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Lakeland FL Probate & Estate Administration Law Blog

Big estate and gift tax changes may affect your estate plan

Winter Haven and Lakeland residents have probably heard of the major federal tax reform legislation enacted late last year. The law includes not only an overhaul of the federal income tax system but also the federal gift and estate tax system as well. This change has big implications for the estate planning of many Floridians. This blog post will provide some basic information about the changes made to the federal tax code and other changes for 2018.

Perhaps the biggest change is the doubling of the basic exclusion amount for estate and gift taxation. The exclusion amount is the total lifetime amount that a person can leave to others free of federal estate and gift taxation. The tax reform law increased the exclusion amount to $10 million plus an adjustment for inflation. The Internal Revenue Service was still computing the inflation adjustment at the time of writing, so the final figure should be a bit more than $10 million.

The importance of paternity in intestacy cases

The intestacy laws of Florida are complex and should be discussed with an estate planning attorney. Individuals who choose to read this post are reminded that it is only offered as information and that it contains no legal advice. Specific legal questions should not be answered with the comments offered herein.

Intestacy refers to the process through which a person's end-of-life estate will pass if they do not have a formal will or other plan in place. Generally, estates pass to close relatives of the decedent, such as their spouse or children. Matters can complicate if the decedent has children from prior marriages or relationships.

Does Florida recognize holographic wills?

A holographic will is one in which the creator of the will composed the document in their own handwriting. Holographic wills may have once served the purpose of allowing individuals to put their testamentary intentions down on paper even if they could not fulfill the formal requirements of executing formal wills. However, in Florida holographic wills are not recognized and all wills, even those written out by their creators, must meet the formal requirements of the state's laws.

For example, a Floridian must be at least 18 years old and of sound mind to make a will. An exception to this rule may be made if the will creator is a minor who is emancipated from their parents or guardians. The will creator must have two witnesses sign their will in order for the document to be valid, but the law does not specify if the document must be drafted on a computer or in the hand of the will creator.

Your estate plan may benefit from a health care proxy

Each year many Florida residents are involved in health crises that place their capacity to make decisions about their care in jeopardy. Whether they are incapacitated through accidents or illnesses, people who lose their ability to make informed decisions about management of their own health can be left at the mercy of medical professionals and their family members to act in accordance with the wishes the individuals are believed to hold.

There is a way, though, for a person to prepare for this unfortunate but potential occurrence in their life: through the creation of a health care proxy. A health care proxy is an estate planning tool that vests the power to make medical decisions about the creator in another person in the event that the creator cannot do so for themselves.

Are you ready to take on the task of estate executor?

Throughout your life, you may have felt as if you did well when it came to taking on necessary responsibilities. Though completing certain tasks may not have been particularly enjoyable, you likely carried them out nonetheless in order to achieve a sense of accomplishment. During these times, you possibly also felt the need to reach out to others in order to obtain the help you needed to ensure that your obligations were completed correctly.

If a loved one discussed the idea of your becoming the executor to his or her estate, you may feel compelled to take on the role. Whether your decision comes from a sense of loyalty, duty or genuine acceptance of the responsibility, you may still have questions regarding what this type of role will entail. Before agreeing to act as executor, you may wish to find out more information on the tasks you will need to complete.

A durable financial power of attorney: How it works

When a person in Polk County dies, their estate becomes subject to their estate plan. But what happens if a person becomes incapacitated? They are still alive, but they cannot handle their own financial affairs or make other types of decisions for themselves for as long as they are incapacitated. In this case, a durable financial power of attorney may be effective.

What is a durable financial power of attorney? It is a legal document that empowers another person to manage a person's finances in case they become incapacitated. The person making the power of attorney can decide how much authority the person who would exercise the power should have. Powers often assigned include paying bills, paying taxes and paying medical expenses. Other powers that can be assigned include managing real estate assets, accessing financial accounts and making investment decisions.

What are the Florida rules of intestacy for non-spouses?

Every Florida resident has an estate plan, whether they know it or not. An estate plan can be established by a will and other estate planning documents. In the absence of these, another estate plan comes into effect: Florida's laws of intestate succession. About a month ago, we discussed how these laws provide for a person's spouse if the person dies without a will. This blog post will briefly describe how others are provided for if there is no spouse of if the spouse does not take the entire estate under the laws of intestacy.

Under Florida law, this property goes to the person's children, grandchildren and other descendants. If the person has no descendants, the estate and assets then go to the person's parents. If the person also has no living parents, the property goes to the person's siblings and descendants of dead siblings. If there are also none of these, the property is then divided in half. Half goes to the maternal grandparents or their survivors, the other half goes to the paternal grandparents or their survivors. In the absence of these, each half of the property goes to aunts and uncles on each side. The rules continue in this vein, leaving property to increasingly distant relatives or even in-laws. Finally, if there is no one left to leave property to, the property goes to the state of Florida.

What elements must be present in order to create a will?

Folks in Winter Haven know that a will is the primary tool used to dispose of a testator's estate after their death. But how does one create a will? Are there any formalities that have to be done to ensure that a will is recognized as valid? This blog post will describe some elements that must be present in order for a will to be recognized as valid.

In order to make a will, a person must be of legal age. Usually, this legal age is 18. Younger people can often make a valid will if they are married or if they are a member of the U.S. armed forces.

We help Polk County residents with their estate plans

In the minds of many Polk County, Florida, residents, the topic of estate planning brings to mind the task of distributing assets after one's death. This is indeed a very important part of estate planning, but it is not the only part.

As we talked about a few months ago, health care advance directives can be a key part of anyone's estate plan. Health care advance directives help doctors and loved ones make decisions on behalf of a person if that person becomes incapacitated by a health care issue. Living wills and health proxies are different options for those wanting to include a health care directive in their estate plan.

In search of the perfect business partner

While you may have had a dream of owning your own company, you realize now that taking on a partner is in your best interests. Maybe this is because you are struggling, and you need someone who can boost your finances. On the other hand, your Florida business may be booming, and you are looking for someone to share the workload or bring some fresh ideas to the company.

The last thing you want is to partner with someone who is going to take your business in the wrong direction or create an unbearable situation. This is why you are searching for the perfect partner. Compatibility is what most people say is the number one quality your partner must have. However, in what areas is compatibility most important for you and your partner?