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.

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.

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.

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.

No Intubation’: Seniors Fearful Of COVID Are Changing Their Living Wills

For older adults contemplating what might happen to them during this pandemic, ventilators can be terrifying.

These machines pump oxygen into a patient’s body while he or she lies in bed, typically sedated, with a breathing tube snaked down the windpipe.

Older COVID patients often spend long periods of time on ventilators.  If they survive, they’re likely to be extremely weak, suffering from delirium and in need of months of ongoing care and physical rehabilitation.

For some seniors, this is their greatest fear: being hooked to a machine, helpless, with the end of life looming. For others, there is hope that the machine might pull them back from the brink.

Advance directives and living wills can address these concerns.  Such documents can state if you want to be placed on a ventilator, and if so, for how long.  Language such as: “give a ventilator a try, but discontinue it if improvement isn’t occurring” or: “give me high-flow oxygen and anti-biotics, but not a ventilator” is perfectly legal.

But, remember, you need to do this in writing and the document needs to be witnessed.   And, you need to do this before you become ill – you won’t be able to communicate your concerns or execute documents once you become seriously ill.

The Law Office of Debra G. Simms has created a Living Will for COVID.  But, don’t wait until it’s too late.

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.

Common Mistakes in Estate Planning

Do you think that you do not need an estate plan because all your bank accounts are POD (Payable on Death) and your IRA has a beneficiary?  You could be very mistaken.

What about your house?  Your cars?  What if one of your designated beneficiaries dies or is incapacitated? 

And what about the cost of Probate?  Without an estate plan, your assets can be depleted by the expenses of the Probate Court.

But, even if you already do have an estate plan, mistakes can be made if:

  • You do not update your beneficiaries and legal representatives after marriage, divorce, the birth of a grandchild, or other big life events.
  • You do not keep documents organized and able to be easily located.
  • You change your mind about your estate plan, but do not revise your estate planning documents.

An estate plan requires thought and action – now is the time to seek the services of Estate Planning Lawyer.

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