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.

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.

 

Do you have more than one child or grandchild that you need to consider in your estate planning? In order to avoid conflict, many parents and/or grandparents decide to leave their children the same inheritance. While this makes it easy it may not be equitable.

The pandemic has increased the number of wills being drafted and executed, this issue is coming up more frequently.

There are many examples of this situation we can refer to, in particular one in which a family with multiple children felt that their primary caregiver should inherit more than the children who did not live near them and did not participate in their care.

This often causes disagreement and contention between family members, while it is a difficult conversation to have it is one that should take place to avoid costly drama after the fact.

According to a survey by Merrill Lynch Wealth Management and the consultant Age Wave, “two-thirds of Americans 55 and older said a child who provided them care should get a bigger inheritance than children who did not.”

Different families approach these situations based on what their personal definition is of fair. Some families decide to divide things equally between their family members to avoid conflict, others based on “merit” or who they feel earned more in the long run.

Equal is not always fair and fair is not always equitable.

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.

 

When creating an estate plan, dividing your assets can be very difficult. You are more than likely trying to figure out how to allocate your possessions in a way that will not create tension between your family members after you are gone.

Although cash is usually easy to divide, tangible things like jewelry and heirlooms will not be as easy to divvy up. You may also have items that hold sentimental value that multiple family members are hoping to have. Many a family fight has been centered around these types of objects. 

You should make it very clear who you choose and why you have chosen them. 

Below are a few steps to help you along the way:

  • List the most important or valuable items in your will
  • Direct that certain items be sold
  • Give some items away now
  • Get an appraisal
  • Use a letter 

If you make these decisions instead of leaving them in the hands of your family, the process will be much smoother.

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.

  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 ensure 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.

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.

UPDATING YOUR WILL AS LIFE CHANGES

If COVID has taught us anything, it is that life is unpredictable and things are constantly changing. Due to the ever-changing aspects of life, you should update your estate plan as your life situation changes. 

Below are a few life events that may spur a change or at least a review of your estate plan:

  • Children, grandchildren, & dependents
    • Have you had children or have your children had children?
    • You may need to add or remove beneficiaries based on the children being born or even dying. 
    • You must also consider college funds and other accounts similar in nature. 
  • Changes in assets and ownership 
    • Have you acquired new properties?
    • New or old businesses? 
  • Gifts and Donations
  • Home and Health 
  • Changes in-laws 
    • have changes already occurred
    • are they expected to change?
  • Marital status

This is not an all-inclusive list but it will get you started on thinking about those life changes that you need to think about and redo 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