J. Kelly Kennedy, Attorney/CPA, PLLC

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Lakeland FL Probate & Estate Administration Law Blog

Inheritance taxes starting to dissipate on the national level

With Republicans in the White House, there has been much talk both on state and national levels of how the issue of estate taxes, sometimes also called death taxes, will be affected. Estate planning is a state issue that the Florida state legislature makes the rules about taxes and exemptions, as do other states. However, federal regulations passed are required to be adhered to by the state in the broader sense. While nothing imposing has been passed on the federal level, many states are beginning to trend towards reduced or eliminated 'death tax'.

One driving motivator behind several state's moves to decrease death taxes is to stay competitive in the race for affluent and wealthy tax payers. Florida has often been seen as a state with a minimalist death tax and estate tax responsibilities, but other states are beginning to follow suit. Such wealthy residents owe income taxes every year, but some are willing to move out of state to avoid death duties that come only once, in order to leave more money to their loved ones. Since the federal estate-and-gift tax exemption jumped to $5 million in 2011, adjusted for inflation, state death duties have begun to stand out.

What does funding a Florida trust mean?

Many Florida residents are likely aware that planning for the future is essential in the modern world. Whether trying to figure out how to send the kids to college, or how much you'll need for retirement, planning for your financial future can make a huge difference when tomorrow comes. Of course, eventually, we all run out of tomorrows, but planning may be necessary even for that time. This is the area of estate planning, where you determine how you would like to distribute your possessions and assets among those you care about once you gone.

One way to do this is through the use of a trust. Readers may recognize that this blog has touched on several aspects of trusts, including the differences between revocable and irrevocable trusts, and some of the useful things trusts can accomplish in a proper estate plan. It may also be obvious that the correct establishment of a trust is very important. However, many Floridians may not realize that establishing the trust is about more than how well the trust documents are drafted.

Estate plans should be customized to needs of the estate

A family may gain a vast wealth of assets and financial holdings over years or even decades of hard work. Wealth could have even started with a person's parents who have since passed away, as wealth tends to gain speed as time goes on. Or rather, wealth can gain speed as time goes on. If you are concerned that your estate could be handled improperly both now or in the future, you may consider an estate plan.

Anyone who has ever been in a position to make a financial decision knows that making the wrong financial decision can be incredibly expensive or costly. Some financial decisions are more risky than others. However, when making an estate plan these instances of costly mistakes can be better planned for or even avoided. Estate plans can include clauses for how a person's estate ought to be managed both presently and in the event of a person's death.

Death and taxes: Can your taxes benefit from charitable trusts?

When you consider the idea of bequeathing property in the event of your death, you may think about donating some of your accumulated assets to charity. Luckily, you have estate planning options that can help you carry out this goal, such as by using a charitable trust. Depending on how you want the assets distributed, you may consider using a charitable remainder trust or a charitable lead trust.

In addition to allowing you to make generous contributions to the charitable organization or organizations of your choice, charitable trusts can also have beneficial tax implications that may interest you. The main areas in which you may see tax benefits relate to income taxes, estate taxes and gift taxes.

Name an executor to your amassed estate

There are endless reasons one may potentially like to set up an estate plan. Whether to benefit while you are alive or after you have passed away, estate plans are helpful to ensuring one's assets stay on track with one's financial goals. Once wealth has been amassed, it is important to manage it responsibly to ensure that it is maintained at a steady rate of growth.

Estate administration can help with that goal. Many wonder what kind of specific goals can an estate administration plan help to achieve? Tax responsibilities of assets can turn to confusion quickly for both the owner of an estate and the eventual heirs. Avoiding probate is a top reason that Lakeland residents opt for an estate plan. Naming an executor to your estate can avoid any future confusion that can come with asset distribution or tax obligations.

Pro and cons of holographic wills

With technological innovations affecting just about every aspect of our lives, there has been one tool that has been affected like none other. Arguably, that aspect is communication, the way in which we speak to each other and express ourselves. Oftentimes, a will can express our wishes and be used as a communication tool in times where one is unable to express themselves or is no longer with us. So naturally, technology has affected the ways in which one goes about preparing a will.

Before technology affected how a will was prepared, wills were often handwritten. When the typewriter was invented, some wills were then prepared on them and now with computers, many wills are electronically prepared. Thinking about a will, the romantic notion of a handwritten will is often what is conjured in one's mind. However, there can be downsides to handwritten wills that one may not be aware of.

Prince's heirs ordered to pay over IP, no estate plan for assets

The sudden death of music legend, Prince, left fans and family reeling last year. One year later, the heirs of his inheritance are still in the midst of processing his assets and other financial aspects of his massive estate. To make matters even more dramatic, it was reported that Prince had no estate plan and did not leave a will as to what was to happen with any of his property, both physical and intellectual property. Of course, intellectual property like Prince's music has been of much debate as of late.

As of recently, it was reported that Prince had recorded an unreleased album of six tracks titled "Deliverance". People who helped him record it, mainly his record label and an engineer, had attempted to release the EP on the first anniversary of Prince's death. His estate was successful in blocking that action, but now a judge has ordered that the estate pay a bond in good faith for the asset and its eventual financial gain. This is due to the possibility that the engineer behind the songs wins the trial in which case the songs would be released.

What benefits are associated with living wills?

When a person thinks about taking care of their loved ones, what items come to mind? Of course being there for someone emotionally is a significant part. However, there is also the financial portion of caring for loved ones that can give caretakers pause. When the roles are reversed and a caretaker is now the person who needs care, how can these wishes be carried out?

Living wills can help to care for for oneself and take the burden off of loved ones in dire situations. Living wills aren't technically what one thinks of when they think of a will. A person's living will is a legal document that expresses a person's desires and preferences about medical treatment in case he or she becomes unable to communicate these instructions during terminal illness or permanent unconsciousness. It can cover everything about healthcare wishes and sometimes beyond that, when a person becomes unable to communicate those wishes upon injury or illness.

Shares of surviving spouse and laws of intestacy with no will

The reasons to arrange a will or an asset plan for after your life has come to pass has a lot of benefits. Whatever the specific reason, there are lots of reasons a person may want to look after their estate and their loved one's after they pass away. If there weren't reason enough, what can happen to one's assets and estate is not always desirable without an estate plan or will. Each state is different in their laws of intestacy when no will is in place.

In Florida, these laws are based on the 1990 Uniform Probate Code, and then add their own state's interpretation. For Florida spouses, this means that they could be entitled the entirety of their deceased partner's assets or a substantial part of it. If a person has children that they wish could benefit from an estate rather than a spouse, an estate plan would be best. Otherwise, children may not receive the amount one would have hoped after a parent passes away.

Your vacation getaway may not be so special to your kids

Perhaps the locals called you a snowbird during the months you stayed in your Florida vacation home, but you didn't mind. You likely sacrificed and saved for the opportunity to purchase that vacation home. Maybe you and your spouse spent more and more time there as you grew older and retired.

Some of your fondest memories may be of the vacations spent with your children, and then, perhaps your grandchildren as your family grew. Now you are considering clarifying your final wishes, and you want to leave the vacation home to your children to enjoy as much as you did.