Community Law Firm

Family Law

Estate / Probate / Trusts / Wills

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Estate Planning has become a very important legal field for many Americans since 2013.  Changes have been made to existing tax laws which will dramatically impact the amount of tax an individual pays when they pass away and assets and property are inherited by family members.  The Family Law Practice of at the 850-CALL-JOE Law Firm focuses on establishing a plan that will minimize the tax burden.

When it comes to establishing a will or trust to protect valuable assets from becoming subject to unnecessary taxation proper planning is essential.  Whenever there is a life changing event that takes place within a family whether it be a birth of a child, purchase of real estate, wedding, divorce, accident or death it always prudent to evaluate the plan to make what matters most is still protected and in the right position for those that have accumulated the wealth designed to pass down to the next generation.

The most common question I have asked about this process is the Will.  It is also known as your Last Will and Testament.  This is the document that ultimately memorializes how you would like your property and assets to be distributed at your passing.  Your Will is one of those documents that is for you and your families benefit.  An untimely passing without a Will may leave your family wondering, guessing and fighting over the property and assets left behind.  Contesting a Will is also an issue on the rise when a family member believes that the Will was not executed with a sound mind as the decisions/reasoning of the Will is not favorable to them.  Contested Will Litigation can be expensive but ultimately a Will drafted by the 850-CALL-JOE Law Firm could protect you from having these issues arise. Always remember hiring an attorney that has courtroom experience like Orlando Attorney Joe Knape and the benefit he brings when dealing with the Court.

Another document that is typically drafted and executed during the estate planning process is the Durable Power of Attorney.  This power of attorney is an authorization by the person executing the document to allow a designated individual or individuals to execute legal documents on their behalf should they become disabled or mentally incapacitated.  This document is a must have as part of any estate planning package utilized by the firm.   You can also limit the time that a durable power of attorney is effective so that you could change the individual or adjust with revisions over time should circumstances change.

The Living Will is also a part of an estate plan package.  The living will focuses on decisions for end of life medical care.  The benefit of having this document properly executed is that in the event that it is needed then your wishes are protected and honored without having your family make tough decisions about your passing.  The 850-CALL-JOE Law Firm will be there to make sure you have the legal protection you need.

An new instrument as part of the estate planning package is the Designation of Health Care Surrogate.  This document when properly executed authorizes an individual to make decisions regarding your health care should you be disabled or incapacitated.  Many people will direct their health care surrogate to function in a limited role and hopefully the designated surrogate will honor the desires and wishes of you.  Often a Medical Privacy Waiver is also drafted to make sure that the surrogate and specific individuals have the ability to obtain necessary medical information since HIPPA and other laws regarding health care have made the waiver necessary.

One of the most common instruments we utilize in estate planning is creating an irrevocable trust.  This trust will shelter the tax consequence of the assets until the benefiting generation passes away and sometimes even to the generation after them.  One minor drawback to establishing an irrevocable trust is that the distributions made to beneficiaries are subject to strict limitations.  The government will allow you to protect the assets in the trust from taxes but they ultimately do seek to recover the taxes at a later time once the trust has run its course.   Ultimately, the goal of this mechanism is to keep the assets with the family longer where they can be enjoyed and not subject to constant tax scrutiny.  A professionally licensed CPA is utilized by the firm in drafting and structuring these entities.

A poorly designed trust could quickly become the subject of a tax issue and if the grantor ends up possessing a form of control over how/when/where distributions are made.   This control is a sign that the trust is not irrevocable since the grantor still has the ultimate say with what will become of the assets.  Once that grantor passes away then the IRS upon closer inspection may require the assets in the trust to be included in one’s estate.  There are also considerations that need to be made with respect as to how much money people need to live.  It differs across the board, but an irrevocable trust will not be a good avenue if funds are limited because many elderly and retired people rely on stock dividends for income.  If the stock is placed in the trust as an asset the dividends will flow to the trust.  Since children are the likely beneficiaries of the trust they can provide income to elderly parents that have made such a sacrifice for their benefit, but some families don’t want children to have access to a great amount of wealth since it can corrupt and make the generation less likely to want to be successful on their own.

Probate is the process that the courts utilize to distribute a decedent’s will.  A poorly worded will could lead to contest by family members and expensive legal fees.  If one family member challenges the will as not being the actual will of a decedent or produces a second will the case is further complicated.  Having an experienced attorney draft the will and keep it for the time when it may need to be produced in a court can save some of these troubles.  An estate subject to probate that has a value less than $75,000 will be eligible for summary proceedings.  However more than $75,000 will cause a formal administration to be held.  An experienced estate planning and probate attorney can work to make the process as easy on a family as possible.  The expense of funeral costs must be included in a probate and is usually one of the first debts that the court looks at when evaluating a petition for adminstration .

Contact Attorney Joe Knape at 850-225-5563 to discuss wills, probate and other related matters.  A contested will can lead to litigation so hiring an attorney that has courtroom experience can be a benefit and an asset when dealing with the Court.

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