The Role of an Estate Planning Attorney

Planning for end of life is a difficult but necessary process.  Part of this planning is the creation of a legally binding estate plan that dictates your wishes and appoints certain people with the responsibility of carrying out those wishes.

Using an experienced estate planning attorney is advised. The attorney can walk you through the process from start to finish, prepare the documents, and make sure that the documents are properly executed.

Another advantage of using a professional estate planning attorney is to ensure that your real estate and other assets are properly titled to be certain that legal title is clear and assets can be transferred to your selected beneficiaries. This process can include advising on deeds, pre- and post-nuptial agreements, and marital settlement agreements after divorce.

An experienced estate planning attorney can also advise you on other end-of-life choices, such as financial and medical directives, organ donation, disposition of remains, and similarly important decisions. Without an estate planning attorney’s assistance, you may find yourself setting your family up for more hardship as the result of poor planning.

An attorney can also advise clients about how to best provide for beneficiaries with special needs, educational requirements, or other considerations. The attorney can also create a plan for meeting philanthropic goals and include charities or other organizations in your estate plan.

Planning ahead is important for everyone, no matter how large or small the estate. Using an experienced estate planning attorney will ensure that your plans can be carried out.

Call the Law Offices of Debra G. Simms at 386.256.4882 to learn more.

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 Blog topics may or may not be updated and entries may be out-of-date at the time you view them.


Many of us tend to procrastinate about making hard decisions.  Unfortunately, with estate planning and elder care, this can have dire consequences.

Recently, an 80 year old lady came to see me about doing her Will.  She was clear in her mind about who she wanted to leave her money to when she died and who should take care of her finances if she became too ill.  And, she knew what kind of care she wanted if she could no longer live alone.

I was hired to do a basic Estate Plan for her – Will, Durable Power of Attorney, Health Care Directive, and Living Will.  I prepared the documents and called her to come in to sign.  No Answer.  Next day, No Answer.

It turns out my client had a stroke and was unlikely to recover.  She had no legal documents in place to authorize any of her children to handle her finances or make decisions regarding health care.  The children could not agree, and a guardianship case was opened in court while my client remained in the hospital unable to communicate.

This is an all too familiar story in my Elder Law practice.

Why do people procrastinate about these important planning tools?  It’s simple:

  • No one wants to think about mental incapacity or death.
  • No one likes to pay attorney fees.
  • No one likes to expose their personal life to another person, even an attorney.
  • No one wants to give a child the authority to “put them in a home”.
  • Sometimes it’s not easy to decide how to divide your estate.

It’s wise to start your estate planning early.  Here are some top reasons:

  • The top reason, of course, is my 80 year old client.  You might lose your ability to sign documents.
  • Like my client, you might lose your ability to communicate your wishes to your family or doctors.
  • Keep harmony among family members – my client’s children could not agree what to do – they went to court!
  • You might need someone to handle your finances if you cannot.

After watching my client and many others like her, I know how important it is to plan ahead.

Call the Law Offices of Debra G. Simms at 386.256.4882 to learn more.

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 content of your will and other estate planning documents is very important. If you choose to write your will yourself, your family could face a number of obstacles after you are gone. As your will passes through probate court, its content could be challenged by anyone who feels they were wronged. An estate planning attorney can help you avoid such dilemmas by ensuring that all wording is clear and that your intentions are understood.

Your will can also be challenged if it was not signed according the requirements of your state’s statutes.  Having a wrongly signed will is the same having no will at all.

An experienced attorney can also help avoid having to probate your will, resulting in cost and time savings for your family.

An estate planning attorney also has knowledge of financial issues that may affect your estate. Drafting a will is not just about who will end up with your money and your house. An attorney will look at all aspects of your finances, such as any retirement accounts you may have and will also consider your debts. There might be other details to consider such as who will care for your pet when you pass.

A properly drafted estate plan can give you peace of mind. It is important to remember that having a will is important no matter the size of your estate. Each estate is different, and an attorney can help you find an estate plan that best meets your needs. 

Call the Law Offices of Debra G. Simms at 386.256.4882 to learn more.

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.

 Here at the Law Offices of Debra G. Simms, we provide complete Estate Planning services.  Our revocable trust is not the “one size fits all” document that comes in an expensive leather binder.  We consult with you, assess your situation and prepare your trust to meet your needs and goals.

We will also make sure that your trust is properly funded.  It is not enough to have a piece of paper titled “Trust”;   you must properly title your assets in order to avoid probate.    We will prepare deeds and work with your financial advisors and banks to make sure all assets are titled in the trust.

The initial consultation for Estate Planning services is free.  There is no pressure, no selling and no obligation.  Just education.  Call the Law Offices of Debra G. Simms at 386.256.4882 to learn more.

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.

 

 

 

Do You Know When it is Time to See A Lawyer? 

Often we turn to lawyers as a last resort after the contract has been signed, the spouse has walked out, or the parent has died.

The adage, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” is as true with legal matters as it is with regular medical checkups.

Getting good legal advice is one of the greatest preventative measures you can take BEFORE you become ill or incapacitated.  Not only can you save money in the long run, but preventative legal advice can save you and your family from difficulties later on.

Make a Will and plan your estate before you become too ill to do so.

And if there are changes in your family status – marriage, divorce, the birth of children, now is the time to seek legal advice to update your existing plans.

Make a careful search for your lawyer and focus on who may be the best qualified to handle the issues in your case.  Board certification is one way to decide if a lawyer is right for you.  A Florida Bar Board Certified lawyer must have extensive experience, must pass a written examination in the specialty area, and be favorably evaluated as to ability and experience in that specialty by other lawyers.  And the certification must be renewed every 5 years to show that the attorney can meet the same requirements as for the initial certification.

Debra G. Simms has been practicing law since 1988 and is a Florida Bar Board Certified Attorney.

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.

 

 

As an Elder Law Attorney, families often come to see me when a loved one is sick and time is limited.  Handling a death in the family is always difficult, but handling the legal details is the last thing you will want to do in a time of mourning.  The death of a loved one is not only terribly painful, but the aftermath can be complicated, expensive, and a lot of work.

Here are some tips to help you minimize the stress:

Discuss and arrange funeral arrangements ahead of time.  Discuss burial and cremation.  Cemetery plots are sometimes already purchased, especially when the other spouse has died; if not, try to discuss your loved ones’ preferences and do as much as possible in advance.

Funerals are expensive.  Hopefully, your loved one has made pre-paid funeral arrangements, but if not, discuss the details.  Since life insurance proceeds and inheritances may take a while to receive, discuss how the funeral will be paid.  Did your loved one put some money aside that is easily accessible?  Remember, you won’t be able to use their credit card after they are gone.

The sooner you discuss the details, the better.  Talking about death is easier when it feels farther away.

Legal documents should be located.  If anything is needed to pass on property and assets after death, do it now.  As long as your loved one has mental capacity, Wills, Trusts, and Medical Directives can be prepared or updated.  Try to take steps to avoid probate.  Probate is the last thing you want to deal with after your loved one dies.  Probate is not only stressful but time-consuming and expensive.  Seek out legal counsel before it’s too late.

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

Charitable Remainder Trust Law

understanding-charitable-remainder-trustA charitable remainder trust has all the characteristics of any normal trust fund or deed. A trust is an agreement or contract wherein one party or a number of parties called the trustees agrees to take care of or protect a certain property or sum of money known as trust fund or property for the benefit and on behalf of a certain person or group of people called the beneficiaries. A trust deed is a written contract or agreement entered into by and between the trustees and the beneficiaries that outline all the rights, duties and obligations of the trust.

What is a charitable remainder trust?

A charitable remainder trust is similar to a trust for charitable purposes however it is an irrevocable trust that is exempt from tax. The money from the trust is first used to pay off any beneficiaries and the remaining money or ‘remainder’ is donated to a charitable organization. This trust has been designed to reduce the taxable income of an individual while filing his tax return and reduce his tax liability that he will be required to pay to the government every year. The individual’s income is first reduced by distributing the money from the trust to the beneficiaries of the trust over a particular period of time which is exempt from income tax and the remaining money is donated to a charity which is also automatically exempt from income tax liability.

How does a charitable remainder trust work?

The whole idea behind the concept of charitable remainder trust is to reduce the tax liability of the individual and prevent him from paying high taxes on his income. In most countries, a whopping 30-40% of a person’s earnings goes towards income tax payment to the government and the individual is not able to reap the benefits of his own earnings. Hence the charitable remainder trust helps to lower the taxable income of the individual. Once the assets are donated to a trust the primary beneficiaries are paid for a certain period of time and on the expiry of this time frame, the remainder of the trust money or property is donated to a charity who become the secondary beneficiaries. This is also a great way to save up your money for retirement.

Benefits of a charitable remainder trust

Once you transfer an asset into this irrevocable trust it is automatically reduced from the asset side of your balance sheet or is reduced from your total estate value. No estate taxes will have to be paid and deductions from income tax can be availed for the charities made.

A charitable remainder trust helps reduce your income tax liability and estate taxes too. It helps you convert high-value assets like real estate or stocks into a lifelong income that is tax-free. When the asset is sold you do not have to pay any capital gains tax on the sale of the property or asset.

Not only does a charitable remainder trust help you reduce your income tax liability and taxable income but also allows you to give back something to the less fortunate and help the poor. Doing charity invokes a positive feeling and gives someone else a chance at a better life.

Approach lawyer Debra G. Simms, a board certified law attorney who runs her practice at Simms Law Firm located at Prestige Executive Center, 823 Dunlawton Ave. Unit C, Port Orange, FL 32129 for all your law related queries.

To contact Florida attorney Debra G. Simms, P.A. in Port Orange or New Smyrna Beach, FL please call 877.447.4667. Serving areas in and around Volusia County, Daytona, Port Orange, New Smyrna Beach and more.

Probate & Trusts, Estate Planning, Wills, Trust, Power of Attorney

probate-trusts-estate-planning-wills-trust-power-of-attorneyIf we spare even a fraction of the time we spent on earning all that money and building those assets, we would be able to ensure that it stays in the right hands even when we are not around to look after them. The federal law provides multiple legal options for you to choose form in order to facilitate a judicious planning of your property and assets. We are here to help you understand the various legal rights of a valid US citizen in managing his property and estate while he/she is alive and also post his/her demise.

Will

A will is one the most commonly referenced legal document which allows an individual to manage the division and consecutive distribution of his or her property and estate post death. Creating a final testament or a will gives you the discretion of deciding as to how your hard-earned money and assets should be distributed among those chosen solely by you.

Probate

A probate is a legal proceeding that involves proving the validity of the will of a deceased, and then carrying out the process of appraisal and distribution of his assets as per the instructions stipulated within the will. A probate is of great significance in property distribution cases wherein the deceased failed to plan out a valid will while he/she was alive.

Trust

A trust can be cited as a written agreement between two or more parties wherein a trustee is attributed with a legal title to a property or an asset on the behalf of a trust beneficiary. The creator of the trust, called the settler provides the instruction for distribution of his assets among the beneficiaries to be carried out by the trustees. A trust can be especially useful in situations where a settler does not wish to provide outright control over his assets to the beneficiary, as the latter may not be mature enough or legally able to deal with them.

Power of attorney

A POA is a legal document which allows you to authorize an individual of significant trust to take control over your financial or healthcare responsibilities in your absence or inability to administer your property and assets.

Why should I hire an attorney?

Before coming to a final conclusion as to whether you should hire an attorney for your property distribution planning or not, you must understand the significance of the proper composition of a legal document. One single missing signature or a misplaced word might entirely alter the actual intent of your trust, will or POA. An attorney can help you in designing a legally correct document which reflects your intent in its entirety. In addition to this, the state laws for all estate planning related instruments vary from state to state. It is utmost essential to consult a professional attorney before creating a will or executing a trust, in order to stick to the laws of your specific state. Furthermore, hiring a lawyer also helps deal with any complex financial or family situations such as a second marriage, minor children, physically disabled family member or a recent divorce.

If you are looking for professional legal advice for creation of a will, trust, POA or estate planning and more in the Volusia County region, just visit https://www.simmslawfirm.com for assistance form some of the best legal minds in the country.

To contact Florida attorney Debra G. Simms, P.A. in Port Orange or New Smyrna Beach, FL please call 877.447.4667

Trust law

trust-lawyerIf you are residing in Volusia County or New Smyrna Beach or Port Orange or Daytona area or anywhere in the surrounding areas, chances are you are in need of a trust lawyer. There are a number of registered law firms in these areas. You will come across a law firm or an attorney who will be of help to you. Many people require trust lawyers while making an estate plan.

Trusts are actually tools required for estate planning that can act as a substitute for your will after your death. It also has the capacity to help manage your property while you are living. The trust will manage the distribution of your property. It will also ensure that all benefits are transferred and the various obligations are fulfilled. A trust is very popular in property distributions.

Creating a trust

The first step of creating a trust involves the property owner or ‘grantor’ or ‘trustor’ transferring the legal ownership of the property to the ‘trustee’ (an individual or an institution). The trustee will be given the responsibility of managing the property on behalf of the ‘beneficiary’. The trustee will be compensated for his or her or its managerial role. A fiduciary relationship is created between the trustee and the beneficiary.

Kinds of trusts

Generally speaking, there are two major kinds of trusts – testamentary and living.

Testamentary trust – In this kind of a trust the property is transferred to the trust only after the death of the owner or grantor. A testamentary trust is part of a will. It is not created after the death of the owner. So the trust property has to go through a probate process. Through this trust, the owner has the power to enforce certain conditions and can control the payment and receipt of benefits even after their death.

Living trustAs the name suggests, this trust comes into effect while the grantor or owner is still living. It is also known as ‘inter vivos’ trust. A probate process may not be required for the living trust if the assets that would have been otherwise put through probate are transferred to the trust before the death of the owner. A living trust may be revocable or irrevocable in nature, i.e. the owner may or may not make changes to the trust after its commencement.

There are a number of different types of trusts under these two broad categories of trusts. Asset Protection Trust, Charitable Trust, and Special Needs Trust are some such trusts. There are also some trusts called the Spendthrift Trust, Totten Trust and Tax By-Pass Trust.

Understanding the different kinds of trusts and their functions can become a bit complex. You will need the help of an experienced and thoroughly qualified attorney. If you are a resident of Volusia County and require help with the setting up of trusts or want to understand the laws related to it, get in touch with Debra G. Simms’ law firm. Take a look at the website https://www.simmslawfirm.com/.

To contact Florida attorney Debra G. Simms, P.A. in Port Orange or New Smyrna Beach, FL please call 877.447.4667.

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