William A. Johnson, P.A. William A. Johnson, P.A.
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Melbourne, Florida, Trust, Estate Planning And Probate Law Blog

Using a trust to transfer assets

When it comes to estate planning, individuals have several options and many details to consider. One way to transfer assets to beneficiaries or heirs is through a structure called a trust. A trust has certain benefits for Florida residents who are looking into the process of planning how to pass along their accumulated wealth. 

A trust holds assets for the trustee. As compared to a will, the trust vehicle can help a family avoid estate taxes, keep the assets out of probate and maintain privacy by keeping information out of the public record. A trust also offers a lot of control for the trustee, who is able to determine exactly under which conditions the funds are disbursed to beneficiaries. 

Trust planning: Avoiding common pitfalls

When individuals approach preparations for the distribution of their assets, it is likely that they wish to avoid any situations that could lead to confusion about their final wishes. Whether a person creates a will, or dives deep into trust planning, once the effort is put forth, most people hope to have the distribution carried out according to plan. Florida residents have the ability to inform themselves about common pitfalls when it comes to estate planning, and in that way, they can hope to avoid future problems with the estate. 

One major pitfall of any estate plan is not having current documents that are easy to find. A person creating a trust will do a huge favor to the heirs if they keep the documents in order, up-to-date and in compliance with current law. Additionally, the documents should be stored in an easy-to-access location that is known to the person most likely to be handling the estate. Sometimes, simple solutions are the best for ensuring that everything goes according to plan. 

Long-term care needs can be offset with careful planning

At the end of life, some individuals find that they need increased support to live their daily life. A person whose health is in decline may find the need for assisted living or long-term care. Some individuals in Florida may be wondering how to pay for their long-term care needs. There are options available, and by planning in advance, the person may be able to ease the financial strain of this type of care. 

Long-term care needs are expensive, with costs expected to be on the rise for the foreseeable future. Monthly costs for a semi-private room in a nursing home were about $6,800 monthly in the year 2016. Home health aides can be costly as well, with the approximate cost of the type of assistance hovering around $3,800 monthly. 

3 reasons dying without a will hurts your family

With a new year comes a fresh start, and one good thing to do is to consider your estate planning needs. Estate planning is necessary, since it dictates what happens to your assets if you pass away. If you don't have an estate plan, your estate will fall under state laws and could end up being divided between individuals whom you did not want to have receive your assets.

It's a sad fact that around 50 percent of American adults don't have wills prepared, and that means that if they pass away, their families will be left wondering who should receive their assets. A judge has to look at the estate and determine the beneficiaries at that stage, which could end up hurting people in your family, especially if you have children from previous marriages, a current spouse or other relatives relying on your estate's assets.

Probate administration depends on the documents left behind

Where does one's property go when one dies? This is a question asked by individuals in the estate planning process. The answer depends upon whether the individual died testate or intestate, and whether a representative was specified for probate administration. For many individuals in Florida, these terms could potentially be confusing, but the answer lies in whether one has prepared in advance. 

Testate indicates that the individual died leaving a legally recognized will. The will typically names a person to serve as as a representative, called the executor. This person is responsible for carrying out the terms of the will and guiding the estate through required the required legal process of submitting the will to court, called probate.

Estate planning lawyers can help kickstart your future plans

An early start to end-of-life planning can save grief after one's demise. In Florida, one can choose to consult with all manner of financial professionals, estate planning lawyers, family, friends and charities to put together the full picture of asset allocation after death. Some people falsely believe that this type of planning is only for the rich, but many individuals can benefit from a proper plan. 

By starting early, one will have the presence of mind and energy to think deeply about how one wants assets to be distributed. Another perk is taking advantage of current tax law that allows one to allocate gifts to people, while one is still living, without facing a tax penalty. At the very least, a person can start naming names and choosing beneficiaries. 

Understanding probate administration

Understanding the process of how property will be distributed after death can assist one's decisions about planning. If one chooses a living trust, the successor trustee will receive the titles to property. If a will has been created, it is likely that the executor will handle estate and probate administration. In Florida, people may be wondering more about probate and how it affects the administration of an estate. 

What is probate, exactly? Probate is a court process that is overseen by a judge. The executor, if there was a will -- or the interested person, if no will was written -- will file the petition to become the administrator of the estate. 

Special needs trust can store past-due benefits

When it comes to post-retirement, end-of-life care, finding the right balance of trust funds and benefit calculations can be a challenging dance. Many folks in Florida can find it a bit confusing when juggling Social Security Disability Insurance payments and Medicaid asset maximums. However, with careful planning, and possibly a little help, there are options to maximize the amount of aid offered to any one individual. 

A recent news article offers a hypothetical case in which a woman, post-retirement, has become incompetent due to Alzheimer's and must be placed in a memory care unit of a nursing home. She has no income, and has used up her savings. Now she is looking at her options for Medicaid and Social Security disability. 

Estate planning tax hack: Using gift taxes to your advantage

Most Florida residents want to earn and save as much money as possible. However, having a large bank account means that you'll face unique tax challenges when planning your estate.

If you're not careful, and your estate exceeds the federal estate tax exemption of $5.49 million, your heirs could be hit with a large estate tax burden for every dollar that exceeds this exemption. However, one interesting estate planning tax hack could be useful for your situation. It involves the fact that gift taxes are less expensive than estate taxes.

Long-term estate planning can be a part of retirement plan

Unlike a lightning strike, most people can expect to need some extra help at the end of their lives. Since the need is anticipated, a person can make the time period a little less stressful with long-term estate planning. Some consider this an essential part of estate planning for Florida folks reaching retirement age. 

Long-term care costs are climbing, and many people are not aware of just how much is not covered by Medicare insurance. When personal assets and Medicare can't fill the gaps, individuals will need to rely on Medicaid or their other plans. One option that some people are choosing is long-term care insurance to cover the shortfalls. 

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William A. Johnson, P.A.
140 Interlachen Road, Suite B
Melbourne, FL 32940

Phone: 321-426-1865
Fax: 321-242-8417
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