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ASK HEIDI: What is the difference between Last Will & Testament and a Trust?

Short Answer: Property left through a Living Trust does not pass through probate. Property left through a Will does go through probate. Probate is the court system designed to wrap up a person’s affairs after their death. Probate can take a long time, be very expensive, and for most estates, can be avoided with a little planning.

Why it’s Important: A Will and a Trust are two completely different ways to handle your estate. Knowing the difference between the two can help you make the best choice for you and your family.

Pros for using a Trust
If avoiding probate court is something that you want to you then a Living Trust may be the estate planning avenue for your assets. If a Living Trust is properly written and funded, you can:

  • Avoid probate on your assets
  • Plan for the possibility of your own incapacity
  • Control what happens to your property after you are gone
  • Use it for any size estate; and
  • Prevent your financial affairs from becoming a matter of public record

There are many positive reasons to establish a Trust but do not overlook the fact that it will involve more upfront effort and expense.

Pros to using a Will
A Will is a written document that will go into effect once you die. This document indicates how your property will be distributed at the time of your death. It is revocable and subject to changes at any time during your lifetime. A Will does not have to be “funded” as it acts as an instruction not a “vessel” so you can avoid some upfront costs, but in most cases it will not help your heirs avoid probate.

The commonality between using a Will or a Trust is that you should consult with an attorney specializing in this field in the state in where you live to help you make the appropriate choice for your Estate Planning based on your present circumstances, after-death desires, and the size and composition of your assets.

ASK HEIDI: What is a Healthcare Surrogate?

thumps-up-docShort Answer:   A health care surrogate is an adult who is appointed to make healthcare decisions for you when you become unable to make them for yourself.

Why it’s Important: You are ensuring that your healthcare decisions are in the hands of someone you trust. In the event you reach the point that you are not able to handle your own medical decisions because of injury, illness or your advanced age, having the appropriate legal paperwork in place are essential parts of your lifeline. If you don’t want to write down your wishes in regards to your medical care, you want to at a minimum ensure you have someone named to oversee your medical care. When naming your Healthcare Surrogate, you can name any person you trust, most people choose a spouse, parent, adult child or close friend to handle the job. This adult does not need to be a family member but someone you trust, who is willing to take on the responsibility and will follow your wishes. Florida law declares that the person you name as your surrogate cannot witness the document. If you have not named a Healthcare Surrogate, you should schedule an appointment with an estate attorney in the state in which you reside, who can guide you through the process and make other suggestions regarding preparing for the future of you and your family.

When It Pays to Hire an Attorney

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Living in an age where one can Google how to do anything, people think they can “google” their way into not going to the doctor, hiring a roofer or not needing professional legal advice.  In spite of Google, hiring an expert is often still the best way to make sure the job is done right.  Many people are hesitant to hire a lawyer because they are fearful of what it might cost. While it is true that legal services cost money, having a skilled professional on your side in most cases means a better outcome. Here are two examples of when it is especially important to hire an attorney.

Setting up a Small Business.

If you own or operate a business, you need to ensure you have every legal document in place. These documents are not only the benefit of your business but for your safety and security as well. You want to protect your personal assets in the event there are liability issues with your business operations. Whether you are deciding how to set up your business or how to pass down your business to family members, the information and process can be long and complicated. Business law is constantly changing and only someone in the profession will stay on top of these changes.

Drafting a Last Will & Testament

Drafting a proper Last Will and Testament can save your family a lot of heartache, stress, and money after your passing.  Nothing brings out the worst in people more than money and if you pass away without leaving explicit instructions, your verbal wishes may not be followed when it comes to distributing your assets. The only way to make sure a Will is drafted correctly is to hire an attorney with experience to do so.  While a form pulled off the internet may work, do you want to take this chance and put your family through the expense and hassle of a poorly drafted Will after you have passed?  A Probate can be costly in the best circumstances, if it becomes protracted by arguing the cost will be prohibitive.  In any event, remember a form pulled off the internet will not be specific to your last wishes — an experienced attorney will have the knowledge to ask the right questions so they can draft a Will to fit your individual needs.   It’s a good investment.

If you need help with setting up a small business or drafting a Will, call me today to set up a consultation that focuses on your individual needs and the needs of your family.

Estate Planning: Steps You can Take to Keep Your Estate from Going to Probate Court

Did you know that even with a proper, legal will and testament your wishes set up through the estate planning process may not go exactly as planned? Believe it or not, there is an “approval process” of sorts for wills. This is done in what they call a probate court. This court looks at things that may be brought into question in a will––sometimes they do not honor parts of it, but for the most part it just takes an extremely long time to resolve the will. Families and loved ones can get contentious, and those closest to you can’t return to life as usual.

Some of this possible unpleasantness can be avoided, and your assets can get where you want them more quickly. Let’s look at a few ways that probate court can be avoided or essentially be bypassed.

  1. Revocable Living Trust – This is a tactic where you take your valuable property and place it in a trust so it does not become part of your estate for a probate hearing. It works because the trustee is the one who actually owns the personal property at the time of death. After death, the trust under guidance of a legal document similar to a will, is then transferred to those it was meant to go to without going through the probate court process. There will still be an estate tax placed on the value of the trust property though.
  2. Pay-on-Death Accounts – You can change the status of your retirement and bank accounts to that of payable on death accounts. You simply do this by adding a beneficiary. When you die the money then goes to them.
  3. Joint Ownership of Property – This is when you add another name on to a title to a home, vehicle, or other property you hold title too. You state on the joint title that upon death the surviving person gets the property.
  4. Gifts – You can simply give something to someone as a gift before you die. If you don’t own something it does not go through probate court. There are some catches here so be sure to ask your lawyer about them.
  5. Small Estate Procedures – Many States are now making available what they call simplified procedures for small estates that avoid going through probate all together also.

Please keep in mind this is a quick summation of what is available out there to help avoid your personal property going through probate court. The process is not always as easy as it sounds. The best thing to do if you’re interested is to sit down with your lawyer and discuss what your options are and how you would go about taking advantage of some of them.

 

WARNING: Cheeseburger Toppings Say A Lot About Your Personality  

37582_516864494282_203101201_30587669_5762779_nPeople are always looking for ways to predict things. Ever since Nostradamus, folks have been overly obsessed with knowing what’s going to happen. We have the Farmer’s Almanac, palm readings and horoscopes. Many important people who are deserving don’t have a day of the year named after them but a groundhog does; why? because he predicts things. Along those lines, did you know that one of the most popular sections of any magazine is its personality prediction test?  hmmmm.  But here’s something you probably haven’t considered:  those gourmet cheeseburgers you just ordered speak volumes about yourself and the person across the table.

So you like it extremely well done? In that case ‘how are you Mr. or Ms. Conservative?’ You are the type of person that buttons the top button on a Polo shirt and it’s not uncommon to see you sporting a cloth mask over you face when out in public to prevent germ transmission. Voting republican for you is not a choice, it’s instinctive.

Did I just see you reach for the hot sauce? You got into trouble a lot as a kid and still prefer things a little on the wild side don’t you? 

So you like ketchup on top AND a little spicy mustard. You are a person who is responsible and slightly conservative, but watch out for that spontaneous and fun side which periodically comes out to play.

I see yours has melted cheese dripping down the sides and grease soaking up into the bun. Most likely you are a person that believes a home is meant to be lived in and cleaning comes about as often as Christmas.

Hot sauce, grilled onions and Chipoltle Mayo, I am not even going to begin to get into that one.

I could go on but you get the idea, who knew that a gourmet cheeseburger could give away so much about your personality? A good reason to never order one at a business meeting, but if you do, remember that person sitting across the table from you will know a lot about your personality before your first bite.

p.s. remind me to tell you about IBM and the salt shaker ‘test’ some day.

Heidi Webb is a Cheeseburger connoisseur residing in Ormond Beach Florida & working in Daytona Beach, Florida.  And while she is a self-proclaimed expert of where to find the best cheeseburger in Volusia County, she does not limit herself to that area and has been spotted enjoying burgers as far south as Key West, as North as Montpelier, Vermont and on the west coast in San Diego California.  When she is not enjoying a great cheeseburger she practices law and is licensed in both Florida and New Mexico, specializing in Estate Planning, Wills & Trusts, Probate and Small Business matters.