Do You Need a Revocable Trust?

Everyone should have a durable power of attorney that appoints someone to act for them should they become incapacitated, however, in some circumstances it is not enough. In these cases, a revocable trust can help.

A durable power of attorney allows you to appoint someone you trust to step in for you to handle financial and legal matters if you become incapacitated. Everyone is at risk of incapacity from illness or injury, whether temporary or permanent. The current state of the world, global pandemic raises this risk and of course, this risk rises as we get older. Without someone in place to handle legal and financial matters, bills can go unpaid, contracts can’t be signed, homes can’t be refinanced, leases can’t be terminated, investments go unmonitored and unadjusted, and families often fight over who is in charge.

 

The alternative is your family or loved ones seeking court-appointed conservatorship. This is expensive and time-consuming. It is in everyone’s best interest that you pick your own person for this role.

While this is important, it’s not always enough. Financial institutions often don’t honor older powers of attorney and agents sometimes don’t step in until it’s too late. These problems can be remedied through the use of a revocable trust.

Powers of Attorney Can Be Rejected
Financial institutions often reject older powers of attorney; they have no way to know whether the document has been revoked since its original signature. Sometimes the institution will require the drafting attorney to attest to the fact that the document hasn’t been revoked. The attorney may not have met with the client for many years and has no way of knowing everything the client has done during that time.

Financial institutions are uncomfortable honoring powers of attorney because they do not want to be held liable for any malfeasance by the agent appointed under the document. Most estate planning attorneys agree that this institutional rejection is contrary to the law. There is no good remedy for this situation when it occurs, filing a lawsuit against a large bank is expensive and would be time-consuming.

Refresh your documents periodically. Financial institutions are more likely to accept newer documents than older ones. It’s a good idea to execute new durable powers of attorney every five years.

Use the financial institution’s forms. Many banks and investment companies have developed their own durable power of attorney forms. They are more comfortable accepting their own forms than general ones you may have found online or the one your attorney prepared. Contact each financial institution where you have an account and ask whether it has a durable power of attorney form. You will still need a general durable power of attorney since the financial institution’s form only governs accounts held at that institution.

Create a revocable trust. Financial institutions accept revocable trusts more easily than a durable power of attorney.  Revocable trusts have the added advantage that you can appoint a co-trustee to serve with you so that if you become incapacitated, the co-trustee can step in and act.

As we age, we all become increasingly susceptible to making financial mistakes and falling victim to scammers. Having a financial advocate in place can help you avoid both. An important step is to name an agent under a durable power of attorney. However, such agents often don’t step in until it’s too late and you or a loved one may have already lost a significant amount of money.

A co-trustee on a revocable trust is already named on the accounts in trust. Even if the co-trustee doesn’t take an active role, he or she can monitor the accounts to make sure nothing strange is occurring. When and if it’s necessary to step in, the co-trustee can do so immediately and seamlessly. In contrast, an agent under a durable power of attorney must present credentials to the financial institutions and go through the institution’s vetting procedure, this delays access to the accounts.

For these reasons, revocable trusts often work better than durable powers of attorney. However, be aware trusts only control the accounts actually held by them. So, for the trust to work, you must retitle your accounts into your trust.

Even if you have a revocable trust, you still need a durable power of attorney.  This will cover any accounts that were not transferred into the trust. Also, the trust only governs financial matters. Your agent under your durable power of attorney can also handle legal ones on your behalf, including signing your income tax returns.

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.

 

 

 

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.

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.

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.

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
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