Boca Raton Estate Planning Lawyers
People are living longer – and hopefully healthier, wealthier, and happier lives. But a longer life can also bring the possibility of more and longer health challenges, and the financial challenges that come with them. While we want to care for ourselves, we also want to make sure our families are provided for after we are gone. Estate planning is the area of law that takes all of these vital issues into account, working to ensure that older individuals can attend to their needs, including the need for long-term care, while also leaving a legacy for future generations. SAMUELS WOOD PLLC provides custom-tailored solutions to help seniors in Florida meet these needs and achieve their goals when it comes to looking after themselves, their spouses, and all their loved ones. Learn more about our firm’s services in this critical area below, and contact our experienced Boca Raton estate planning lawyers today to explore your options and find out how we can help.
Wills and Trusts
Wills and Trusts are basic estate planning documents that everyone should have. These documents allow you to distribute your estate to heirs and beneficiaries in the way that best suits your desires. You can make gifts outright to classes of people such as children or grandchildren, or make specific bequests to certain individuals. You can place conditions on transfers of property to protect assets from creditors, protect eligibility for government benefits, or even protect beneficiaries from their own worst instincts. With Wills and Trusts, you can nominate the people you want to administer your estate, care for your minor children, and manage your property and investments on behalf of your heirs. The estate planning attorneys at SAMUELS WOOD PLLC take the time to meet with you and determine your needs so we can draft the right set of estate planning documents that meet your desires. Some of these may include:
- Last Will and Testament
- Revocable Living Trust
- Irrevocable Trust
- Special Needs Trust
- Medicaid Asset Protection Trust
Advance directives are legal documents you create now to account for any time in the future when you might become ill or injured and unable to manage your affairs without help. Health Care Directives instruct people like family members and medical professionals what kind of medical care you do or don’t want if you become terminally ill, and they give people you trust the ability to act on your behalf to direct your healthcare. and also manage your financial and business affairs. Examples of advance directives include a durable power of attorney as well as important healthcare documents such as healthcare surrogate designations and living wills. Advance directives ensure you and your estate are being properly looked after during any period of incapacity, giving you peace of mind that the matters that are most important and personal to you are being handled the way you want.
Asset protection is about protecting the wealth you have spent a lifetime amassing and ensuring it is available for you to spend when you need it or leave it for future generations as you see fit. Asset protection helps protect your wealth from being lost to creditors, lawsuits and judgments, exorbitant taxes, divorce, the overwhelming costs associated with a catastrophic illness or injury, or the need for long-term care. Popular asset protection strategies include prenuptial and postnuptial marital agreements, family limited partnerships, special needs trusts, asset protection trusts and more.
Business Succession Planning
If you own a business by yourself or in partnership with others, that business interest is an important part of your estate. Our estate planning lawyers can help ensure that your interest in the business is protected in the event of a divorce, death, or retirement, and that your ownership passes to your successors according to your wishes. We’ll draft the right type of buy-sell agreement that meets your needs as well as any other appropriate documents. Our team works with experienced industry professionals who provide financial advice and tax planning so we can provide the best advice and fullest service to you in this critical area.
Florida Estate Planning FAQs
Estate planning involves creating the right set of Wills and Trusts to meet your needs during your lifetime and distribute your estate according to your wishes after you are gone. Below we answer some of the questions we often hear from clients regarding Wills and Trusts. If you have other questions, or if you are ready to get started creating or updating your Florida estate plan, call the experienced and dedicated Boca Raton estate planning lawyers at SAMUELS WOOD PLLC.
What is a spendthrift Trust or spendthrift clause?
A Trust is often an excellent vehicle to leave money or property to an heir or beneficiary such as a child or grandchild. Sometimes the Trust is created while the beneficiary is still a minor or young adult, and they might be too young or immature to handle a large inheritance. With a spendthrift Trust or a spendthrift clause included in the trust, the settlor puts restrictions on how the funds can be disbursed. A spendthrift Trust might require that trust proceeds be disbursed on a schedule for a limited period, rather than all at once or it may hold back trust assets until the beneficiary reaches a certain age or completes some required condition (e.g. earning a college degree.) Meanwhile, the trustee holds legal title to the trust assets for the benefit of the beneficiary. A spendthrift Trust or clause therefore keeps the beneficiary from going through the trust assets too quickly or recklessly and protects the trust assets from being seized by creditors for debts amassed by the beneficiary.
What are the requirements to create a valid Trust in Florida?
A revocable living trust is a detailed and complex legal document that should be prepared by a qualified and experienced attorney who understands your estate planning needs and desires. Some hallmarks of a valid Trust under Florida law include the following:
- The trust must be in writing
- The trust must be executed for a lawful purpose
- The trust must name one or more beneficiaries who are either definite or ascertainable
In addition, a Trust can be attacked in court and declared invalid if it is proven the settlor lacked the capacity to create a Trust or was the victim of fraud, coercion, duress, or undue influence. If beneficiaries believe the trustee is breaching a fiduciary duty by misappropriating funds, self-dealing, conflicts of interest, or other misconduct, they can act to remove and replace the trustee or, in some cases, try to invalidate the trust itself. Having an estate planning expert create the trust and choosing a trustee wisely can help avoid these challenges and ensure that a valid, effective trust is created.
What is required to make a valid will in Florida?
All Florida Wills must be in writing, signed at the bottom by the testator (the person making the will) or by another person at the testator’s direction, with the signature attested by two witnesses who sign the Will in the presence of the testator and each other. If the Will is also notarized, then it is considered “self-proving.” If not, it may be necessary to call witnesses or otherwise prove the Will in probate court.
The testator must be at least 18 years old and of sound mind to be legally competent to make a Will. Common Will challenges attack the competency of the testator or allege the testator was subjected to undue influence, coercion, duress, or fraud.
The Will must be in writing; Florida does not recognize oral wills as valid. However, “writing” means typed. A Will that is written entirely in the testator’s handwriting is not valid unless it is signed at the bottom and properly witnessed as discussed above.
How do I revoke a Will I made earlier?
Things may change from the time you made your Will, such as family changes (marriages, divorce, births) or changes in your attitude about how you want to distribute your estate. You might want to amend your Will or revoke it l entirely and replace it with a new Will. Either way, you must follow certain legal formalities for your amended or revoked Will to be valid.
Wills can be revoked by act or by writing. Revocation by writing means executing a new Will that is inconsistent with the previous Will; provisions in the later will supersede any inconsistent provisions in the earlier Will. Revocation by act means tearing up the will, burning it, defacing or obliterating it, or otherwise destroying it with the intent of revoking it. This can be done by the testator or another person at the direction of the testator.
If revoking a Will, it is important to work with an attorney to make sure it is done correctly. Improperly revoked Wills invite Will contests and challenges that draw out the probate process and can defeat the testator’s purpose in creating an estate plan.
What is a Medicaid Asset Protection Trust?
A Medicaid Asset Protection Trust (MAPT) is an irrevocable Trust that allows you to transfer assets into the Trust so they won’t be counted against you when determining whether you have too much in assets to qualify for Medicaid. You can transfer ownership of your home into the Trust and continue to live in it for as long as you wish. You can also transfer investments into the Trust and continue to receive income from those investments. There are many factors to consider regarding a Medicaid Asset Protection Trust, including whether to create a MAPT at all or utilize other estate planning tools.
What is a Qualified Income Trust and should I have one?
A Qualified Income Trust or QIT is a type of irrevocable Trust, also known as a Miller Trust. A QIT can be useful if you have too much income to qualify for Medicaid but not enough income to pay for long-term care should you need it. A QIT allows you to divert income into the Trust that would otherwise be counted against you for purposes of Medicaid eligibility.
I moved to Florida from New York, but I already did all my estate planning while I lived in New York. Do I have to do it all over again?
You don’t have to start from scratch or redo your estate plan, but there are many things you may need to look into when relocating from another state, such as establishing your domicile in Florida, revisiting who you selected for your estate’s personal representative and trustees of your trusts, how your cars are registered and more. If you are buying a home in Florida, or if your previous state of residence was a community property state, you’ll have additional matters to consider. It would be wise to schedule an appointment with a Florida estate planning attorney to see what adjustments to your estate planning might be necessary or beneficial following your move.
Contact SAMUELS WOOD PLLC Today
Estate planning is one of the most important tasks you can complete for yourself and your family. The attorneys at SAMUELS WOOD PLLC are here to make completing that task convenient and successful, ensuring that all necessary documents are prepared properly with your interests in mind, so you can rest easy knowing this vital job has been taken care of. Call our experienced Boca Raton estate planning lawyers to get started today.