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Estate Planning

The Purpose of the Advance Directive

If you are a young, healthy person, do you need an advance directive? If you are in poor health, do you need an advance directive? If you’ve had open discussions with your loved ones about your preferred health care decisions, do you need an advance directive? The answers are simple, and the answers to all the above questions are the same: YES. Unless you have signed an advance directive to protect yourself if you are ever unable to make your own health care decisions, you are at risk. The advance directive, sometimes referred to as a durable power of attorney for...

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Make Your Own Decisions with an Estate Plan

Do you know what an estate plan is and why you are supposed to have one in place? Do you know the purpose? There is more to an estate plan than simply drafting a will or a trust. It’s more than just ensuring that your assets are transferred seamlessly to your heirs upon your death. The purpose of an estate plan is simple but profound: to allow you to make your own decisions. Don’t waste any more time – put the pieces in place today to keep the decision making power in your own hands: Will/Trust Durable Power of Attorney Beneficiary...

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5 Key Elements of the Estate Plan

A well drafted estate plan will cover five main elements: will, trust, power of attorney, beneficiary designation, and health care or medical directive. Will: A will is a legally binding document that specifies who is to receive property and assets after your death. The will names the executor of the estate who will be responsible for carrying out the directions. The document will also appoint a guardian to care for any minor children or dependents if necessary. Trust: When creating a trust, a trustee is designated and legally give the power to hold title to the property on behalf of the trust's...

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What Executors Need to Know About the Probate Process

The probate process is the court-supervised means of gathering a deceased individual’s assets and distributing to the person’s creditors and inheritors. As an estate executor in Florida, the probate process depends on the Uniform Probate Code (UPC). The UPC is a set of probate laws written by a group of national experts. The collection of laws were initially intended for adoption in all 50 states. The state of Florida is one of the sixteen states that adopted the law. The UPC’s goal is to make the probate process simpler, particularly for smaller estates. It is also designed to offer executors...

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What is a Will and Why Do You Need One?

Do you have a will? Do you know why you need one? If you don’t have a will, your loved ones may not receive the assets you wish to leave behind for them when you pass on. If you don’t have a will and you aren’t sure where to start, we recommend starting right at the beginning. What is a Will? A will is a legal document. It sets forth the wishes of an individual regarding their property’s distribution and the care of their minor children. To ensure that your preferences for your estate and your family are carried out as...

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Estate Planning for Families with Special Needs Children

Families who have special needs children have to take extra care when creating their estate plans. Regardless of whether their special needs child is a minor or an adult, it is critical that they consider the possibility of the child’s needs now and in the future. Will the child need to receive needs-based public benefits such as SSI or Medicaid? Will they have what they need and still be able to qualify? Estate planning considerations for a special needs child will depend on the child’s age, their level of competency, the family, and other considerations. The goal is simple: to use...

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What is a Supplemental Needs Trust or Special Needs Trust?

A special needs trust or supplemental needs trust as they are sometimes called, allows individuals to designate special needs individuals to receive gifts, legal settlements, or other funds without losing their eligibility for government benefits programs. This type of trust is drafted so that the funds are not considered as “belonging” to the beneficiary when their eligibility for public benefits is being determined. Special needs trusts (as the name implies) are designed to pay for comforts and luxuries that could not be paid for by public assistance funds. They are not intended to cover basic support costs. Instead they are designed...

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Know How the Probate Process Works

Probate is the legal process through which the court officially recognizes a will’s validity and supervises the designated executor. The executor carries out the wishes of the deceased individual according to the will. When someone passes away without a will or estate plan in place, probate is the legal process the court uses to supervise the carrying out of the distribution of the deceased’s estate in accordance with Florida state law. The majority of those designated as executors of an estate are new to probate court and the probate process as a whole. Know what to expect by considering the common...

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What is the Difference Between Elder Law and Estate Planning?

Attorneys are often asked about the difference between elder law and estate planning. Most agree that the two go hand and hand, but there are differences between the two. One similarity is that they are both more universally necessary than they seem at first. More specifically, estate planning is not reserved for individuals with huge estates and elder law is not exclusively beneficial to individuals who can be described as elderly. Overview of Estate Planning: Estate planning focuses on a person’s assets, how they should be held while the person is still living and how they should be distributed after the...

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Tax Savings with Special Needs Trusts

The Special Needs Trust, sometimes referred to as Supplemental Support Trusts, provide support for someone that receives means tested benefits such as Medicaid or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) without affecting their eligibility for the benefits.  After a Special Needs Trust is established and funded, it is very important that the administration of the account be handled according to the rules regarding qualifying expenses. In order to qualify as a special needs trust, only specific expenses can be paid for using trust assets. In too many cases, a beneficiary is unintentionally disqualified from receiving their SSI or Medicaid benefits when expenses...

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