An old saying goes that there are only two things that certain in life – death and taxes.  While neither of these things is anyone’s favorite subject, they both point towards the importance of Estate Planning.

When we talk about Estate Planning, we automatically think about Wills, Trusts, and other types of legal documents.  However, your estate planning documents will do little good if your family or trusted friends do not know where to find them.

Once you have put the finishing touches on your written estate plan, I recommend setting aside some time to talk about it with your family.  Tell them where your documents are kept and explain your wishes clearly.  While this might be an uncomfortable conversation, it can save your family from additional stress and confusion down the road.

If you need advice on estate planning, call the Law Office of Debra G. Simms today at 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 Blog topics may or may not be updated and entries may be out-of-date at the time you view them.

 

FLORIDA PET TRUSTS

What will happen if your pet outlives you?

Many pet owners, like me, consider our pets as part of our family.  But, far too many of us neglect to make long-term plans for our pets.  Each year thousands of animals end up in shelters.  According to a recent Humane Society Report, the majority of dogs and cats that enter shelters are euthanized when the pet parent passes away.

There is something we can do. Florida has a law allowing pet owners to establish a Trust to ensure that their pets receive proper care after disability or death. A Pet Trust works by naming a trusted person or facility to act as Trustee and provides that Trustee with enough money to care for the pet according to your instructions. This can include directions such as your pet’s daily routine, medical care, special food, and socialization.  In short, it may include anything that is reasonable to care for your pets.

You can create a pet trust either while you are alive or when you die by including the trust provisions in your will.

I am an attorney with experience in estate planning and a pet owner who does not want to leave my pet’s future to chance.

If you need advice on estate planning, call the Law Office of Debra G. Simms today at 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

 

Create a valid will if you do not yet have one.  A valid will may save your heirs from expensive headaches linked to probate.  A solid will drafted with the guidance of an estate planning attorney will likely cost you a bit more than a “do it yourself will”, but may prove worth the expense.  If you already have a will, review it for needed updates.

Complement your will with other important documents.  This could include a trust, durable power of attorney, medical directive and living will.  These documents can protect you in the event of incapacity or at the end of life.

Review your beneficiary designations. It is a good idea to check the documentation to verify who you have designated as your beneficiaries on retirement plans, annuities, and life insurance.

Create a list of assets and debts.  Organize your personal information and tell your loved ones so they don’t have to follow the trail of bank statements, insurance policies, and bills.  So much of what we do is online so you might want to share your passwords with someone you trust.

Talk to an experienced estate planning attorney.  Do-it-yourself estate planning is not recommended. I have seen many mistakes that have cost families far more than documents prepared by an expert.

If you need advice on estate planning, call the Law Office of Debra G. Simms today at 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.

More About the Dangers of “Do It Yourself” (DIY) Estate Plans

I once had a widowed client who used an online do-it-yourself will that failed to mention what would happen if his only son predeceased him. Well, that is what happened.  And, because this son did not have any children, I advised my client that if he didn’t update his will, his assets would then pass to his “heirs” at law.  In his case, this meant a niece and nephew.  He had no relationship at all with these folks.

We updated the will and my client named a close friend and made some charitable bequests. That is the reason to have an attorney assist you with this process. We know the questions to ask, and we know what to do with the answers.

Also, without a lawyer advising you, you might not understand the terms in your documents.  This can be dangerous.  For example, a Durable Power of Attorney essentially gives someone else (the “agent”) the power to take care of your finances if you become incapacitated.  Without understanding all the terms in the document, you could inadvertently give someone more power than you want to when creating a durable power of attorney.  If that person isn’t trustworthy, he or she could steal from you. It happens all the time.

Another problem with DYI documents is that if the document isn’t executed properly—in Florida, you need 2 witnesses and a notary to your signature in a Durable Power of Attorney—then the document will not even be valid.

A lawyer with expertise in estate planning can end up saving you and your family lots of money.  It is very sad when families call me after a loved one has become incapacitated or dies and there are mistakes in the documents.  By then, it’s too late.

If you need advice on preparing such documents, call the Law Office of Debra G. Simms today at 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.

 

 

As an attorney working with elders and their estate plans, I discuss my clients’ wishes for burial or cremation.  I always encourage my veteran clients, as part of their estate planning, to plan in advance to make things easier on their family when they pass away.

Burial benefits for veterans are administered by the National Cemetery Administration of the U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs.  Burial benefits include, at no cost to the family: a gravesite in a VA national cemetery with available space, opening and closing of the grave, perpetual care of the gravesite, a government headstone or marker, a burial flag, and a presidential memorial certificate.  “Burial” includes cremation and all other legal methods of disposing of remains.

Many veterans choose not be buried in a VA cemetery.  What they often fail to realize is that they can still be eligible for VA burial benefits. A veteran can get a government-furnished headstone or marker to be placed in a private cemetery or a veteran can obtain a medallion to be affixed to an existing headstone.  The cost of placing or setting the marker is not covered by the VA.

The VA will also pay a burial allowance for the plot or other expenses, such as transportation of remains.  The entitlement and amount of the payment depends upon whether the death is service related, whether the veteran died while hospitalized in a VA hospital, and whether the veteran is entitled to or is receiving VA compensation or pension.

If you are a veteran, contact the Department of Veteran’s Affairs to determine whether you have a claim for burial benefits.  You can visit your area service office or apply online at:

https://www.vets.gov/burials-and-memorials/application/530/introduction

If you need advice on your last wishes, call the Law Office of Debra G. Simms today at 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.

 

The Dangers of “Do It Yourself” (DYI) Estate Planning

Whenever I speak about estate planning at a seminar or before a civic group, I am asked this question:  Why can’t I just use the forms I can find online?

My answer:  You can.  But, remember, you get what you pay for.   You CAN do it yourself – but it’s really not a very good idea.  DYI estate planning breeds mistakes because when it comes to legal issues, one size never fits all.

My experience with reviewing DYI documents is that people tend to make mistakes when they fill out their own forms online.  Answering one question incorrectly or overlooking something such as appointing a guardian for children can lead to major problems down the road.

One of my prospective clients asked me to prepare a deed putting her home in her trust.  When I reviewed her trust, I saw that it was prepared according to community property and California law.  This lady lived in Florida and had never lived in California.  She sheepishly told me she found the trust on a celebrity money manager’s website.

Another client had a very well drafted trust he found online, but he had never funded the trust because he never received legal advice to do so.  Had he died before consulting with me, all of his assets would have gone through probate, even though his intent in doing a trust was to avoid probate.

Most people use online forms to save money.  I get that.  I like saving money, too.  At the Law Office of Debra G. Simms, we charge a flat fee for estate planning.  It is far more costly to fix mistakes than to do it right the first time.

If you need advice on preparing such documents, call the Law Office of Debra G. Simms today at 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