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 Blog topics may or may not be updated and entries may be out-of-date at the time you view them.

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.

Some lucky retirees split their time between two different states. You do not need separate estate planning documents for each state, but it may make sense to do so. 

While your Will should be from the state that is your primary residence, your Durable Power of Attorney and Advance Medical Directive from another state might present challenges.

Financial and health care institutions are used to the documents used in their states and may refuse to honor out-of-state documents. In the case of health care documents, other states may use different terms for the document, such as “durable power of attorney for health care” or “advance directive.” Durable Power of Attorney requirements vary significantly from state to state.  (And the people reviewing your documents may not be willing to accept the other state’s language).

In the absence of a durable power of attorney and advance medical directive, family members often must resort to going to court for a guardianship.  This causes delay and and unnecessary legal fees.

So, if you spend a part of the year in another state, executing a local durable power of attorney and a medical directive is a good idea.

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.

We all know that you can find “Do It Yourself” Wills online. We all know that it costs less money to do your own estate plan than to hire an attorney.

But… what if you press the wrong key when answering the prompts?  What if you don’t know how to even answer the question in the prompt?

A few years ago,  new clients asked me to review their DYI estate plan.  On the bottom of each page in very small print were the words “Nebraska Law applies”.  I asked my clients if they lived in Nebraska when they did their Wills.  They NEVER lived in Nebraska! 

Another client called to say her Durable Power of Attorney was refused by an insurance company.  The Do It Yourself document did not include the language required to deal with insurance companies. 

And, even more disastrous, was the client whose Will’s beneficiaries included a physically disabled adult child who was receiving federal benefits.  These benefits would be lost as soon as the child inherited his rather modest bequest.  Did these parents ever hear of a Special Needs Trust?  No, the forms they used didn’t have such a provision.

So… remember the old line, penny wise, pound foolish?  Do It Yourself documents are plain dangerous.  The cost of using a good estate planning attorney could save you or your heirs much more.

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.

Few decisions are more difficult than the one to place a spouse or parent in a nursing home.  Most families try to care for a loved one at home for as long as possible, only accepting the inevitable when no other alternative is available.

The placement decision can be less difficult if, to the extent possible, all family members are included in the process, including the senior, if he or she is able to participate.

I recommend the following steps as you begin this process.

  • Try to have a family meeting, either with the family alone or with medical and social work staff.  If you cannot meet in person, use the telephone or e-mail.
  • Research all options.  Look at-home care, daycare, respite care, assisted living and skilled nursing.
  • Consider using an Elder Law attorney and a geriatric care manager to help with placement and cost decisions.  Try using a senior placement service such as Assisted Living Made Simple in Florida– they know how to “match” the senior with the care facility.

These steps won’t make the decision easy, but they can help make it less difficult.

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.

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.

Annual Reminders

The end of the year is a great time to review various aspects of your estate and financial plan. 

  • Request a free credit report through annualcreditreport.com
  • Consider placing a fraud alert on your credit cards.
  • Create or update a list of all your electronic user names and passwords.  Properly safeguard this information.
  • Review your Will and/or Revocable Trust to ensure that you are comfortable with your bequests, Personal Representatives and Trustees.
  • Review agents named under financial and medical powers of attorney to ensure they are still appropriate.  Review your Living Wills to make sure you are comfortable with your end of life instructions.
  • Review your beneficiary designations for your insurance policies and retirement plans.

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.

Did You Include Your Pet in Your Estate Plan?

People consider their spouses and children when creating their estate plan.  But, pets are family, too.  An estate plan should consider every aspect of life – if you have a pet, having someone ready and willing to look after them is crucial.

Your Will and Power of Attorney should name at least two people who can take of your pet.  Depending on timing, the first person named may not be able to take care of the pet. And if you don’t have a family member or friend, then there are charities such as no-kill shelters that can provide this care.

Even the nicest friend or a charity may not be willing to take care of your pet for free, so it is important to leave money to provide for the animal’s needs during their lifetime. You can easily do this with a Pet Trust.

Having some money placed in a Pet Trust can give you control and peace of mind that your pet will be well cared for.  The amount of money you leave will depend on the type of animal, and its age, type of food, and medical costs.

Give yourself peace of mind.  Don’t leave your beloved pet’s welfare up to chance.

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.

Risks abound for Do It Yourself estate planners

Yes, you can do your estate planning without professional help.

However, just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.  The risk of making a mistake is greater without help.

The problem with the forms found on websites is that Florida has strict rules on how those documents need to be executed in order to be valid.  You can download those forms, but you have no way of knowing if you did it properly or if it was appropriate for you.

Your estate plan is your last testament to living family.  Not understanding how property passes after death is a heavy consequence.  Mistakes can leave loved ones disappointed and frustrated.  And mistakes have financial consequences.

And remember, your estate plan cannot be fixed if you are not of sound mind and certainly not after death.  You and your heirs could be stuck with an estate plan that has terrible consequences.

Saving legal fees is usually the motivation for DIY documents.  But, is it worth the risk?  If you make a mistake, the legal fees will be much greater later when mistakes have to be fixed.  And attorneys can save you money in the long run.  A lawyer can offer guidance and provide options for you that you might not even think about when you go online.

You wouldn’t do surgery on yourself, would you?  Why do your own estate plan?

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