William A. Johnson, P.A. William A. Johnson, P.A.
Probate And Elder Law Services In Brevard County
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Melbourne, Florida, Trust, Estate Planning And Probate Law Blog

Choosing the right executor during estate planning

Creating a comprehensive estate plan is usually done with the best of intentions, and most people in Florida probably hope that their carefully crafted documents will help their surviving family members deal with the aftermath of their death. Regardless of intentions, many wills still end up causing serious tensions. For better estate planning results, consider the following.

Naming an executor is not about picking the closest friend or kindest family member. Being an executor requires a certain set of skills, including attention to detail, an ability to stay organized, scrupulous ethics and more. This means that a person may not want to select the oldest child because of seniority, but instead consider which person might best fill the needs of the role. Communicating the reasons behind this choice beforehand can also help quell any opposition that may arise later.

Estate planning: How a special needs trust can help

Parents of special needs children already understand the extra care and dedication that goes into the job. Many worry about what will happen to their adult children after they are gone. While Florida parents might expect their other children or family members to take over caregiving duties, it is important to establish these matters through careful estate planning. This includes setting up a special needs trust to protect a person's finances.

A special needs trust is one of the most effective ways to ensure that a disabled child continues receiving vital government aid and benefits. Many government programs -- including Supplemental Security Income, Medicaid, job training programs, subsidized housing and more -- are only available to individuals with low incomes. If a parent leaves behind a significant inheritance, that heir could be kicked off of these programs and faced with two options -- go without essential services or quickly drain the inheritance to pay for them, and return to government assistance. Instead, leaving money via a trust is a better idea.

Ready to talk about your estate plan? Keep this tips in mind

Discussing end-of-life matters is not always easy, but those who tackle the topic with their family can realize incredible benefits. Unfortunately, loved ones are not always so receptive to these topics. Florida individuals who want to discuss their estate plan with heirs but are worried about their reaction may want to consider these helpful tips.

Having this discussion often means laying a few ground rules. These may include no interrupting, respecting -- without necessarily having to agree with -- each person's opinion and keeping everything private. It is not really possible to have an open discussion about the contents of a will if people are constantly talking over one another and ignoring what they have to say.

An irrevocable trust can be a good fit for some Florida seniors

Planning for the future can be stressful. That's especially true for those in Florida who are considering their long term care needs. Many families are uncertain what level of care their loved one might need in the years ahead, making it difficult to know which path to pursue. For those who believe they might need to rely on Medicaid benefits to cover some of the costs of long term care, researching irrevocable trusts is a good place to begin. 

When an individual places assets within a trust, the trust itself becomes the owner of those assets. In the case of a revocable trust, the creator can make changes at any time, and can dictate that he or she (or any other entity or person) be considered a beneficiary, eligible to receive wealth from the trust. The problem lies in the fact that Medicaid would also be considered a beneficiary, and could also tap into those assets. 

How often should you update your estate plan?

When you enter retirement, there may be many different things you want to do and achieve. You have the time to travel, and you may even choose to move to another state.

One thing you can't forget about is how important it is to update your estate plan and will. If you don't do so regularly, you could fail to change something you were meaning to update. Then, if you pass away, you won't be able to state your true intentions.

Using long-term estate planning to qualify for Medicaid

Rising standards of living and life expectancies mean that you can probably expect to live significantly longer than past generations. While enjoying more years with loved ones is invaluable, the actual cost of care during later years can be paralyzing. Long-term estate planning can help ensure that you have access to much-needed Medicaid coverage. 

In Florida, Medicaid is a state-administered program funded by the federal government. Medicaid can cover the cost or provide valuable assistance if you need long-term care in a residential facility, but you may not qualify if your assets or income exceed a certain amount. When the average institutional care topping around $96,000 annually, you cannot afford to miss out on Medicaid benefits. 

Using estate planning to prevent family fights

Writing a will often involves focusing on high-value assets, or at least property worth something financially. Of course protecting valuable assets is important, but what about items with little monetary worth but significant sentimental value? Ignoring these types of items during estate planning could be setting up future heirs for a fight. 

Estate plans are not only important for distributing property after a person's death, but they also just make things easier for surviving family members in Florida. Leaving out personal property of any kind flies in the face of that idea. Something as seemingly insignificant as an old holiday decoration or a beloved childhood toy could trigger a fight among family members. 

Estate planning when you think you will outlive a pet

Cats and dogs are no longer viewed as just pets that hang around the house. Increasingly, pet owners are treating their beloved animals as members of the family. Even a quick scroll through popular social media platforms will yield dozens of photos of pets with cute titles marking their statuses, such as "fur baby" and more. But what happens if an owner outlives their pet? Estate planning can answer that question. 

Florida owners who want to make sure that their animal is cared for in the event of their own passing should be sure to utilize available estate planning tools, such as wills and trusts. Individuals can use a will to leave their pet to a designated caretaker. Like with selecting guardians for children, pet owners should be sure to talk to the person they have chosen to act as caretaker first to be certain that they are on board with the plan. Most people also leave instructions -- such as favorite food and preferred veterinarian -- along with funds to cover some of the pet's future care. 

Florida courts will not uphold no-contest clauses in last wills

If you have taken the time to create an estate plan, it's likely because you have a legacy in mind. Whether you hope to donate some of your assets to charity or ensure that your children and grandchildren are cared for after you die, that legacy is often your final act. It will be part of how people remember you.

Of course, all of your effort and concern will go to waste if one of your family members or heirs successfully challenges your last will in court. That will mean that your entire state has to go through probate, and your last wishes may end up disregarded in favor of a different arrangement. It is perfectly normal to take steps to avoid these complications to your estate. However, there are limits to what you can legally do in Florida to protect your estate plan from a challenge.

Want to build lasting wealth? Start discussing your estate plan

Amassing a certain amount of wealth is one thing -- making it last through subsequent generations is another. Florida residents often create carefully crafted estate plans with the hopes that wealth will not only benefit their children, but also their grandchildren and beyond. The reality is that many grandchildren never see much of that wealth, and some experts believe a breakdown in communication prevents that second-generation from handling things properly. 

Money is still a somewhat taboo topic, even among family members. Wealthy parents in particular seem to struggle with finding the balance in talking about finances, with many worrying that giving their children too much information will disincentivize them from working hard. Others worry that letting on too much about how much is at stake could cause siblings to fight over who may get what, ultimately leading to distrust. 


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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