Monthly Archives: November 2013

5 Elements of a Good Estate Plan

Everybody would die one day. Man is different from other animals because he knows beforehand that he will die someday. Knowing this is very important to plan for the future. What will happen to your loved ones after your demise. Sure, no one likes to dwell on their demise, but you must plan ahead to avoid any confusion or legal issues after you have gone.

mother and daughters

What will happen to all that you have collected during the lifetime, in the guise of properties, stocks, bonds, securities, fixed deposits, jewelry, vehicles, furniture, lands, insurance policies and all other valuable items? Why did you amass them in the first place? Surely, you wanted your loved ones to have all of these items and enjoy their lives, once you have left this world. All these items that a person own is called an “Estate”. An estate plan is a means of passing these valuable items to the next generation.
There is a myth in the world that only wealthy people will need a estate plan. Estate planning is essential for the super wealthy, as well as, the not so wealthy people. Estate planning is the establishment of a management plan to deal with all your assets, after you have left this world. The owner of the assets is referred to as the “testator” in the estate document. This article will highlight the five elements that should be included in a good estate document.

1. The most important point is to see that the testator’s wish in distributing his or her assets are clearly stipulated in the document. No room should be left for someone else to interpret it differently after the testator’s death. This will go against his or her wish of distributing the assets equally to the members of the immediate family.

2. The opportunities to challenge the document should be minimized. If a beloved one is left out of the estate planning by mistake, he or she may stake a claim once the testator is dead and gone. This type of situation will cause a rift between family members, and tarnish the good name of the testator too. You must be aware of this before finalizing the plan.

3. The legal and familial responsibilities of the testator should be given high priority when preparing the estate document. The other responsibilities such as social and official should come right after this. Any charitable givings that the testator was engaged in, should also be included in the document.

4. The document should allow the beneficiaries to protect the inheritances from creditors or estranged spouses. They should be given the freedom to chart their own path in tax related matters, going forward.

5. The most important factor of a good estate document is to prepare it so that the testator and all other beneficiaries can understand it clearly. Most of the plans lack this clarity, and the beneficiaries end-up spending more on professional fees in order to get a clarification that they can understand.

Estate Planning Lawyers in Fort Lauderdale, Florida

The Importance of an Experienced Florida Probate Attorney

grieving womanIn Florida, once an individual owns assets during the time of his or her death, the process of transferring these assets to the person’s beneficiaries is known as probate. The process of probate can be very overwhelming and confusing especially since the family members and beneficiaries of the deceased are grieving. Because of this, hiring an expert and experienced probate attorney can be a very good move. In order to start a probate case, it is important to prepare a file a Petition for Administration with the Florida Probate Court, which is situated in the country where the individual resides during the time of death. The filing will start the formal administration process.

The Florida probate cases can be handled in two different ways. If the assets of the decedent are worth more than $75,000, it is essential to proceed to the formal probate administration process. Nonetheless, if the assets are valued less than $75,000, then it is possible to use a summary administration in order to make the process less complicated. The process of the formal administration probate will also include a personal representative and Letters of administration. However, in the state of Florida, formal administration is considered to be the most common method of probate.

However, a legal process of going through the probate court is always necessary regardless of the probate method that is used. This is why hiring a probate lawyer or attorney is considered necessary. The process will include a lot of legal issues that any lay man would find confusing and perplexing to understand. The attorney will be present to help guide the client throughout the process and handle all the important and necessary requirements.

In other cases, once the time of death of a person has already been two years or more ago regardless of the value of the assets, a summary administration is highly possible. However, there are also times when the estate is required to go through formal administration even is the worth of the assets are under $75,000.Once an estate is involved in a legal matter, a formal administration process or method is necessary. This is also applicable once the decedent owes any money to creditors. These are the important matters that should be discussed with the Florida probate lawyer.

Each and every probate case is considered unique. This is why it is difficult to know when a case will be tied up to the probate. However, the amount of time that a probate administrator will take will also depend on how diligent he or she is in making the process move. There are times when it is already necessary to sell the real estate in order for the probate to be settled. Aside from this, a contested will or any disputed claims can also prolong the entire probate process. Nonetheless, an average case can take approximately 5 to 6 months to finish.

There are a lot of things that should be taken into account once an estate goes to probate. It is good to know that an expert and experienced probate attorney from Florida can be present to help make the process simpler. In other words, the probate process is something that should be left in the hands of a good and reputable attorney.

Understanding Revocable and Irrevocable Trusts

attorney and clientsWhat is a trust?

A trust is a document, made legalized through the power of an attorney and application of law principles, which specifies the assignment of declared assets upon the death of an individual. A trust should not be used as a substitute for a will but instead, in conjunction with it. Furthermore, a trust helps protect the assets that the beneficiaries would receive and so as decrease the burden of estate tax. There are different types of trust and the most common is the living trust. This type of trust is activated while the person, who applied for it, is still living. The process taken here is simple. The person would just have to move the assets into the trust and they would immediately become a part of it.
There are two categories under a living trust. These are revocable trust and irrevocable trust. The difference between the two is very clear. Revocable trust can be changed or revoked while the other one is not. However, the definition of the two is quite intricate.

Defining Revocable Trust

A revocable trust is a legal document stating that a set of assets will automatically be directed to the declared beneficiary upon the death of the applicant or trust holder. Most of the time, revocable trust includes cash but it can also be tied up with a checking or savings account. Since it is revocable, the trust holder can change the terms of the trust anytime as long as he/she is still living. Also, the holder can access the assets in the trust in case of emergencies.

The word “revocable”, when applied to financial organizations such as the IRS, refers to bank accounts with payable-on-death provisions. Interested applicants can simply fill out the forms provided by the bank and state who will receive the funds contained in the account upon the applicant’s death. This provision works similarly like a trust. Also, this is a great account management scheme where the applicant is given the power to allocate his/her account.

Defining Irrevocable Trust

An irrevocable trust is a complex type of legal agreement. It is considered as a separate entity. Here, a federal tax identification number is required. This is usually filed by the tax attorney or the accountant. The applicant would have to go to the state’s Bureau if Internal Revenue and comply with the documents needed for this transaction.

Since the trust is irrevocable and is a separate entity, the creator of the trust will have no access to the assets deposited under it. These assets will also not be owned or could not be touched by the beneficiaries until they are released. For example, if the creator has established a $200,000 trust account and the agreed term is that $10,000 will go to the beneficiary every year, no one could receive and release the money prior to that term. So, the beneficiary would just have to wait another year before he/she will get the other $10,000 until such time that the whole account will be empty.

What type of trust will work for you?

An estate plan is important in order to properly assign one’s assets to intended beneficiaries. Estate planning may cover both revocable and irrevocable trust. Considering which one is right for you would entail an understanding on how you want your assets to be handled upon death, how flexible you would want them to be while you are still alive and what type of assets you will be leaving behind. Any of these trusts has different consequences and benefits. You can consult a legal consultant (such as an attorney) in order to have a clearer view on the type of trust that you can avail and their agreements as well.

Why This Name for an Estate Planning, Probate and General Asset Protection Web Site

Doughadeer.com is indeed a strange choice for a domain name for a Web Site that deals with legal  issues related to asset protection, planning an estate and probate administration, but it was a cute name and it was available.

The truth is I didn’t exactly know what topics I would fill these pages with when I purchased the domain. I just knew I liked the sound of it.

When I gave it some thought and played with the name for a while, I realized that it would be a perfect domain in which to publish articles explaining the nature of proper estate planning and protection, after all “dough is a common enough slang for money.  As for the “deer” part, it’ no doubt would have better to have purchased a domain with “dear” instead of “deer ” in the title, but it just wasn’t available and to paraphrase a former sociopathic Secretary of Defense, we have to go to Web with the name we have not with the one we wanted.

And so dough-a-deer is a Web Site about protecting your assets, establishing a smart and secure estate plan and handling probate should the need arise (which it won’t if you handle the estate planning properly).

My  inspiration and my source of information is the staff at the Fort Lauderdale based law firm of Wild Felice And Partners. This area of law is their specialty. They can be reached at (954) 944-2855.

Forgive the plug, but they’ve earned it.