Category Archives: Attorney Advice

The Benefit of Using An Attorney Instead of An Internet Service For Your Will

internet service

“Do I really need an attorney? Can I write my own will? ”

My quick answer is yes  —you can write your own will or use a free internet service to write your own Will.

In this age, you can watch a video on YouTube or read a DIY blog post and have the capability to Google just about anything. There’s seemingly limitless information at your finger-tips and it is easy to feel like you can sidestep the professionals for a cheaper solution.  The “catch” is some of that information is correct and some inaccurate but it is hard to discern which is which and even which is applicable to your circumstance.

The more important question is really SHOULD you write your own will?

Then my quick answer becomes NO. 

Even though some legal documents are free —they really are not one size fits all.  Laws vary from state to state and very small nuances can change what you should do.  Legal advice, guidance, professional knowledge, and peace of mind are why you pay an attorney.  A software system is only as good as its design. This software does not explain your options nor the implications/effects of those decisions.  A good estate planning attorney should be a trusted advisor can guide you, answer your questions, and help you to make informed and empowered decisions that are best for your family. 

That’s what we call money well spent.

Ask Heidi: “I am not rich..Do I need a Last Will and Testament?”

 

Do I need a Last Will and Testimant

This question gets a resounding YES.  No matter what your financial status is, having a Will is necessary to give YOU the control of what happens to your family and your “stuff” in the event of your death and gives your appointee(s) a smooth process in order to effectuate your wishes.

If you have children having a Will is not only necessary but should be a priority. Declaring a Guardian for your children under the age of 18, or special needs adults under your care are very important.  If you fail to do so, and both parents pass without a written intent there could be issues with the relatives (or friends) you assumed would gain custody, they may not —there also could be placement delays.  Having a Will could not only save thousands of dollars in court fees, but it will also streamline the process and reduce heartache all around so your children are placed with the relative that you would have wanted them to be placed with –expeditiously. The flip side is perhaps there’s a relative you don’t want raising your kids –nominating a Guardian in a Will can avoid that occurrence.

As a practical matter, without a Will, your belongings may go to people who you don’t want to have them. One reason folks often give for not writing down their last wishes is that they “don’t have anything of value” to pass on when they die.  Usually, they are surprised with what assets they do have that need direction.  Most commonly –a checking account, retirement fund, vehicle or other belongings that can be passed on to friends and relatives.  Having a Will also gives you an opportunity to nominate a Personal Representative, someone that you trust that will handle settling your estate and/or undertake a number of important duties when you pass. 

I meet with people every day to discuss Wills and other Estate Planning documents, call to schedule if you want answers specific to your situation.

Heidi S. Webb, Attorney at Law serves clients in Daytona Beach, Ormond Beach, Port Orange, Melbourne and beyond with matters of Elder Law, Estate Planning, and Probate Law.   Contact her today to schedule a free consultation. Visit her page on Facebook, or see what her clients are saying to learn more about Heidi.

How Do You Provide For Your Pet After You Pass?

provide for your pets

We love our four-legged members of our family, but few of us consider who will take care of them and how they will be provided for after we die. Although you can’t leave money directly to a pet, there are several things you can do to make sure your pets stay well cared for when you can no longer take care of them. With proper planning and the right legal guidance, you can plan for all the loved ones in your life–including the four-legged ones!

A pet trust is an estate planning tool you can use to create a legal obligation to care for your pet. In the trust document, you name a person to care for your pet, you provide instructions for your pet’s care, and you leave money for that purpose. When you die, the person named as trustee will get the money and the pet. However (unlike a provision in a will or living trust), under a pet trust, the trustee will have to follow your instructions and use the money only for the care of your pet. Please make sure you have an honest conversation with this person and make sure that they will be happy to look after your pet.

There are several options for your pets, whether or not you have close family and friends who are willing to take them on should anything happen to you. But whichever option suits you best, you can only ensure it is carried out by making a clear and binding will and informing your loved ones of your wishes in advance.

Heidi S. Webb, Attorney at Law serves clients in Daytona Beach, Ormond Beach, Port Orange, Melbourne and beyond with matters of Elder Law, Estate Planning, and Probate Law.   Contact her today to schedule a free consultation. Visit her page on Facebook, or see what her clients are saying to learn more about Heidi.

Questions to Ask When Interviewing Estate Planning Attorneys

Questions to Ask When Interviewing Estate Planning Attorneys

Estate planning is not something that many people look forward because it’s associated with mortality, but it’s important to think of the next generation. If you want your assets passed down to them without efficiently and without incident, you’re going to need to make smart decisions. Fortunately, if you hire the right estate planning attorney, you can get valuable input and assistance in making those decisions. On the other hand, if you hire the wrong estate planning attorney, you could end up paying a lot more than necessary — your assets might not go where you intended or in the most efficient manner.  

These questions should help you find the right estate planning attorney:

  1. What is your experience in dealing with trusts and estates? The quality of this answer will depend on your requirements, but you definitely want to hire someone who has been in the business for a minimum of three years.
  2. Is your primary focus on estate planning? You’re looking for a “yes.”
  3. Do you practice Probate as well? A “yes” is a bonus as having an attorney that sees how their [and other’s] Estate Planning documents play out post mortem is worth its weight in gold.
  4. How long will it take you to complete my estate planning project? In most cases, there is no rush. The key is to avoid the probate process.
  5. Will you send estate planning documentation for me to review? Even if you’re working with the most experienced estate planning attorney in the world, you want to review documentation to make sure everything is set up as you intended. Your attorney may be highly skilled, but there’s always the possibility of miscommunication.
  6. Do you offer a formal updating and maintenance program? For a small fee, some estate planning attorneys will offer a semi-annual or annual review. This is important because there may be changes to laws and taxes, as well as to your life. In regards to the latter, adjustments to your estate might be necessary.
  7. Do you assist with Trust funding? In the event a Trust is your recommended course of action, having an attorney who will help make sure all your assets end up in the Trust is VERY important.  Unfunded Trusts are virtually worthless.

Every situation is different, but asking a potential estate planning attorney these 7 questions should provide you with a lot of information to help you decide whether he or she is the best option for you, which also would mean the best option for your loved ones.

Heidi S. Webb, Attorney at Law serves clients in Daytona Beach, Ormond Beach, Port Orange, Melbourne and beyond with matters of Elder Law, Estate Planning, and Probate Law.   Contact her today to schedule a free consultation. Visit her page on Facebook, or see what her clients are saying to learn more about Heidi.

ASK HEIDI:  Do I need to select a Power of Attorney for financial matters and another for health care, or can the same person do both? 

Short Answer:  While it’s two different documents/roles it can be the same person wearing both hats.

The document for handling financial matters is called a Durable Power of Attorney and the Health Care Surrogate Designation is for healthcare decisions when you are unable but there’s an expectation of survival. 

I usually approach it from the perspective that they are very different roles and often different loved ones might be better suited for one rather than the other.  I tell my client’s that they shouldn’t feel it HAS to be the same person but it absolutely can be. 

Ask Heidi: What’s an ‘Opioid Trust’?  

Opioid Trust

As an Estate Planning in the Daytona Beach area, I have the privilege to help my clients in all aspects of setting up wills, trusts, and similar legal documents. I recently had an estate planning client that had a question that I think many folks have but are hesitant to ask and I wanted to share my answer to him in a blog. He has a child who had a substance abuse disorder, and his question to me was, ‘What do I do in this situation?’” 

Although this might appear to be an unusual inquiry, it is more and more common. According to a Pew survey of US adults conducted in 2017, 46 percent of adults have a close friend or family member who is or has been addicted to drugs.

As the opioid epidemic continues to impact our nation, families are in constant search of answers as to how they can help loved ones with addiction issues after they are gone. When you are faced with a situation that you wish to not leave anything outright to this child directly, you may want to consider an “opioid trust.” This would ensure that the money would specifically pay for recovery-related expenses: rehabilitation bills, therapist payments, and treatment bills. This would create a tough love scenario with no direct support to the child unless directly related to recovery with the goal to stay clean for the long-term.

How Can I Be Sure My Will Is Uncontested?

How to keep your estate out of  litigation

“Death brings out the best and the worst in families.”

If you have been through a personal loss, you may have experienced it first-hand. Grief and stress understandably are at their peak in the event of the loss of a loved one. From a legal perspective, it is essential to make sure all your affairs are in clear order to eliminate any additional stress for your family members and loved ones.

Make sure your Will is executed correctly. The best way to do this is to have an experienced Estate Planning attorney assist you in preparing your documents. Wills need to be signed and witnessed, usually by two independent witnesses, as well as notarized in Florida. Do not involve family members and beneficiaries in preparing your Will, they should also not be present when executing.

Explain your decision. It’s a good idea to discuss with your family members when you draft your Will to explain why someone is getting a reduced share or left out altogether. If you do not feel comfortable discussing one on one, be sure to clearly state the reason in the will. You may also want to include a letter with your documents.  It’s important the Will not appear to have an inadvertent omission of a potential heir.

Prove competency. Generally speaking, you must know what you are doing, understand the consequences of including and excluding beneficiaries and have knowledge of the value of your estate. You must understand that they are signing a Will and approve of its contents. A common challenge is to claim that the deceased member was not of sound mind at the time he or she signed the document. You can try to avoid this by making sure the attorney drafting the Will tests you for competency. Depending on your circumstances, this could involve seeing a doctor or answering a series of questions. You can also prove further competency by video recording the signing which would make it more difficult for family members to argue that you did not have the necessary mental capacity.

Heidi S. Webb, Attorney at Law serves clients in Daytona Beach, Ormond Beach, Port Orange, and beyond with matters of Elder Law, Estate Planning, and Small Business Law. Contact her today to schedule a free consultation. Visit her page on Facebook, or see what her clients are saying to learn more about Heidi. 

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.

 

How Do I Talk to My Parents About Estate Planning?

estate planning

The Estate Planning conversation can be difficult.

Conversations about planning for a senior’s later years seem difficult because often they are delayed until a medical crisis forces the family’s hand. Here are two suggestions on how to make this conversation a productive one for all parties involved. 

Schedule a Time to Hold the Conversation

Let them know ahead of time that you want to discuss something important. The first conversation should take place at your parents’ home, or another place where they feel comfortable. Make an “agenda” on the issues you want to discuss during this meeting to stay on track if things get emotional.

Avoid Making Your Parents Defensive

If your parents are more hesitant, start with the least emotional topics to establish comfort. Always open the conversation with “I” statements, instead of “you” statements. Saying something like, “You can’t manage your finances anymore,” would only get your parents’ hackles up. –instead, say “I want us to be prepared in case there’s an emergency so that I can be helpful.”  If you make sure your conversation is coming from a helpful place, the discussion will be a positive one.

If your parents are willing, consulting with an Estate Planning Attorney is something I always recommend.   If you are located in the Daytona Beach area, call my office for a free consultation.

How to find a Personal Representative outside of your family

There are three characteristics I believe you should look for when choosing the Personal Representative of your estate: someone who can carry out the needed tasks is willing to serve in this role and is familiar with your unique situation.

How do you find a Personal Representative if you don’t know anyone who meets these three criteria? In other words, where can you turn to find a Personal Representative if there are no immediate candidates within your family or your close friends?

While the majority of folks find an individual in their family to serve as Personal Representative, however, if there are no immediately obvious people who you think would be a good fit, think outside of the box. Do you have any grandchildren who could do it? If your close circle of friends is older, do any of them have kids that would be able to carry out the tasks of Personal Representative?

People are typically more than willing to help out if they’re approached. Be open to reaching out to folks that have a good head on their shoulders and you are comfortable sharing your wishes with, even if they’re not a member of your immediate family. If you are still not able to find an individual to handle the task of being Personal Representative of your Estate, there are other options.

Alternatives to Working with an Individual

If finding an individual that you trust and that is willing to serve as Personal Representative for you isn’t possible, then you can look at hiring a third party to serve as the Personal Representative of your estate. For example, an experienced estate planning attorney or a local bank or trust company can be tasked to handle the duties of being your Personal Representative.

Ultimately, whether you’re able to find an individual or you opt to work with a third party to serve as your Personal Representative, it’s important to review the details of your plan and outline where your important financial documents and information are located. That will make settling your affairs a more manageable task and, ultimately, help ease the workload that you entrust to your Personal Representative.

If you are seeking help to get your Estate Plan together and live in the Daytona Beach, Florida area, call me to schedule a free consultation.