Estate plans should evolve over time, it is important to keep your living documents current by reviewing your estate plan every 5 years, or whenever you or your family or beneficiaries have a major life event.

The following points should be reviewed with your attorney.

DISTRIBUTION OF YOUR ESTATE

Does your plan effectively distribute your assets according to your wishes?

Do you have distribution provisions for your spouse?

What are the distribution provisions for your children? Should assets pass outright to your children or stay in trust for a longer period of time? If you decide on a continuing trust for a child, consider whether distributions should be staggered over time or whether the trust should be drafted to protect family assets from your children’s future creditors, including a divorcing spouse.

Do you want to include a trust for your grandchildren in your estate plan?

Do you hav a disabled beneficiary to consider? Do you need to incorporate special needs trust provisions for them to preserve the beneficiary’s eligibility for public benefits.

FIDUCIARY NOMINATIONS

Are you happy with your current choices for Personal Representative and Successor Trustee.

PLANNING FOR INCAPACITY

Is it time to update your Durable Power of Attorney and Health Care Proxy. Discuss the individuals you want to serve as your agents in these documents, as well as alternate agents.

TITLING AND BENEFICIARY DESIGNATIONS

What is the appropriate titling and/or beneficiary designations on your assets and accounts?

What assets should be owned by your Revocable Trust and how to effectively transfer ownership of assets into the name of the Trust (or how to designate the Trust as the transfer-on-death beneficiary).

Review the beneficiary designation for all your retirement accounts. Consider whether it is appropriate to leave retirement accounts directly to your spouse and/or children, or to your Revocable Trust so that the Trustees can administer the assets.  Discuss whether your Revocable Trust qualifies for the maximum payout period for a beneficiary under the SECURE Act, which became effective January 1, 2020.

It is important to keep your estate plan up to date to ensure that your wishes are carried out.

Call the Law Offices of Debra G. Simms at 386.256.4882 to learn more. We are currently offering free consultations via video conference to assist you with your needs.

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.

Have you ever wondered how you can be more environmentally conscious even in death? In some states, you can, by being composted. Seth Viddal and one of his employees have built a “vessel they hope will usher in a more environmentally friendly era of mortuary science that includes the natural organic reduction of human remains, also known as body composting.”

According to Viddal, who compared the process to backyard composting of food scraps and yard waste, “It’s a natural process where the body is returned to an elemental level over a short period of time. . .This is the same process but done with a human body inside of a vessel, and in our case, in a controlled environment.”

On Sept. 7, Colorado became the second state after Washington to allow human body composting. Oregon will allow the practice beginning next July. In Washington, the three businesses licensed to compost human remains have transformed at least 85 bodies since the law took effect in May 2020, and more than 900 people have signed up for the service as natural funerals become more popular.

Viddal, who co-owns The Natural Funeral in Lafayette, lobbied the Colorado legislature for the option and started building a prototype vessel in an industrial area soon after the bipartisan bill was signed into law. Based on a design being used in Washington, the insulated wooden box is about 7 feet long, 3 feet wide, and 3 feet deep, lined with waterproof roofing material and packed with wood chips and straw. Two large spool wheels on either end allow it to be rolled across the floor, providing the oxygenation, agitation, and absorption required for a body to compost.

Viddal calls the process an “exciting ecological option,” and in death, he also sees life. “Composting itself is a very living function and it’s performed by living organisms. … There are billions of microbial, living things in our digestive tracts and just contained in our body. And when our one life ceases, the life of those microbes does not cease,” he said.

After about three months, the vessel is opened and the “soil” is filtered for medical devices like prosthetics, pacemakers, and things of that nature. The remaining large bones are then pulverized and returned to the vessel for another three months of composting. Teeth are removed to prevent contamination from mercury in fillings. The vessel must reach 131 degrees Fahrenheit (55 Celsius) for 72 continuous hours to kill any bacteria and pathogens. The high temperature occurs naturally during the breakdown of the body in an enclosed box.

In six months, the body, wood chips, and straw will transform into enough soil to fill the bed of a pickup truck. Family members can keep the soil to spread in their yards, but Colorado law forbids selling it and using it commercially to grow food for human consumption and only allows licensed funeral homes and crematories to compost human bodies.

Would you consider body composting? Get more information here.

Call the Law Offices of Debra G. Simms at 386.256.4882 to learn more. We are currently offering free consultations via video conference to assist you with your needs.

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.

 

No one wants to think about dying and for some of us, death is a subject that we would rather not discuss. We believe that there is no hurry to consider the issue and that we have plenty of time left. However, this line of thinking about end-of-life matters can often result in delaying dong the mechanics of it until it is too late.

Your will is not merely a legal document. It is an expression of your wishes and it is also a way for us to continue providing for our loved ones even after we are gone. Even without a Will, there are default rules that will apply to distribute your estate. These rules are in most cases cast in stone and may not take into account the specific needs and circumstances of our chosen beneficiaries. Caring and loving our family should not stop with our death, we can easily create legal documents including a will that will ensure our wishes are carried out. A will is an easy way to look after our loved ones when we are gone.

The entire process can be overwhelming, it is important to have a board-certified estate planning attorney involved to ensure all aspects of the estate plan are followed.

Call the Law Offices of Debra G. Simms at 386.256.4882 to learn more. We are currently offering free consultations via video conference to assist you with your needs.

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 loss of a family member is an incredibly difficult time. In addition to coping with your grief and potentially planning a memorial service or funeral, there are usually many financial decisions that will need to be made.

How do you know what you’re supposed to do? It can be incredibly overwhelming. Here is a list of steps to help reduce stress during this time.

  • Contact your financial advisor so they can help you evaluate the financial aspects of the situation.
  • Also, contact the person’s estate attorney to see if they have an estate plan. This might include a will and revocable trust, for example. The attorney should be able to tell you if there is an:
    • Executor of the will and who it is
    • Trustee of any trusts that exist
    • A guardian for the care of a child and financial management while the child is a minor
  • Keep track of your phone calls and contacts (e.g., dates, times, status) in an online document or notebook. It will be helpful to find the individual’s passwords and have them in one place.
  • Locate a local notary, as they will be needed, the attorney’s office may have a notary available.
  • Obtain multiple copies of the certified death certificate. Some companies will not accept a photocopy. This is common with insurance policies and annuity contracts, and transfer of deeds for example.
  • Obtain a certificate of appointment to document the authority to act as personal representative, if required in your state. Keep in mind that language used to describe aspects of settling an estate can vary in each state.
  • Open an estate checking account, if necessary, to pay bills and receive accounts/assets associated with settling the estate. If you open a checking account for the estate, you’ll need to get an employer identification number through IRS Form SS-4, Application for Employer Identification Number.
  • Determine how the person’s assets/property will be maintained during the estate settlement process.
  • Contact the Social Security Administration. Inquire about survivors’ benefits. You might also be eligible for a one-time death payment.
  • Look into veterans’ benefits (if applicable) and possible assistance with burials costs for veterans and their spouses.
  • Contact financial organizations to find out how to update ownership and beneficiary designations on joint financial accounts (investment, bank, and credit accounts).
  • Contact financial organizations to determine how to close single-owner financial accounts and transfer assets.
  • Update names and beneficiaries on insurance policies, including life, health, and auto policies. Among the insurance providers, also confirm the coverage requirements to maintain the person’s assets (including the car).
  • Update the property title(s) for real estate. If property was owned in multiple states, review the probate process in each state. (For non-resident states, ancillary probate may be necessary.)
  • Contact a deceased spouse’s employer (if applicable) if there is a 401(k) account and a group insurance policy. It may also be necessary to contact former employers that may have provided a group life insurance policy. The person may also have retirement plans through former employers.
  • Contact all three major credit bureaus to minimize the risk of identity theft.
  • Locate the title and registration for any cars, so that you can update the vehicle title and registration; cancel the driver’s license.
  • Close email and social media accounts.
  • If the deceased is a spouse then the surviving spouse previously named their now-deceased spouse as their durable power of attorney or medical power of attorney, they will need to name a new person.

The entire process can be overwhelming, it is important to have a board-certified estate planning attorney involved to ensure all aspects of the estate plan are followed.

Call the Law Offices of Debra G. Simms at 386.256.4882 to learn more. We are currently offering free consultations via video conference to assist you with your needs.

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.

Key elements of an estate plan:

An experienced estate attorney can develop personalized strategies and documents that meet your needs. This could include a:

  • Will. A legal document that defines the distribution of your property and the care of any minor children.
  • Revocable trust. A legal entity created for ownership of your assets. You can change or end your revocable trust at any time.
  • Power of attorney. A legal document giving a person you choose the ability to make decisions for property, finances, and/or medical care when you are unable to do so.
  • Healthcare directive. Written documentation of your health care wishes for when you cannot communicate them yourself.
  • Beneficiary designations. A will does not supersede beneficiary designations in determining who receives your assets after you die. For that reason, all financial accounts (regardless of size) should have beneficiaries named — and updated over time, as needed.

HIPAA authorization. Allows health care providers to discuss your medical condition/health information with family members or others you choose.

Call the Law Offices of Debra G. Simms at 386.256.4882 to learn more. We are currently offering free consultations via video conference to assist you with your needs.

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.

How does a Family Limited Partnership work?

A Family Limited Partnership (FLP) is a legal entity that may hold property, including cash, real property, a business interest, or other assets. Like any limited partnership, there are general partners and limited partners. In an FLP, senior family members act as general partners and have a greater role in the management and control of partnership assets. As limited partners, younger family members have less authority over the partnership but retain a greater share of FLP property. The FLP, then, is a tool to pass wealth to younger generations while reducing the taxable estate and tax liability of the transferring generation. Family Limited Partnerships are frequently used to move wealth from one generation to another. Partners are either General Partners or Limited Partners. One or more General Partners are responsible for managing the FLP and its assets. Disadvantages include the massive amount of paperwork required. Consult a board-certified attorney to ensure your family limited partnership is set up correctly.

Call the Law Offices of Debra G. Simms at 386.256.4882 to learn more. We are currently offering free consultations via video conference to assist you with your needs.

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.

 

What constitutes a “gift” for the purpose of the estate and gift tax?

The IRS interprets a gift very broadly, so that a gift may include any transfer of property or assets, or the use of income-producing property, without expecting something of equivalent value in return. Even selling something to another may be considered a gift, when it is sold at less than full value. An interest-free or below-market loan may also create a gift for gift tax purposes.

Fortunately, taxpayers may make annual gifts to individuals without the gift incurring any gift tax liability, up to the annual gift tax exclusion amount. This amount can be doubled when the gift is split between spouses. Gifts made within the annual exclusion do not reduce the available lifetime credit under the estate and gift tax, and they can be made every year. Moreover, certain gifts, such as direct payments to qualified education institutions or health care providers, are not counted at all toward the gift tax, regardless of the amount. Preparing and filing a gift tax return will be required under certain circumstances.

Call the Law Offices of Debra G. Simms at 386.256.4882 to learn more. We are currently offering free consultations via video conference to assist you with your needs.

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.

If you or a family member is disabled it is advisable to put away some of their stimulus aid in special accounts in order to keep their funds safe.

These special accounts are called Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) accounts. These types of special savings accounts were introduced in 2016 as a vehicle for people with disabilities to achieve “greater financial security and more independence.”

By using ABLE accounts, those with disabilities “can save money in the tax-favored accounts without risking the loss of need-based government benefits, like health insurance or supplemental income.”

As of now, 43 states and Washington D.C.  including Florida, offer ABLE. Although these special accounts have been around for a few years, interest in the accounts has grown due to federal pandemic relief putting more cash in people’s hands. ABLE advocates are spreading the word about the importance of saving some or all of stimulus check funds in these special accounts.

The benefits of taking advantage of ABLE accounts by placing stimulus aid funds in them include:

  • People with disabilities often struggle financially and rely on federal aid, and cannot qualify for Medicaid or Supplemental Security Income if they have more than $2,000 in savings or other assets. These accounts help low-income disable people avoid this detriment.
  • Stimulus payments are not considered income, meaning you can spend the money how you please. However, if the money isn’t spent within 12 months, it will be counted against asset limits and could disqualify disabled people from benefits. If this money is deposited in an ABLE account, it will not be considered when counting toward the $2,000 cap.

Call the Law Offices of Debra G. Simms at 386.256.4882 to learn more. We are currently offering free consultations via video conference to assist you with your needs.

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.

Reposted From FEMA:

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought overwhelming grief to many families. At FEMA, our mission is to help people before, during, and after disasters. We are dedicated to helping ease some of the financial stress and burden caused by the virus.

Under the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2021 and the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, FEMA is providing financial assistance for COVID-19 related funeral expenses incurred after January 20, 2020.

How Can You Apply?

COVID-19 Funeral Assistance Line Number

Applications begin on April 12, 2021
844-684-6333 | TTY: 800-462-7585

Hours of Operation:
Monday – Friday
9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Eastern Time

Call this dedicated toll-free phone number to get a COVID-19 Funeral Assistance application completed with help from FEMA’s representatives. Multilingual services will be available.

Get answers to frequently asked questions about the application process on our Funeral Assistance FAQ page.

If you use a relay service, such as your videophone, Innocaption or CapTel, please provide your specific number assigned to that service. It is important that FEMA is able to contact you, and you should be aware phone calls from FEMA may come from an unidentified number.

Who is Eligible?


To be eligible for funeral assistance, you must meet these conditions:

  • The death must have occurred in the United States, including the U.S. territories, and the District of Columbia.
  • The death certificate must indicate the death was attributed to COVID-19.
  • The applicant must be a U.S. citizen, non-citizen national, or qualified alien who incurred funeral expenses after January 20, 2020.
  • There is no requirement for the deceased person to have been a U.S. citizen, non-citizen national, or qualified alien.

If you had COVID-19 funeral expenses, we encourage you to keep and gather documentation. Types of information should include:

  • An official death certificate that attributes the death directly or indirectly to COVID-19 and shows that the death occurred in the United States, including the U.S. territories, and the District of Columbia.
  • Funeral expenses documents (receipts, funeral home contract, etc.) that include the applicant’s name, the deceased person’s name, the amount of funeral expenses, and the dates the funeral expenses happened.
  • Proof of funds received from other sources specifically for use toward funeral costs. We are not able to duplicate benefits received from burial or funeral insurance, financial assistance received from voluntary agencies, government agencies, or other sources.

How Funds are Received


If you are eligible for funeral assistance you will receive a check by mail, or funds by direct deposit, depending on which option you choose when you apply for assistance.

Call the Law Offices of Debra G. Simms at 386.256.4882 to learn more. We are currently offering free consultations via video conference to assist you with your needs.

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.

What do you need to gather to prepare your estate plan?

Depending on your age and situation you will need different things.

If you are considering putting together an estate plan or updating an existing one, there are a few things you should prepare.

Below are items that you should consider in preparation for an estate planning consultations:

  1. Guardians and Conservators for Minor Children
  2. Trustees, Personal Representatives, and Agents Under Durable Power of Attorney
  3. Patient Advocate Designation and Living Will
  4. Personal Property
  5. All Other Property
  6. Charitable Bequests
  7. Distributions to Beneficiaries
    • When and How Should Beneficiaries Receive
    • Equalizing Portions
    • Other Considerations
  8. Pets
  9. Information to Gather
    • Information regarding your assets
    • Contact information for Beneficiaries and Fiduciaries
    • Estate Planning Documents previously prepared
    • Other Documentation pertinent to your estate

This list is for guidance in preparing. Please consult a board-certified estate planning attorney in your area to complete your estate plan.

Call the Law Offices of Debra G. Simms at 386.256.4882 to learn more. We are currently offering free consultations via video conference to assist you with your needs.

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:
646 N Dixie Fwy
New Smyrna Beach, FL 32168
Local: 386.256.4882
Toll Free: 877.447.4667