David Howard Goldberg, P.L.

Miami Estate Planning Blog

Wills can help parents, pet owners make smart decisions

What happens to a person's assets after his or her death? For some people in Florida, the answer to this question is not important. However, individuals who do not take the time to create wills can ultimately put their families in difficult situations.

Most people have a general understanding of what a will is. An individual can list his or her assets and then designate who will receive what. Things like family heirlooms, cars, clothing, jewelry, photographs and more usually show up in wills. Even though retirement accounts and insurance policies are paid out to beneficiaries named on those accounts, including that same information in a will can help eliminate any confusion.

Are irrevocable trusts useful to estate planning?

Many Florida residents may not fully understand many of the options available to them when estate planning. On the other hand, some parties may have heard of certain tools but believe that they do not need them, like trusts. Really, this option could benefit anyone depending on the details of the particular estate.

Some individuals may have concerns over utilizing irrevocable trusts. These trusts, once created, cannot be changed by the person who created the trust, or the grantor. As a result, when the grantor puts assets into the irrevocable trust, he or she no longer has any control over those assets, and only the beneficiary of the trust can make or approve any changes. This may not seem appealing to some people, but it can have its benefits.

Trusts can hold life insurance payouts for minors

No one wants to think about the possibility of dying while their children are still young. Nevertheless, prudent Florida parents will set aside their emotions and figure out the most effective way to provide for the financial needs of their children, plan for their education and ensure they are well cared for if this sad event occurs. For many, including trusts in their estate plans is the most appropriate method.

Perhaps the most dangerous mistake a parent could make is to name his or her children as outright beneficiaries of a life insurance policy. Even at the age of 18, a child may not have the skills to sensibly manage a large inheritance or life insurance payout. The child may even become the victim of unscrupulous people who will take advantage of the situation. Still, it is critical to provide one's children with a means of support as far into the future as possible, and this is where trusts can be beneficial.

How to fight against an unnecessary guardianship

Many elders in Florida have adult children who help them run errands, travel to doctor appointments and handle things around the house, such as lawn maintenance or household repairs. Some aging parents also rely on their children to help them keep their finances organized. When a parent has several children, problems can arise if, as siblings, they disagree about important issues such as guardianship.

Not every adult child has his or her parent's best interests in mind. In fact, some exhibit lack of good faith in trying to gain control of parents' assets by filing petitions in court to request that they be made legal guardians. Sometimes, guardianship is needed and can help an older person who is suffering mental decline protect his or her estate.

Are you wondering whether you should become an executor?

Have a loved one asked you to serve as the executor of his or her estate? If so, you are in a position that many people in Florida and across the country find themselves. In some cases, individuals will accept this role without thinking about what the job fully entails, and that action could turn into a mistake.

If you have asked your loved one for time to consider the request, you have taken a wise route. Before agreeing to the position while thinking that the responsibilities are far off or that they will not be too involved, you may want to gain information on what being an executor entails and assess your personal capabilities.

Aretha Franklin's family discovered 3 handwritten wills

Is a handwritten will good enough? That is the question that the family of the late singer Aretha Franklin has to answer. The family recently discovered not one but three handwritten wills believed to have been written by Franklin. While some people in Florida might think this could be helpful, it could end up complicating things even further.

One of the wills was reportedly found underneath some seat cushions, presumably in Franklin's home. It is not clear where the other two were discovered, but all three have been submitted to the process of probate. The process should determine whether any of the three handwritten documents has a legal standing. However, since three wills have already been discovered, it is also possible that other, more recent handwritten wills still exist.

Conservatorship for Britney Spears will not end yet

For many, the idea of seeking conservatorship is used by those adult children whose parents are declining in health as they age. The role of a conservator, also known as a guardian in Florida, can also apply to those seeking the care of minors when their parents are no longer living or able to care for the children. However, conservatorship is sometimes necessary when a family member is unable to make wise or safe decisions because of mental illness or other circumstances, such as in the case of singer Britney Spears.

Spears became a superstar at a very young age and was the frequent subject of the tabloid media. When she was just 26, she began exhibiting strange and harmful behavior, which also placed her two small sons at risk. She was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. For her own protection, her father petitioned the court for conservatorship over Britney, which the court granted.

Who handles a trust when a trustmaker dies?

After setting up a revocable trust, the creator is typically the trustee. This may involve funding new assets, removing the titles for assets that no longer exist or handling any investments that are funded to the trust. When the trustee dies, a successor trustee takes over these duties. Those in Florida who are named as successor trustees or who are beneficiaries of a trust may wish to understand the duties of a trustee after the trust creator dies.

Depending on the terms of the trust, the trustee may have a relatively simple task of settling the trust. This means that the creator specified that the assets in the trust should be distributed to the beneficiaries and the trust should be closed. In some cases, such as when the beneficiaries are minors, the trustee will continue to manage the assets for a certain period of time.

Wills must be executed according to state laws

The complexity of making an estate plan may cause most people to put it off until it is too late. Others may try to find the quickest and cheapest way to designate where their belongings will go after they die. This may mean jotting a will on a piece of paper or downloading a document from a do-it-yourself website. However, it is important to understand Florida law when it comes to wills and other elements of estate planning.

A will can be a comprehensive part of a simple estate plan if it is properly executed. Each state has its own probate laws, so those people who have a will prior to moving to Florida would be wise to meet with an attorney to ensure the will complies with state law. For example, Florida does not recognize holographic wills, which are wills a person writes by hand and signs without witnesses. It is possible to write a valid will by hand as long as eligible witnesses sign it as well.

Do you know where to open probate proceedings?

From the moment a loved one passes, an executor has a great deal of responsibility to take on. The tasks that need handling are not always easy, and you may even experience complications when it comes to opening a probate in the correct location.

When settling a loved one's final affairs, you cannot open a probate in any location that suits you. This means that if you live in another state, you may need to travel to Florida in order to close your loved one's estate.

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