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Brevard County, Florida, legal blog

Estate planning . . . for Florida college students?

Spring break has come and gone for most Florida college students. But another annual rite is upon those who wish to become Florida college students: opening the letters of acceptance (or rejection) for high school seniors.

While most of those young people are focused on the studies (and mischief) they will soon undertake, an important part of the transition from child to adult is far too often ignored: estate planning. Now we understand that many students and parents will gasp at the suggestion that estate planning should be part of young adult development, you should first consider the argument made by an estate planning attorney who lives about three hours south of Cocoa.

Consider the tax obligations of your heirs when leaving assets

As a parent, you likely love all your children equally and want that to be reflected in their inheritances. After all, one of the biggest fears that most people have when estate planning is unintentionally creating family conflict. Passing along assets in unequal measure can seem like favoritism, which can stir resentment.

That being said, inheritance amounts that are equal at the beginning may not be equal once they are passed to your intended heirs. If you fail to account for factors such as tax liabilities, your heirs could be inheriting unequal amounts and paying far more in taxes than necessary.

Clear as mud: Probate fight over blues legend's estate drags on

During his 70 years, Muddy Waters was known for pioneering an electric form of the blues that influenced generations of musicians, including seminal rock icons Eric Clapton, the Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin. The blues legend left an untouchable musical legacy, but his financial legacy is being fought over in courts from Florida to Chicago.

Attorneys for the estate of the late bluesman (he died in 1983) are asking an Illinois probate court to rule that his former management company, along with the widow and son of his former manager, owe the heirs of McKinley Morganfield (Waters’ real name) more than $2 million.

Trusts: Protecting your assets and estate

Trusts are great for protecting your assets and making sure beneficiaries get what you'd like them to have from your estate. Trusts can protect your estate from high taxes and provide other benefits as well.

There are many kinds of trusts that you could look into setting up. Some of them include:

  • Revocable trusts
  • Irrevocable trusts
  • Constructive trusts
  • Tax bypass trusts
  • Special needs trusts
  • Spendthrift trusts
  • Totten trusts

Thinking beyond death

Most Americans believe in an afterlife – a life after death. But “thinking beyond death” doesn’t refer to heaven or hell, it refers to estate plans that include more than distribution of your assets to your loved ones when you pass on. It refers to a plan that takes into account the very real possibilities that something will happen to cause you hardship while alive.

In other words, you should have in place a plan that empowers someone of your choice to make decisions for you if illness renders you unable to make decisions for yourself. Here in Florida, a health care surrogate designation and a health care power of attorney are vital tools that help you to protect yourself in the event of incapacitation.

Heartbreaker: probate dispute complicates Tom Petty estate

If you drive northwest of Cocoa for about 160 miles, you’ll come to Tom Petty’s Florida birthplace. The legendary rocker was born in Gainesville back in 1950 and died a year and a half ago in his Los Angeles home of an accidental drug overdose.

According to recent news reports, the singer-songwriter’s widow, Dana York Petty, is currently battling his daughter, Adria, from his first marriage, in probate court for control of his estate. Their dispute could affect the releases of recordings from his music catalog.

5 signs that it’s time to review your estate plan

Once you create an estate plan, you'll feel much better about the future. With this in place, you won't have nearly as many concerns about what will happen to your assets upon your death. You'll also have confidence that your loved ones will be okay after you're gone.

However, don't assume that you can keep your first estate plan in place for the rest of your life. There are times when you need to review your estate plan with an eye toward making changes. Here are five signs that you should take immediate action:

  • Marriage or divorce: If you're tying the knot or divorcing your spouse, you'll want to review your estate plan. For example, you probably don't want to include your ex-spouse in your will.
  • New federal or state laws: Estate planning laws change from time to time, and this could impact the decisions you've made. Stay current with estate planning laws to better understand the impact on your estate plan.
  • A beneficiary has passed on: Maybe you planned on leaving everything to your spouse. If this person passes on before you, it's imperative to immediately review and alter your estate plan. If you pass on before doing so, you lose control over where your assets end up.
  • Change in guardian or executor: You may want to change the guardian of your minor children and/or the executor of your will. There are many reasons to make these changes, such as if your guardian or executor becomes ill or passes away.
  • Increase in the value of your estate: If the value of your estate suddenly increases, perhaps because of an inheritance of your own, consider how this will impact your estate plan.

Estate planning after a Florida divorce

In the aftermath of a divorce, it can be difficult to remember all the things that need to be changed in your life. For many divorced parents, there are significant changes to the time they get to spend with their kids, as well as alterations in living arrangements, household income, insurance and much more.

On the list of things that will need to adjusted after a Florida divorce: your estate plan. In fact, it can be changed as soon as you know that a divorce is in the offing. There is no good reason to continue to list your soon-to-be ex (or members of their family) in your estate planning documents.

Estate planning tips for women (and men)

Let’s face it: because women live about five years longer than men, on average, they should take estate planning seriously. (So should men, of course.) It should be noted that if you don’t have an estate plan, it is likely that your assets will wind up in probate, with the state of Florida deciding who should your assets.

Probate can be a complex, stressful and time-consuming process for heirs. Known as a slow, cumbersome proceeding, it’s also often the source of disputes among frustrated beneficiaries.

Survey: Family conflict at top of estate planning concerns

Someone wise once said that “other things may change us, but we start and end with the family.” Unfortunately, though we might well “end with the family,” conflicts within that basic social unit can make everyone unhappy.

According to a recent survey, family conflict has again been determined to be “the leading threat to estate planning.” Nearly half of respondents (46 percent) said identified family conflict as the biggest problem in estate planning, followed by the 24 percent who said market volatility and 14 percent who identified tax reform as the top concern.

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