibility #1: Picking An Inappropriate Personal Representative

Are there any long-standing feuds in your family? Does your anticipated Personal Representative live near you? Who will handle your final affairs in an appropriate and fair manner?

These are all questions to spend some time thinking about when determining the best person or persons to act on your behalf after your death. Read on to review an example of what can happen if these things aren’t considered properly:

“When you’re dealing with families, things can get complicated—quick. We see so many cases come through with unresolved feuds between siblings. It’s one of the most common causes of litigation over an estate.

I handled one case where a client’s sister had been named the executor of their father’s estate, despite the fact that she lived in a different state than both her father and brother, whom she’d been fighting with for years.

Ideally, in a case like that, the parents would have named an objective, independent personal representative—like another family member or a trusted friend—as their estate’s executor, instead of one of the kids.

But that didn’t happen here.

After the father passed away, our client started to take care of a few things around the house, not realizing he didn’t have the legal right to do so. Once his sister arrived, there were accusations about items being removed—and a long legal battle ensued.

Ultimately, even though the estate was to be divided evenly, our client’s sister had all of the decision-making power to decide how that happened, so long as the monetary value was equal. There is no way to challenge her decisions in court, and we’re still waiting to see whether or not the siblings can put their feelings aside and divide the estate fairly.

To avoid contentious situations like this, we counsel clients to consider the complicated dynamics between the family members named in a will. If there’s even a possibility of an estate causing fights or damaging relationships, we encourage them to look for an independent personal representative who can settle things fairly.”

                                                    —Tom Gisriel, attorney at Pessin Katz Law, Baltimore, Md.

Mr. Gisriel finishes his story with some valuable advice: Consider complicated dynamics between family members and think about an independent Personal Representative if those dynamics will damage relationships –a neutral family friend? Your Attorney?

Follow the blog, so you do not miss the next chapters of Estate Planning Pitfalls.

Avoid these headaches by putting your Estate Plan in motion today by meeting with an Estate Planning Attorney where you reside.

Heidi S. Webb provides competent, experienced and trusted Estate Planning and Probate Estate Administration services to clients in the Daytona Beach, Florida area. Call today to schedule your free legal consultation.

Original Article with “case studies” located at https://www.learnvest.com/knowledge-center/estate-planning-mistakes

How to Include Your Digital Assets in Your Estate Plan

digital assetTechnology has created new jobs, a new industry, and a new step in estate planning. The days of just gathering just paper documents folder so your love ones can find it when necessary are over. There is one more step – digital assets. Digital assets are commonplace and need to be considered when putting together an estate plan. To make sure your estate plan is complete, here are some steps to follow when gathering the information for your estate plan to make sure the digital assets are included.

Make A List

The most common documents are thought of first when gathering the information for an estate plan. Deeds to property, list of jewelry, the contents of a home are a few. When you gather all your assets together your online accounts need to be included so the executor can have access. Not sure what digital assets are? They are defined as follows:

Digital property (or digital assets) can be understood as any information about you or created by you that exists in digital form, either online or on an electronic storage device, including the information necessary to access the digital asset.

These can be family photos stored on a computer hard drive to the login information for an online financial account. To be safe, if you want to make sure anything online is passed on, resolved, or shut down after you pass, include it on this list. Whether it has monetary or sentimental value – it should be included.

Know What to Include- Examples of Personal and Monetary Digital Property

Understanding what to include in your digital list can be daunting. Consider the following when you sit down to make your digital asset list. Accounts that are used to manage money and may hold money or credits, like PayPal, bank accounts, loyalty rewards programs, and any accounts with credit balances in your favor are the digital assets that come to mind first because of the monetary value. But your digital assets can be a much more intensive list when you stop and considering everything you do on your computer.

Computer hardware, external hard drives or flash drives, tablets, smartphones, digital music players, e-readers, digital cameras, and other digital devices need to be on your list. These items may contain crucial information that may need attention in the processing of your estate. These may also have personal information you want someone to have for has for sentimental reasons. In addition, any of these have monetary value if they generate revenue. Any information or data that is stored electronically, whether stored online, in the cloud, should make the list. This includes art, photos, music, eBooks, intellectual property, websites or blogs that generate revenue for you. Domain names, including copyrighted materials, trademarks, and any code you may have written and own are other examples of digital assets that need to be considered in the estate planning process.

Any online accounts, such as email and communications accounts, social media accounts, shopping accounts, photo and video sharing accounts, video gaming accounts, online storage accounts, and websites and blogs that you may manage. If you want these accounts shared or shut down in your estate, they need to be included.

Hire An Attorney

Lastly, I always recommend hiring an attorney when putting together an estate plan and with digital assets this is even more important. Technology is changing as a fast pace with increasingly companies using cloud based storage. In addition, intellectual property is a relatively new field. Only an attorney in the estate planning field will have the up-to-date knowledge to put your estate plan together properly and save your family time and money.

The End of the Year is the Perfect Time to Update Your Asset Inventory

When someone passes away, finding all the accounts, insurance policies, and necessary information to close an entire estate can be a monumental search. When I do an Estate Package for a client I put together a binder. This binder contains all the documents of the Estate Plan for convenience, safe keeping, and future review. Yearly review of your Estate Plan and Asset Inventory is a responsible habit to start and the end of the year is a great time year to implement this practice. Many people create an inventory when they go through the process of initially planning their estate and never touch it again. One easy way to annually update your inventory is to collect the statements you get in the mail at the end of the year for tax purposes. Place them all in a folder as they come in the mail and cross reference this against your inventory. That way you are getting a jump on your taxes AND updating your binder with the most current information on your assets. 
Also, there are significant life events that can trigger changes to the asset inventory. Examples of these are:

Divorce.

If you have gotten a divorce since the drafting of the estate plan and asset inventory, they will need to be changes. In addition, if an heir has gotten divorced this may change how you your assets will be distributed.

Marriage.

If you have gotten married, there may be additional assets that need to be added to your inventory. The information needs to be gathered and put on this list in your estate binder.

Sold or Purchased New Assets.

Did you cash in an insurance policy or purchase a new piece of land? These changes need to be added to your asset inventory to bring it current.
An asset inventory will only provide a clear “road map” for your heirs after you are gone if it is reviewed regularly. An experienced estate planning attorney can help you create an inventory of your assets and make a plan for asset preservation and distribution. If you are in the Daytona Beach, Florida area, call me for a free consultation regarding your Estate Planning needs.

estate-planning

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.