J. Kelly Kennedy, Attorney/CPA, PLLC

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Lakeland FL Probate & Estate Administration Law Blog

Cryptocurrencies can confuse Florida estate plans

As cryptocurrencies have proliferated, while growing in popularity as an investment or speculation vehicle, laws, regulations and attorneys have struggled to keep up. Currently, the IRS treats cryptocurrencies, such as Bitcoin, Litecoin and Ethereum, as property rather than as currency. However, as agencies rush to regulate such cyber funds, the laws and rules surrounding them are certain to change. This, in turn, makes planning for estates that include cryptocurrencies a rather dynamic process.

The ever-increasing number of cryptocurrencies has also resulted in burgeoning numbers of new investment vehicles that purport to take advantage of them. These range from IRA custodians who offer to invest directly in such currencies to mutual funds and other vehicles that are pegged to the value of Bitcoin and/or other cryptos.

Plan for your loved ones' futures in Florida

While it is often explored in art and literature, mortality is not always a favorite topic among regular, work-a-day folks in Florida. Thinking about the outer limits and eventual end of life is dark, often depressing, and usually avoided. An unfortunate consequence of this aversion to considering mortality is a failure to plan for it. Failing to plan for one's eventual death can undermine what you wish for your loved ones and leave them on the hook for taxes and expenses that could otherwise have been avoided.

Occasionally, people do consider creating an estate plan that will distribute their assets to the people they wish and in the proportion they desire. Frequently, though, they think it is something that can be put off until "later." Far too often, "later" comes sooner than expected and loved ones are left without guidance from the deceased. It is then up to Florida law and the probate court to decide how one's assets are distributed.

What is intestacy in Florida?

When one dies without a will, they are said to have died intestate. In Florida, when a person dies and has left no will, the Florida intestate succession statutes will determine how the assets of the decedent will be distributed. Unfortunately, this does not always mean that the assets will be distributed in a way that the decedent may have wished or hoped for - nor will the tax consequences to those who inherit be particularly favorable. This is why estate planning is crucial.

Like a will, intestacy must also go through the probate process. But the process is strictly dictated by statute. For example, if the decedent was married but had no direct descendants at the time of death, the surviving spouse will receive the entirety of the estate. This is also the case if all of the decedent's descendants are also descendants of the surviving spouse and the surviving spouse has no other descendants.

3 mistakes that could make business formation more difficult

Creating a startup company can be a long and difficult journey. Challenges will certainly present themselves to you, and while you may have the ability to deal with many of those difficulties, you could potentially also end up making the situation harder on yourself. Though you may not mean to do so, actions you may think are beneficial could actually end up hurting your company.

Of course, you should not let the fear of challenges and mistakes hold you back. If you do not try to form and operate your business, you may never know whether it could succeed. Luckily, you could help yourself and your company by remaining on the lookout for common startup mistakes.

What is a fiduciary duty in Florida?

When someone is entrusted with the administration of another's trust or estate, a fiduciary relationship is created between the person or entity who is doing the administration and those for whom the trust or estate was created and those who will benefit. Under Florida law, the fiduciary - in this case the administrator or trustee - is responsible for holding, managing, and distributing assets that ultimately belong the beneficiaries of the trust or estate. The fiduciary, therefore, has a legal obligation, or duty, to act carefully and in the best interests of the beneficiaries.

In the trust setting, the fiduciary duty requires the administrator manage the trust according to its terms and in best interests of its beneficiaries. A trustee owes duties of impartiality and loyalty to beneficiaries of the trust. Typical obligations of the trustee include providing an accounting of the trust, obtaining tax identification numbers, and distributing assets according to the terms of the trust.

Federal tax law likely to drive even more folks to Florida

When the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act passed and was signed into law, one important change that took effect was the cap placed on the deduction of state and local taxes. This change, of course, most directly affects taxpayers in states with higher income and property taxes - like the president's home state of New York. Under the new law, the deduction of state income taxes and property taxes from federal income taxes will be limited to a total of $10,000.

A likely effect of this restriction will be taxpayers changing their domicile to states with low or no state income tax, like Florida. A change of domicile - or even residency - in order to avoid a higher rate of income tax (due to loss of deductions) may be a wise move. However, it should not be done without professional advice.

What are some estate planning mistakes to avoid?

Many Winter Haven and Lakeland residents ought to have an estate plan, but estate plans can be difficult for the uninitiated to draw up. There are so many mistakes that people often make in the realm of advanced estate planning. Sometimes these are due to lack of information, other times they are due to the abundance of bad information available on social media and by word of mouth. This blog post will review a few of the mistakes that some people make when they put together an estate plan.

Probably the most common estate planning mistake for many people is not having an estate plan. If you have an opinion on what should happen to your assets after your death, or if you have an opinion on what certain end-of-life decisions should be made, you should seriously consider putting together an estate plan because an estate plan could help you make your opinions a reality.

Trustees have trust administration duties to their beneficiaries

When a Polk County resident decides to put together an estate plan, trusts may enter the picture if they work well with the person's asset situation and estate planning goals. Lots of people associate trusts with pampered rich people, but the reality is that trusts can be key to many people's estate plans. But what exactly is a trust? This blog post will provide a brief introduction to trusts and what they do.

A trust is basically a conditional transfer of property from one person to another. In order to create a trust, a person transfers property to another person, called a trustee. The transfer is conditioned on the trustee's agreement to use the property to benefit a third party, called a beneficiary. In return for their trust administration role, trustees are often compensated. Other trustees perform their duties as volunteers.

When would I need to use a tax attorney?

Many people only think about taxes when their returns are due. Then it may be a scramble to complete the forms and complain about the dissipation of their earnings. Your situation may be different. Running a Florida business, owning property or having an unorthodox source of income may mean taxes are a constant cause for concern. You may find the tax laws for your circumstances are enough for you to handle.

However, there are times when an attorney may prove advantageous to you. While many think of an attorney as someone to call upon when legal trouble arises, a tax attorney can be a lifelong advocate and advisor beyond the day your taxes are due.

Our experience and common sense can help with creating a will

When a Florida resident decides to take control of their estate plan, the first order of business very often is drafting a will. A well-written will can be an excellent estate planning tool by itself, and it can provide a firm foundation for trusts and other estate planning tools that a testator may choose to use. A will is a very powerful document, however, and because of this the writer of a will must observe some formalities under Florida law in order for the will to be deemed valid.

A few weeks ago we discussed some of the requirements that must be followed to draft a valid will in the Sunshine State. A testator must be of sound mind, and they must be an adult or emancipated minor. The will they write must be signed by them and by two witnesses. A will written by hand and signed only by the testator would not be valid without the witnesses' signatures as well.