J. Kelly Kennedy, Attorney/CPA, PLLC

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Lakeland FL Probate & Estate Administration Law Blog

No virtual wills in Florida for now

Important technical requirements must be followed for a will to be valid. While technology is progressing forward, and the legal professional is working hard to respond and keep up with the changes, the requirements for a will to be valid may be one area not quite ready for technological advancement. The legal profession has kept pace with technological changes affecting it, such as through online estate planning services and electronic signature and filing options for legal documents. However, at least, for now, technological advancement do not seem to be coming to will execution.

The Florida legislature, during its recent session, passed a bill that would allow the party executing a will to do so electronically, including the party signing the will and the witnesses and notary are in different locations.

Trusts are an important part of estate planning

A trust can be a useful part of a Florida estate plan. Trusts may sometimes seem intimidating, but they have several beneficial uses, including reducing estate taxes, protecting assets from creditors and the management of estate assets. And, while trusts are normally associated with wealthy individuals, trusts can be a helpful component of any estate plan.

When a trust is set up, one transfers ownership of their assets to the trust. Another party is designated to manage the assets for the beneficiaries who benefit from the trust.

The business of choosing the right entity for your business

Starting a business in Florida is an exciting time, but there is much more involved than simply choosing a name and starting to sell products or services. One of the very first and most important steps is deciding which business entity is right for your company based on the nature of your business.

Business entity selection is important as it can affect issues such as taxes, your estate plan, your personal liability in your business and the continuity of your company. One of the most popular choices for businesses is a limited liability company, also known as an LLC. Before you move forward, it may help to know your options regarding the structure and operations of your business. 

The importance of a valid will

Wills are an important part of an effective Florida estate plan. A validly executed will identifies who will inherit the estate planner's assets. Beneficiaries named in a will may include spouses, children, grandchildren, a charitable organization or others.

Having a validly executed will can be important for a variety of reasons. This includes that a will may be used to name a guardian for any minor children of the testator, or the person preparing the will, and can avoid the unwanted distribution of property without a will.

What documents do I need for an effective estate plan?

Effective estate planning can provide peace of mind and avoid family conflicts. The right estate planning documents and having an effective estate plan protects the estate planner, the estate planner's family and the estate planner's assets so it is important to be familiar with what estate planning documents are needed. The appropriate estate planning documents can also reduce stress and strife for families during difficult times.

An effective estate plan includes several important documents. An advance healthcare directive outlines the estate planner's wishes for their medical care and treatment should they become incapacitated. The advance healthcare directive also specifies who the estate planner wants to have making medical decisions for them. A HIPAA release form should also be completed in advance to make it easier for loved ones to direct healthcare treatment if the estate planner becomes incapacitated.

Planning for the pets

Florida estate planning should include care of an important family member. Will or trusts may address the testator's wishes for the family pet. Trusted caregivers who are familiar with the pets should be identified in the will. The executor usually has the power to select another caregiver if something happens to the primary caregiver.

A temporary caregiver may be designated to care for the pet during the search for a permanent caregiver. The will should contain reasonable and flexible instructions for them. Many pet owners have friends or relatives who agree to take care of the pet until a permanent person is found or can take over.

How to revoke a prior Will in Florida

When people in Florida pass away they cannot take their possessions with them. Therefore, there are laws in place stating who will receive their possessions after they pass away. However, individuals may want to ensure that certain people receive certain possessions and assets, which may be different from where they would go according to the law. That is why it is very important to draft the appropriate documents to ensure that assets go to where the individual wants them to go.

One effective way of doing this is by creating a will. This is a legal document that states where all of one's possessions should go. There are many different ways that people can distribute their assets and that is why it is important to have a well-drafted will.

Are you and your children on the same page with your estate plan?

You can probably remember telling your children countless things they didn't hear. Perhaps you taught them to drive safely, advised them to be frugal with money or explained the facts of life. Nevertheless, it may have seemed as though they weren't listening to a word you said. Regardless of your instructions or warnings, they behaved as if you had never spoken.

Apparently, nothing has changed. For example, you may have a clear recollection of a conversation about your estate plans, but your adult children seem clueless. A recent survey shows that this is a common occurrence.

Lifetime gift to children, grandchildren and trust administration

Planning for the future can sometimes seem like a daunting task. One thought that crosses many people's minds is, "how will I take care of loved ones once I am gone?" Trusts can help to ease some of that worry and stress by beginning discussions and making plans for trust administration. The way assets are transferred or managed can have a huge impact on the financial benefit for loved ones.

Trusts can be initiated and even fully operational when a person is still of sound mind and body. Distributing assets can be set up for current situations or future situations that may arise after the main owner of assets passes away. One way to reduce future federal estate taxes is to properly manage lifetime gifts to children and grandchildren.

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.