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

Addressing chronic illnesses during estate planning

Living with a chronic illness presents many challenges, including securing necessary medical care. While the daily lives of those living with chronic conditions often reflect those challenges, those issues are frequently left out of estate planning. With the number of people in Florida who are living with chronic illnesses growing, planning for the future is perhaps more important than ever.

In America, there are over 130 million adults living with chronic medical problems. That figure is expected to increase to 157 million by 2020. Of those currently living with chronic illnesses, nine million are cancer survivors who must live with devastating side effects of treatment. Adults between the ages of 65 and 74 are also struggling, as 25% have at least one significant chronic illness. By age 85, half of people in this age group have some type of cognitive impairment.

The role of transfer on death accounts in estate planning

No one really enjoys thinking about end-of-life matters, but ignoring an uncomfortable situation does not mean that it will go away. Ignoring estate planning needs is also different than ignoring an overdue library book, as the outcome can be much more costly and emotionally traumatizing than a few fines. Not only should the average person in Florida create an estate plan and keep it up to date, he or she could also consider taking steps to keep the estate out of probate when possible.

Although generally quite effective, wills are not always sufficient for keeping estates out of probate. The prospect is even worse for the 57% of American adults who do not have any type of estate plan at all. Aside from creating a will that outlines property within an estate as well as intended heirs, it is also helpful to consider the benefits of transfer on death accounts. Many people are unaware that TOD accounts can not only easily transfer assets to beneficiaries, but can also keep those beneficiaries out of court.

3 estate plan essentials

With retirement right around the corner, you are probably looking forward to spending your days golfing in Melbourne or enjoying afternoons on your boat. While you might be counting down the hours before the next phase of your life begins, are you really ready for it? Have you taken the time to update your estate plan or even started the process of creating one yet? If not, it is past time to get started.

While every estate plan is unique, there are some common documents you should consider including in yours. In addition to a will, here are a few must-haves that you should add to your estate plan.

The many benefits of irrevocable trusts

A trust can play a unique role in estate planning. Unlike a will, a trust can provide important tax benefits while also allowing the creator of the trust -- the grantor -- to ensure that his or her wishes are fully upheld even after death. Revocable trusts are fairly common, but irrevocable trusts are often looked over despite a number of benefits.

A grantor cannot alter or revoke an irrevocable trust, hence the name. This immediately puts some Florida residents off the idea of such a trust, but this fear might be misplaced. With this type of trust, a grantor transfers ownership of certain assets into the trust. This means that the trust technically owns the assets, so upon the grantor's death those assets will not be subjected to the estate tax. An irrevocable trust also shields assets from most creditors and even legal judgments.

Don't wait to plan for long-term care

Knowing how much something will cost is important for making informed decisions of all kinds. For example, before purchasing a car or taking out a mortgage, people in Florida should understand both the monthly and long-term costs. Anticipating future costs becomes a little less clear when dealing with long-term care, but here are a few things individuals can do to make the process more transparent and easier.

The actual cost of long-term care after retirement will vary for each individual, but there are a few generalities that might prove helpful. The length of time during which a woman will need long term-care is, on average, 3.7 years. The average is 2.2 years for men. A significant number of these men and women will receive help with things like eating, bathing and dressing from their children or spouses, who perform unpaid labor.

Should I worry about digital assets during estate planning?

Creating an estate plan may seem fairly straightforward. After a person completes a last will and testament, he or she might feel as if all estate planning needs have been fulfilled. Not only is this approach somewhat misguided -- updating plans is very important -- but it also may leave out some very important assets.

Digital assets comprise a significant portion of many people's assets. It can be hard for some people in Florida to think of their digital footprint as property that must be protected, but given some thought, it is easy to see just how expansive these assets really are. Digital purchases -- including music, books and movies -- financial accounts, email accounts and data stored on smartphones are just a few examples of these types of assets.

Here's why you need long-term care planning

Growing older is a privilege that most people hope to have, but few actually plan for. The reality is that most adults who live past retirement will need specialized services at some point in time, and those services can be extremely expensive. Rather than ignoring this side of things and hoping to figure it out later on, adults living in Florida can use long-term care planning to make sure their future needs are taken care of.

Information from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services shows that the vast majority of people over the age of 65 will eventually require help accomplishing daily living tasks. For some people this could mean they need help getting dressed or bathing soon after retirement, while others might not need any services to years or even decades later.

Aretha Franklin's estate planning mistake

Creating an estate plan that creates a lasting legacy or that at least makes things easier for family members should be a priority for Florida residents. Many people understand this and do their best to make sure that they plan appropriately. However, not everyone fully understands how estate planning works, and these individuals can make costly mistakes. This is the situation that the family of the late singer Aretha Franklin is dealing with right now.

Franklin passed away in Aug. 2018, and at the time, her family believes that she had not left behind a will. It was only recently discovered that, not only had Franklin indeed had a will, but that at least three had been found in her house. All of the wills are handwritten and were not necessarily located in safe or obvious locations. One of the wills was found underneath a seat cushion.

An estate plan helps you protect yourself: Here's how

Estate plans have an important role. They protect you when you're at your most vulnerable. In fact, one of the most valuable reasons to have an estate plan is to plan for your own needs.

While most people think of estate plans as ways to establish what they want to leave behind for their loved ones, they should also think about them as ways to protect themselves if they're hurt or impaired in a way that does not allow them to make decisions on their own behalf.

What do single parents need to know during estate planning?

Being a single parent often comes with a number of worries. From providing for a child on a single income to dealing with the stresses of parenthood on their own, single parents in Florida already have a lot on their plates. While some might feel as if they could not deal with one more thing at the moment, it is still important to consider how estate planning could benefit both child and parent.

The death of a parent can be particularly traumatic for a child, but perhaps even more so for the child of a single parent. These children often end up having to leave the communities and friends they are familiar with in order to live with their other parent or another family member. While some aspects of this might be unavoidable, single parents can create a plan that minimizes undue disruptions in their children's lives.


William A. Johnson, P.A.
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