Estate Planning and Trusts Blog

What’s a Lady Bird Deed?

In this video, Cindy explains what a lady bird deed is, and when it may be an appropriate arrow in your estate planning quiver.

Other videos you may find interesting:

Welcome to Manasota Elder Law’s YouTube Channel

Durable Power of Attorney: What You Need to Know

***Want to learn more about how to protect your family from the government, lawsuits, accidental disinheritance, or nursing homes? Click THIS LINK to book a seat at one of our upcoming fun and educational workshops.***

Don’t Give Your House to Your Kids

Don’t give your house to your child – it’s almost always a bad idea.

I see this all the time – a parent wants to make sure his or her adult children get the Florida house without going through probate. So, do they call an estate planning attorney? Of course not – lawyers cost money!

Instead, they consult with their neighbors, their Facebook friends, their second cousin’s nephew who practices corporate law in NYC, and, of course, Google, to see what they should do. Relying on this “free” legal advice, they download a fill-in-the blank quitclaim deed, complete and record it, and think they solved their problem.

No, as this article outlines, they likely just made things much worse. And now someone will likely either have to pay a lawyer a lot more to fix it, or the government and/or the nursing home will receive a lot more money than they would have if things had been done correctly.

The parent had good intentions. But he or she was focused on only one thing – avoiding probate (which, as the article points out, is fairly onerous in Florida). But the parent didn’t see the forest for the trees.

Probate is just one tiny issue in the huge estate planning puzzle. Did the parent consider what would happen if he or she needs nursing home care? Or what would happen if one of the children named on the deed dies? Or is sued or divorced? Or needs government benefits? Or has a child applying for college (the house is now considered the child’s parent’s asset). And what about taxes? Does it make more sense financially for your children to pay a $32,000 tax bill or a $5,000 probate bill?

The article mentions that life estate deeds or “transfer on death” deeds (we call them ladybird deeds in Florida) are a good option. Maybe, maybe not. They can also present problems.

An experienced estate planning and elder law attorney can help you recognize and address the pros and cons of every possible choice. There’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to estate planning. Don’t be penny wise and pound foolish.

Other articles you may find interesting:

To Probate or Not to Probate?

Titling Property Correctly for Your Estate Plan

***Want to learn more about how to protect your family from the government, lawsuits, accidental disinheritance, or nursing homes? Click THIS LINK to book a seat at one of our upcoming fun and educational workshops.***

Durable Power of Attorney: What You Need to Know

In this video, Cindy talks about Florida Durable Powers of Attorney – what they are, why they’re needed, how they work.

Other videos you may find interesting:

Welcome to Manasota Elder Law’s YouTube Channel

What’s a Per Stirpes?

***Want to learn more about how to protect your family from the government, lawsuits, accidental disinheritance, or nursing homes? Click THIS LINK to book a seat at one of our upcoming fun and educational workshops.***

Power of Attorney vs. Guardianship

Power of Attorney
In most cases, a valid and effective Durable Power of Attorney will avoid the need for guardianship.

Did you know that if you don’t have a valid and effective Durable Power of Attorney, and you became incapacitated (usually through a gradual decline of cognitive ability or sudden traumatic event), a judge could appoint a person you wouldn’t want or even an organization you’ve not heard of before to handle your financial and legal decisions and your property? And that relationship may continue for the rest of your life, all the while eating up your assets to pay ongoing fees to the guardian and the courts for taking care of you.

But there’s a simple way to avoid this nightmare scenario – sit down with an estate planning attorney and draw up a proper Durable Power of Attorney so you can appoint the people you’d trust to handle your financial and legal matters when you can’t.

So why doesn’t everyone do this? This article says it’s because:

  • People aren’t aware of the importance of the Durable Power of Attorney;
  • People can’t afford or don’t want to spend the money or don’t look for a lawyer who will prepare one for them;
  • People don’t have a trusted person in mind who is willing to take on the role as agent; and
  • People just don’t want to think about or discuss the possibility of future disability and don’t think it will happen to them.

Whatever the excuse, realistically, using a Durable Power of Attorney instead of the government-controlled guardianship process is one of the best ways to stay in control; to be proactive instead of reactive.

For some people, finding a family member or other trusted person to name as and agent is difficult, but there are professional individuals and organizations who will act as an agent if you can’t find anyone else.

And the best thing about a Durable Power of Attorney is that you can always change the document — without having to go to court.

Other articles you may find interesting:

Common Myths about Your Estate When You Die

Estate Planning: Writing Your Own Obituary

***Want to learn more about how to protect your family from the government, lawsuits, accidental disinheritance, or nursing homes? Click THIS LINK to book a seat at one of our upcoming fun and educational workshops.***

Welcome to Manasota Elder Law’s YouTube Channel

As of May 1, 2020, the Law Offices of Cynthia M. Clark is changing its name to Manasota Elder Law. Since it is the 21st century, in addition to written blog articles, we’ll also be posting (very!) informal vlogs – video blogs. At some point, we plan to get a bit better microphone and camera, and have each video transcribed for those who prefer reading. But you have to start somewhere. 🙂

Here’s a brief welcome and the first vlog. We hope you enjoy them, and if you do, please “Like,” share, and Subscribe to the Manasota Elder Law YouTube channel!

***Want to learn more about how to protect your family from the government, lawsuits, accidental disinheritance, or nursing homes? Click THIS LINK to book a seat at one of our upcoming fun and educational workshops.***

Creating an End-of-Life Checklist

End-of-life checklist
Some of the most valuable gifts you can leave your loved ones are information and a plan.

Spend the energy, effort, and time now to consider your wishes, collect information and, most importantly, get everything down on paper, says In Maricopa’s recent article entitled “Make an end-of-life checklist.”

A list of all your assets and critical personal information is a guarantee that nothing is forgotten, missed, or lost. An estate planning attorney can assist you and guide you through the process.

Admittedly, it’s an unpleasant subject and a topic most people don’t want to discuss, but an end-of-life checklist can be a welcome final gift to your family and loved ones.

When you work with an experienced estate planning attorney, you can generally add some specific instructions to your Will or other estate planning documentation. Make certain that you appoint an executor/personal representative that you trust and will carry out your wishes.

Have ready for your attorney all of your vital, personal information. This should include your name, birthdate, and Social Security number, as well as the location of key documents and items, such as birth certificate, marriage license, military discharge paperwork (if applicable), and your Will, powers of attorney, medical directives, ID cards, medical insurance cards, and details about your burial plot.

In addition, you need to let your family know about the sources of your income. This type of information should include specifics about pensions, retirement accounts, 401(k), or your 403(b) plan. Be sure to include the company name and contact information, as well as the account number, date of payment, document location, and when/how received.

Your end-of-life checklist should also include all medicines and medical equipment used, and the location of these items.

And then double check the locations of the following items: bank documents, titles and deeds, credit cards, tax returns, trust and power of attorney, mortgage and loan documents, personal documents,  and insurance policies – life, health, auto, home, etc. It’s wise to add account numbers and contact information.

You may also want to consider creating a list of online usernames and passwords, in printed form, for your family or loved ones to use to access and monitor accounts.

Be sure to keep your End-of-Life Checklist in a secure place, such as an in-home safe, because it has sensitive and private information. And don’t forget to tell your executor/personal representative where it’s located.

Other articles you may find interesting:

Have an IRA? The CARES Act of 2020 Impacts You

Naming a Child as Successor Trustee?

***Want to learn more about how to protect your family from the government, lawsuits, accidental disinheritance, or nursing homes? Click THIS LINK to book a seat at one of our upcoming fun and educational workshops.***

Bored? Review Your Estate Plan

Bored couple
Tired of watching TV due to COVID-19 “stay-at-home” orders? You could do something productive, such as reviewing your estate plan. 🙂

Many of you reading this are sitting at home with time on your hands. You can only watch so much Netflix, so perhaps now is a good time to dig your estate planning documents out of the drawer or safe and read them.

As this recent article points out, estate plans – like any other plan – should be reviewed periodically. Will your documents do what you think they’re supposed to do? Are they just a bunch of random documents or part of an overall plan? Are the right people in the right roles?

Are you and everyone involved in your plan in the same exact family, financial, and health situations you all were when your plan was created? Are you in the same state? Your estate plan should comply with your state of residence’s laws, not another state’s laws.

As I tell my clients, an estate plan is not a bucket list item – you can’t just create a plan and then cross it off the list. It’s a process that will provide what’s needed to guide your loved ones when you’re no longer able to help them.

So, take a good look at your current estate plan and its associated documents now. If anything needs work, contact a local estate planning or elder law attorney. Most of us can meet with you virtually via phone or Zoom video conferencing and make safe arrangements for executing documents. This is one thing that doesn’t need to wait until the world returns to normal.

And then review them every 3-5 years, or when you or your family members experience major life events. Remember, you’re not doing this for you…you’re doing it for them.

Other articles you may find interesting:

Can Multi-Generational Living Arrangements Work for Families?

Blended Families Need More Thoughtful Estate Plans

***Want to learn more about how to protect your family from the government, lawsuits, accidental disinheritance, or nursing homes? Click THIS LINK to book a seat at one of our upcoming fun and educational workshops.***

Estate Planning: Writing Your Own Obituary

John Adams obituary
Public obituaries are nice, but the private obituary you leave your family can be priceless.

An obituary can be much more than just a dry announcement of the time and location of your funeral or memorial service. It can be a way to share your life story, and communicate information about significant events and people, as well as important values you would like to impart to others. You don’t need to leave this task to grieving family members after you pass away; instead, writing your own obituary can be an important part of your estate plan that you can do today.

Estate Planning Isn’t Just about Money and Property

When estate planning is mentioned, it’s not unusual for a Will or a trust to come to mind first. Wills and trusts are among the most common estate planning tools for transferring your belongings and money to your loved ones. But money and property are not the only forms of wealth you’ve accumulated over your lifetime. You have many stories, lessons, experiences, and values to share. You may also want to acknowledge influential family members and other people who’ve played an important part in your life. Your obituary is also a great opportunity for you to ensure that you are remembered in the way you wish.

What Should You Include in Your Obituary?

Because your obituary is all about you, you can emphasize any aspects of your life you wish. There’s no correct format, so you’re free to tell your story in the way you feel most comfortable, showcasing your personality. Here are a few ideas to get your creative juices flowing:
  • Important life events: If you’d like an opportunity to tell a brief story of your life, your obituary can provide an opportunity for you to highlight the most impactful experiences from your youth into adulthood.
  • Lessons learned: Most people learn many lessons over the course of their lives, and it’s likely that friends and family members can benefit from your experiences. You can include these lessons in your obituary if you choose so they’ll also be available to a wider audience.
  • Gratitude: You can use your obituary to express gratitude to the people who’ve played an important and beneficial role in your life. If you’re dealing with a long-term or chronic illness, you may wish to thank healthcare providers or caregivers who have gone above and beyond to help you during a difficult time.
  • History: Times are changing rapidly. You can tell your friends and family about the different periods in history in which you lived and how they impacted you. If you lived through a war or were involved in or witnessed certain historical events, your loved ones will cherish your memories of those times because they are part of what molded you as a person. Writing down your memories will also leave an important historical record for the next generation.
  • Goodbyes: Your obituary can be a wonderful way for you to say goodbye to friends and family members who may not live near you and are unlikely to be present when you pass away. As sad as it seems, it’s invaluable for those who are important to you to know that you have thought of them and have made an effort to express your affection.

Where Should You Store Your Obituary?

If it’s important to you for loved ones to publish the obituary you’ve prepared, you need to take steps to ensure that it’s preserved and stored properly. The obituary you’ve written can simply be incorporated as part of your Remembrance and Services Memorandum. A Remembrance and Services Memorandum is an important estate planning document designed to provide guidance to your family members, trustee, and personal representative about who to notify when you pass away, how your remains should be handled, your wishes for your memorial service or funeral, as well as the information that should be included in your obituary—or the obituary itself. You should store the original version of the Remembrance and Services Memorandum containing your obituary in the same safe location as your other estate planning documents, i.e. a fireproof safe. Be sure to let your family, personal representative, and trustee know where your documents are stored, and keep a copy for yourself.

We Can Help

Writing your own obituary in advance can provide you with the peace of mind that comes with knowing you’ll be remembered in the way you wish. It also enables you to provide your family, friends, and acquaintances with a final message of love. In addition, it will relieve your family members of this task during an emotionally difficult time.
Please give us a call to set up a meeting so we can help you create a Remembrance and Services Memorandum that includes your obituary, as well as the other important estate planning documents you need, so you can rest assured that your family members and loved ones will receive all the emotional, spiritual, and monetary gifts you intend.

Other articles you may find interesting:

***Want to learn more about how to protect your family from the government, lawsuits, accidental disinheritance, or nursing homes? Click THIS LINK to book a seat at one of our upcoming fun and educational workshops.***

College Kids Need Estate Planning,Too

college kids
Don’t let your college-aged kids leave home without their important legal documents.

If you have children or grandchildren in college or heading to college in the fall, there’s one more thing they need before they leave for school – estate planning documents.

As this recent article states, at their age, a Will is far less important than the disability documents: a Durable Power of Attorney, Health Care Proxy, and Living Will. College-aged kids generally don’t have much valuable “stuff”, and under Florida law, the parents are entitled to their kids’ “stuff” even without a Will. But things aren’t as easy when it comes to taking care of your legal-aged child’s financial, legal, and health care issues.

What happens if your 18- or 19-year old child becomes ill or is injured in an accident and can no longer make decisions or communicate with medical professionals? He’s not your baby anymore, and the doctors and hospitals can refuse to allow you to make medical decisions for him or see his medical records – especially if you’re divorced from the other parent. No hospital wants to get in the middle of a potential legal battle. So, if your child didn’t previously execute a Health Care Proxy and Living Will, your only option is guardianship court.  Guardianship is a legal process, so it’s costly and stressful – at a time where a parent is already under stress.

A Health Care Proxy (in Florida, we call it a Designation of Health Care Surrogate) allows your child to appoint the people he wants making health care decisions for him when he can’t. And a Living Will is his declaration that he wishes to die a natural death when there’s no reasonable medical probability of recovery – and not be hooked up to machines. Remember the Terri Schiavo case? She was only 26 when she suffered a heart attack in her St. Petersburg, Florida apartment that essentially ended her life. But her body was kept alive by machines for 15 years because her husband and her parents didn’t know what her wishes were.

What if the accident that injured your child was caused by a drunk driver? Without a valid Durable Power of Attorney, a parent will once again be forced to go to guardianship court to be declared the child’s legal guardian, and obtain government permission to sue the drunk driver on behalf of the child. Without a Power of Attorney, the parent also couldn’t access the child’s bank accounts, file his tax returns, talk to the school about his financial aid or grades, talk to the lender on his car loan, and the list goes on.

Your child is naturally focused on the excitement of classes, new friends, and parties – not illness, disability, or death. But, as parents, we know that unforeseen illnesses and accidents can happen to anyone. Make sure your child sees an estate planning attorney and executes these important legal documents so guardianship proceedings can be avoided and loved ones can easily step in when there’s an emergency.

Other articles you may find interesting:

Including Cryptocurrency in Your Estate Plan

How Can Beneficiary Designations Wreck My Estate Plan?

***Want to learn more about how to protect your family from the government, lawsuits, accidental disinheritance, or nursing homes? Click THIS LINK to book a seat at one of our upcoming fun and educational workshops.***