Are you registered to vote?

The primary election of August 28th is rapidly approaching.  The deadline to register for this election is July 30th.

If you are at least 18, a citizen of the United States, and a resident of Florida, you can register to vote.  It’s easy to register to vote:  you can do so online at: https://registertovoteflorida.gov/en/Registration/Index

After you register to vote, you will be notified of your voting precinct and the location of the place you are to vote.  If you are not able to get to your voting precinct, contact the local supervisor of elections to obtain an absentee ballot so you can mail in your vote.

The purpose of primary elections is to select a candidate to represent the political party in the general elections.  In the primary, if a candidate wins more than 50 percent of the vote then the race is over.  That is why the primary is so important. EVERY SINGLE VOTE COUNTS!

Recent Court Decision is a Reminder to Carefully Plan Your Estate

The case involved a widow (the second wife) and the children form the first marriage.  The decedent had executed a Will in 2005 and another Will in 2010 that gave most of the assets to his second wife.

The daughter sued the widow claiming she had exerted “undue influence” on the frail father and thus interfered with the daughter’s expected inheritance under the first Will.  The daughter asked the Florida Probate Court to invalidate the 2010 Will and distribute assets to the children based on the 2005 Will.

After winding through the Courts, a Florida appellate court found in favor of the widow and probated the 2010 Will.  The case was in court for 7 years!

As this prolonged dispute shows, estate matters can be complicated even when there is a written Will.  Estate Planning involves several important considerations; “blended families” pose special challenges. Competent legal advice is based upon the specific circumstances.

Questions? The Law Office of Debra Simms is here to help. Call us today 386.256.4882

This blog post is not case-specific and is provided only for educational purposes and is not intended to provide specific legal advice. Blog topics may or may not be updated and entries may be out-of-date at the time you view them.

Estate Planning and the New Tax Act

Many of my clients have been asking me if they need to re-evaluate their estate plans in response to the changes in the tax law, the “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017”.

The Tax Act addresses personal, business, and estate tax planning taxes.  Here is some specific information that concerns estates.

The Estate Tax:

The federal estate tax is a 40% tax imposed on an individual’s assets which are transferred upon death.  The United States has had a version of the estate tax since 1916.  This tax applies to the gross estate – ALL of a decedent’s assets, no matter the character or value, passing upon death to beneficiaries, trusts, heirs, and non-charitable entities.  This would even include life insurance proceeds, not something individuals usually think of as part of their estate.

The new Tax Act significantly changes the tax exemption amounts for those who die after December 31, 2017.  The estate tax exemption has increased to an inflation-adjusted amount of $10 million per individual or $20 million for married couples. For tax year 2018, the IRS has calculated this to be $11.18 million and $22.36 million, respectively.  The Tax Act has effectively doubled the amount of assets that an individual can transfer free from federal tax upon death.

Responding to the Tax Act:

Many individuals who have estate plans drafted in prior years (in the year 2001, for example, the exemption amount was only $675,000) have formula clauses in their Wills and Revocable Trusts.  Such formulas were used to control what goes where at the time of death to maximize the exemption amount.  A typical formula says what amount goes to the spouse, and what amount goes to the children or grandchildren.  Upon death, this directive is usually irrevocable.

If you have a formula clause in your documents, it is time for a review to determine if this formula will achieve your goals.  It is quite possible, that given the current tax environment, a formula clause could give your spouse far less than you intend.

Questions? The Law Office of Debra Simms is here to help. Call us today 386.256.4882

This blog post is not case-specific and is provided only for educational purposes and is not intended to provide specific legal advice. Blog topics may or may not be updated and entries may be out-of-date at the time you view them.

Don’t Let Fate Determine Your Estate!

Many folks think that Estate Planning is just for the wealthy.  But, think again.  Everyone has an “estate” worth planning for- some are just more complicated than others.  No matter how much money you have, ignoring the inevitable and failing to plan can lead to a lot of conflict and expense for your loved ones.

And estate planning isn’t just about making a Will to direct who will receive your money when you no longer need it.  An important overlooked aspect of estate planning is incapacity issues:  who will make decisions and handle your finances if you cannot?

If you become incapacitated, who would make decisions on your behalf? If you are married, you would probably think that it is your spouse.  If you are a young adult living at home, you would probably guess it’s your parents.  Neither is correct.

On your 18th birthday, you are considered an adult in Florida and are responsible for making your own decisions.  Your parents can’t legally act on your behalf.  And if you are married, your spouse doesn’t automatically get to make personal and financial decisions on your behalf in the event of incapacity.  If you do not have a valid durable power of attorney, then a court process involving at least two lawyers is required to appoint a guardian to make such decisions for you under the supervision of the Court.  This can be expensive and an invasion of privacy.

Questions? The Law Office of Debra Simms is here to help. Call us today 386.256.4882

This blog post is not case-specific and is provided only for educational purposes and is not intended to provide specific legal advice. Blog topics may or may not be updated and entries may be out-of-date at the time you view them.

 

 

 

Consider this recent headline:

“Americans in 26 states are struggling with heat warnings and advisories as near triple-digit temperatures smother states from New York to California”.

So, Snowbirds, if it’s getting hot EVERYWHERE in the summer, maybe you ought to just stay put in Florida.  From a legal point of view, consider these advantages of making Florida your home:

  • Florida Homestead. You will receive a reduced property tax rate for your primary residence in Florida.  Additionally, your homestead is pretty much bullet proof from creditor’s claims.  And if you leave your home to a spouse, descendants or certain relatives, they will also receive the benefit of creditor protection on the home.  Also, if you need long-term care and cannot afford it, the state of Florida does not require you to sell your home to pay for your care before you can be eligible for Medicaid.
  • You had a taxable estate in your old home state: Florida does not have state Estate tax.  If your assets are lower than $5.49 million you may not need a lot of tax planning. A Florida attorney can help you create a much simpler plan for after death.

If you do make the move, don’t forget to consult with a Florida Estate Planning attorney or Elder Law attorney. Your Power of Attorney and Will may not be valid in Florida.

Questions? The Law Office of Debra Simms is here to help. Call us today 386.256.4882

This blog post is not case-specific and is provided only for educational purposes and is not intended to provide specific legal advice. Blog topics may or may not be updated and entries may be out-of-date at the time you view them.

 

 

Contact Us

Port Orange Office:
Prestige Executive Center
823 Dunlawton Ave. Unit C
Port Orange, FL 32129
Local: 386.256.4882
Toll Free: 877.447.4667
New Smyrna Beach Office:
629 N. Dixie HWY
New Smyrna Beach, FL 32168
Local: 386.256.4882
Toll Free: 877.447.4667

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