Some Common Misconceptions About Estate Planning

  1. I am not rich so I don’t need an estate plan
  2. Everybody knows what I want, so why do I need a will?
  3. Minimizing taxes is one of the most important goals in developing an estate plan. 
  4. My spouse and I have been separated for many years, but haven’t bothered to get a divorce. I am not going to leave him/her anything. 
  5. My significant other and I have been living together for many years and I want him/her to inherit everything I have. 
  6. I have a simple will that takes care of all my concerns and that is all I need. 
  7. I have got a trust and that takes care of everything. 

Here’s a checklist to help you deal with these concerns:

  1. Review your will or trust to make sure it remains consistent with your wishes.
  2. Check your medical directive and financial powers of attorney to insure that they remain consistent with your wishes.
  3. Review your beneficiary designations.
  4. What about your pets?
  5. Do you have specific wishes for a funeral and burial?

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 Blog topics may or may not be updated and entries may be out-of-date at the time you view them.

Of the over 200,000 Americans who have died unexpectedly from COVID-19 in the past 7 months, most of them were likely not planning for a sudden death. According to caring.com, “fewer than half of those 55 and older had completed estate-planning documents. The number one reason being they “haven’t gotten around to it.” 

However, the concerns surrounding COVID-19 has led to a “boom” in estate planning. Estate planning checklists have begun to appear online to provide guidance on planning for life before and after death.

If there is one thing to take away from the risks of the Coronavirus, it is the importance of estate planning. Procrastination poses a risk that will go unnoticed for years if not checked. Keeping your will and living will updated is necessary in order to be prepared to die. 

Being prepared to die and being ready to go are not the same thing, of course. However, you can never be ready to go if you are not prepared to die; through end-of-life planning, you can get there. 

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 had “The Talk” with your loved ones?

Many of my clients are concerned that their elderly parents do not have an adequate estate plan.  They tell me that their folks are private or just don’t want to talk about death.

Here are some tips to help you talk to your elderly parents:

  1. Don’t ask them if they have a Will – ask them if they have made a “plan”.  This sidesteps the emotional and uncomfortable topic of “who gets what when they die”.
  2. Ask them to identify the people they deal with: attorney, financial planner, accountant, insurance brokers.
  3. Who do they want to be appointed to take care of their affairs if they get sick or pass away?  This will lead to talks about the Will, Power of Attorney, etc.
  4. Ask about insurance policies.  Do they have life insurance?  Long-term care insurance?  Many an adult child has paid for long term nursing care not knowing there was adequate insurance in place!
  5. Discuss end-of-life wishes. This topic is always emotional but will lead to a discussion of a Living Will – the document that will ensure that your parents are not kept alive artificially even though there is no hope of recovery.  Do they want to be cremated?  Donate organs?  What kind of memorial service do they want?

These conversations will likely be tough and emotional no matter what strategy you use, but “The Talk” is key to ensure an effective 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.

The global pandemic of COVID-19 has all of us facing our own mortality.  Some of us are realizing that we do not have the basic estate planning documents.

To protect yourself and your loved ones now’s a good time to make sure that you have the following four documents prepared and updated.

  • A will or revocable trust.
    • We need to leave instructions as to who will inherit our assets and who will be in control of our estates. Revocable Trusts are a good tool to avoid probate.
  • Beneficiary designations on financial accounts.
    • Many assets do not pass through a will or trust, such as an IRA, 401(k) account, or life insurance policy, and instead the proceeds go to the person you name as the beneficiary of that account.
  • Advance Directive for Health Care.
    • This document will give the person you designate as your agent the ability to make the medical decisions you specify on your behalf.
  • Financial durable power of attorney.
    •  In the chance that you become incompetent, financial responsibilities continue. You can designate a trusted person to handle your financial and legal affairs if you cannot.

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.

Facing the Realities of Aging

Getting older is definitely not a cakewalk.  If there is one thing that is true for every living person on this planet it is that we all get older and eventually die.  No one yet has ever figured out a way around this fact of life! 

It is also a given that as our bodies age every one of us will be more susceptible to developing a disability or dementia. 

But many seniors fail to plan for this.  It’s certainly easy to put off making decisions about who will take care of our finances and make medical decisions if we need help.  And what about end of life care?  Who wants to think about that?

But failing to make a plan is planning to fail.  Now is the time to see an elder law attorney.  Don’t wait until it’s too late. 

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.

 5 Tips for Securing Your Assets, Healthcare and Legacy

It’s your life and your legacy:  Make sure you have an updated estate plan.  And don’t wait until it’s too late!

Create or Update Your Estate Plan: avoid unnecessary taxes, family arguments, and creditors

  • Wills allow you to transfer property to your selected beneficiaries, permits a parent to name a guardian, can help protect beneficiaries against creditors, and reduces the burden on family
  • Revocable Trusts allow you to distribute your assets at death and can allow you to avoid probate. 
  • Irrevocable Trusts can help you qualify for financial assistance if you need long-term care and can provide for strong creditor protection for you and your beneficiaries.
  • Special Needs Trusts allows you to leave assets to a disabled heir without risking the loss of Social Security, Medicaid benefits, or food assistance.

Create Your Durable Power of Attorney and Medical Directives.

  • A Durable Power of Attorney authorizes your named agent to act in your place for financial and legal decisions if you are incapacitated.
  • An Advance Medical Directive allows you to name someone to make health care decisions for you if you are incapacitated.
  • A Living Will allows you to express your desires about life-prolonging procedures if you are at the end of life with no hope of recovery.

Review and Update your Beneficiary Designations on your Life Insurance and Retirement Plans.

Consider New Laws.  Do the new tax laws affect your estate?

Review Social Security and Retirement Benefits.  What is your full retirement age?  Should you delay your benefits to increase your monthly benefits?

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.

As our lives go digital, so will, inevitably, our death. Emails we send, photographs we post, and thoughts we share are all stored digitally. These are users’ digital remains that reflect their digital personalities and at the same time, make up the memories for friends and family.

Florida has now enacted laws regarding access to digital remains after death.   These laws are important because a conflict might arise between the privacy expectations of the user, and his or her family and friends’ wish to use the digital remains for mourning and commemoration.

It is important to make sure that your estate planning documents incorporate the language of the new laws and that your desires are clearly spelled out.  If your Will or Power of Attorney was created prior to 2014, it should be updated to address this concern.

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.

Can’t make the funeral on time?  LIVESTREAM!

When a person’s death happens suddenly, family and friends from different places cannot manage to be at their loved one’s funeral. And some religious practices dictate that a funeral be held within 24 hours.

Some funeral chapels now feature a new amenity: live-streaming the service so others can watch, and even uploading a recording of the funeral onto the online obituary.

Bryant Hightower, the president-elect of the National Funeral Directors Association, says that live streaming funeral services has been around for more than a decade but has just now become more mainstream. The funeral industry is often hesitant to any change, but Hightower says that now approximately 20% of funeral homes now offer the service, much to the delight of clients.

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.

Good News!  It’s cheap to die in Florida!

A recent Fox News report quoted a list of the 10 most expensive states to die in after figuring the median out-of-pocket funeral costs and median end-of-life medical care in each of them.  It is not surprising that the two of the most expensive states to live in – California and New York – are also in this list.

The top 10 states that will cost more to die in are, from least to most:

  • Rhode Island
    • Average funeral expenses: $9,269
    • Average end-of-life medical costs: $16,398
  • New Jersey
    • Average funeral expenses: $9,712
    • Average end-of-life medical costs: $17,181
  • Connecticut
    • Average funeral expenses: $9,914
    • Average end-of-life medical costs: $17,538
  • Maryland
    • Average funeral expenses: $10,069
    • Average end-of-life medical costs: $17,812
  • Alaska
    • Average funeral expenses: $10,084
    • Average end-of-life medical costs: $17,840
  • Massachusetts
    • Average funeral expenses: $10,216
    • Average end-of-life medical costs: $18,073
  • Oregon
    • Average funeral expenses: $10,418
    • Average end-of-life medical costs: $18,430
  • New York
    • Average funeral expenses: $10,799
    • Average end-of-life medical costs: $19,103
  • California
    • Average funeral expenses: $11,777
    • Average end-of-life medical costs: $20,834
  • Hawaii
    • Average funeral expenses: $14,975
    • Average end-of-life medical costs: $26,492

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 Have a Living Will?

Clients come to my office to talk with me about planning for incapacity and death.  These are hard conversations to have, even in an elder law attorney’s office.

Of all the documents that I prepare, the Living Will, gives my clients the most trouble.

This document, a dying declaration, states what kind of end-of-life care you want when there is no medical probability of recovery.  Most people do not want to be kept alive artificially.

But what does that mean?  Do you want a feeding tube?  Hydration?  Blood transfusion?  How far are you willing to go?  And what about dementia?  Do you want to be force fed when you no longer have hunger or the ability to feed yourself?

And who should be your advocates or decisions makers?  A family member (who might not be willing to let you go) or a medical person that you trust?

Knowing your legal rights and putting them in writing will help ensure that your wishes are met.

An elder law attorney can help guide you through this difficult conversation.

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.

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