Tag Archives: Estate Planning


What will happen if your pet outlives you?

Many pet owners, like me, consider our pets as part of our family.  But, far too many of us neglect to make long-term plans for our pets.  Each year thousands of animals end up in shelters.  According to a recent Humane Society Report, the majority of dogs and cats that enter shelters are euthanized when the pet parent passes away.

There is something we can do. Florida has a law allowing pet owners to establish a Trust to ensure that their pets receive proper care after disability or death. A Pet Trust works by naming a trusted person or facility to act as Trustee and provides that Trustee with enough money to care for the pet according to your instructions. This can include directions such as your pet’s daily routine, medical care, special food, and socialization.  In short, it may include anything that is reasonable to care for your pets.

You can create a pet trust either while you are alive or when you die by including the trust provisions in your will.

I am an attorney with experience in estate planning and a pet owner who does not want to leave my pet’s future to chance.

If you need advice on estate planning, call the Law Office of Debra G. Simms today at 386.256.4882

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 Blog topics may or may not be updated and entries may be out-of-date at the time you view them


Here is a list of quick tips for what to do after you leave the attorney’s office:

  • Keep your original documents in a safe and secure place.
  • Make sure your agent under your Power of Attorney knows where you keep your documents and that he or she has the name of your attorney.
  • Give copies of your Medical Directives to the people you have named in the documents; your Primary Care Physician and other Health Care providers should also have a copy.
  • Discuss your wishes for health care and end of life choices with your chosen agents. Don’t make them guess what you would want.
  • If you have not already done so, consider Pre-paid funeral, burial, or cremation arrangements. It is not only less costly but when the time comes, it will ease the burden for your loved ones who are grieving your loss.

Questions? The Law Office of Debra Simms is here to help. Call us today 386.256.4882

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.

A common estate planning question is what (if any) assets are handled outside of probate?

There are a number of different kinds of properties that may pass outside the provisions of your Will.

The list includes life insurance, retirement plans, individual retirement accounts, and annuities. When you purchased or set up these types of assets and accounts, you were probably asked to fill out a form listing the beneficiaries who will receive payments upon your death. These investments will pass to the named beneficiaries regardless of whether you have a Will. However, if you don’t have a beneficiary named if the beneficiary named is your “estate,” or if all the beneficiaries are dead, then those investments will be paid to your estate and pass under your Will.

Certain bank and brokerage accounts will also pass outside your Will. For instance, payable-on-death accounts (sometimes called “POD” accounts) will be distributed to the named beneficiary. Additionally, accounts set up by one or more persons as joint tenants with rights of survivorship will pass to the surviving account holder or holders.

Some banks allow you to set up what they call trust accounts even though there is no written trust agreement. These types of accounts will pass to a named beneficiary without going through probate as well.

Not all joint accounts pass to the survivor. When joint accounts are set up as tenants in common, the portion of the account that was owned by the decedent passes under his or her Will.

Many people have decided to create revocable or irrevocable trusts as part of their estate plan. Virtually all such trusts are designed to pass directly to persons or other trusts named in the document rather than under a Will.

You may find that most of your estate consists of non-probate property. Therefore, it is extremely important to coordinate the beneficiaries of all these properties to make certain your assets will be distributed as you want when you pass away.

The Law Office of Debra G. Simms, will be glad to assist you with estate planning and ways to avoid probate. Call us today at (386) 256-4882.



As one year ends and the new one beckons, it is time for your annual estate planning check-up!

This is a good time to make sure your estate plan reflects the events in your life, those both within and beyond your control.

  1. Where there’s a Will, there’s a Way. A Will says how you want your assets distributed upon your death. But, don’t just put your will in the safe or drawer and then forget about it.  Review your Will and determine if any changes are needed because of changed family circumstances; for example, is the person you named to be your Personal Representative or guardian still the right one for the job?  Or, maybe one of your children has a problem handling money – should his or her money be held in trust rather than given outright?
  2. Consider a Living Trust. Like a Will, a living trust provides for the distribution of your assets when you die.  But, unlike a Will, a living trust can avoid the probate process – probate involves a Court and can be lengthy and expensive. Trusts are also more private as they are generally not required to be recorded upon death.
  3. Who has the Power? Who have you named in your Durable Power of Attorney and Health Care Directives?  Are they still the right people to handle your finances and make medical decisions if you cannot do so for yourself?
  4. Think about your end-of-life decisions. Do you have a current Living Will that provides guidance to loved ones concerning difficult end-of-life decisions? Does your Living Will discuss tube feeding, artificial hydration, and use of certain medications if you become terminally ill and can no longer speak for yourself?  Make sure your Living Will ensures that all your wishes are met.


The Law Office of Debra G. Simms offers free estate planning consultations. Consider bringing your documents to her for a New Year’s check-up! Don’t wait until it’s too late! Call for your free consultation~386.256.4882 or toll-free 877.447.4667.

Probate & Trusts, Estate Planning, Wills, Trust, Power of Attorney

probate-trusts-estate-planning-wills-trust-power-of-attorneyIf we spare even a fraction of the time we spent on earning all that money and building those assets, we would be able to ensure that it stays in the right hands even when we are not around to look after them. The federal law provides multiple legal options for you to choose form in order to facilitate a judicious planning of your property and assets. We are here to help you understand the various legal rights of a valid US citizen in managing his property and estate while he/she is alive and also post his/her demise.


A will is one the most commonly referenced legal document which allows an individual to manage the division and consecutive distribution of his or her property and estate post death. Creating a final testament or a will gives you the discretion of deciding as to how your hard-earned money and assets should be distributed among those chosen solely by you.


A probate is a legal proceeding that involves proving the validity of the will of a deceased, and then carrying out the process of appraisal and distribution of his assets as per the instructions stipulated within the will. A probate is of great significance in property distribution cases wherein the deceased failed to plan out a valid will while he/she was alive.


A trust can be cited as a written agreement between two or more parties wherein a trustee is attributed with a legal title to a property or an asset on the behalf of a trust beneficiary. The creator of the trust, called the settler provides the instruction for distribution of his assets among the beneficiaries to be carried out by the trustees. A trust can be especially useful in situations where a settler does not wish to provide outright control over his assets to the beneficiary, as the latter may not be mature enough or legally able to deal with them.

Power of attorney

A POA is a legal document which allows you to authorize an individual of significant trust to take control over your financial or healthcare responsibilities in your absence or inability to administer your property and assets.

Why should I hire an attorney?

Before coming to a final conclusion as to whether you should hire an attorney for your property distribution planning or not, you must understand the significance of the proper composition of a legal document. One single missing signature or a misplaced word might entirely alter the actual intent of your trust, will or POA. An attorney can help you in designing a legally correct document which reflects your intent in its entirety. In addition to this, the state laws for all estate planning related instruments vary from state to state. It is utmost essential to consult a professional attorney before creating a will or executing a trust, in order to stick to the laws of your specific state. Furthermore, hiring a lawyer also helps deal with any complex financial or family situations such as a second marriage, minor children, physically disabled family member or a recent divorce.

If you are looking for professional legal advice for creation of a will, trust, POA or estate planning and more in the Volusia County region, just visit https://www.simmslawfirm.com for assistance form some of the best legal minds in the country.

To contact Florida attorney Debra G. Simms, P.A. in Port Orange or New Smyrna Beach, FL please call 877.447.4667

Estate Planning 


Is your estate planning up to date?

shutterstock_138342704The unfortunate truth of life is that the unexpected can strike without warning. In that case, have you ever thought what will happen to your business that had taken you years to establish? If a proprietor has a sudden demise, the government can levy a death tax or an estate tax on his business. This can bring down the worth of that business by as much as 50 percent.
With good estate planning in place, your business can be protected from losing a significant amount of its equity in the event of unforeseen circumstances. Systematic estate planning can insulate your life from your business and lower the hassles that may be faced by others soon after your death. Here are some of the ways to do proper estate planning that can lead to improvement of your business.

It offers an assurance that your business will have a long life

It takes several years to build up a good brand.  It is the dream of every brand to be visible for years to come. No matter, what the size of the business is, they would dream to pass on their strategies and innovative ideas to their subsequent generations so that their legacies can survive for years to come. Renowned brands such as Coca-Cola, Wal-Mart and McDonald have successfully to be profitable even after cut-throat competition as there had been a proper estate planning done by them. If businesses fail to take this factor into consideration, they would often end up struggling in the event of a sudden death of owners or an owner. Organizations with a strong management leadership will be able to continue with the functioning of a business though the owners have passed away.

Good estate planning will offer greater range of options for a business

When your business has a good estate planning in place, there is an option called buy-sell agreement. If there is one or multiple co-owners in your business, the aim of a buy-sell agreement is to make sure that in the event of the death of any of the owners, the deceased’s interest is automatically bought by the remaining co-owners. The deceased owner’s beneficiaries cannot become owners unintentionally in such cases.
Such an agreement would be immensely helpful in reducing the damage that may otherwise happen after the deceased owner or co-owner’s death,

Proper estate planning can be helpful in minimizing taxes

Since you are an owner of a successful business, you would be capable of transferring the assets of your business to your children. It is also possible to establish a GRAT or grantor retained annuity trust so that an option of income is available for you.

The function of this trust is to make sure that as the business assets of your company appreciate over a period of time, the increase in value and equity of a business could be saved from overwhelming taxes.

Estate planning can help in creating a proper succession plan for the organization

Proper estate planning will ensure the preservation of your business and keep it running according to your specific directives. Thus, when good estate planning is in place, it also means that you are planning for who will be at the helming your firm and leading the business in your absence. A reputed law firm can actually help you to prepare and implement your estate planning in a proper and systematic manner. Any attorney or lawyer who represents such a firm is a specialist and will know how to cater to your specific planning requirements.

The offices of Debra G Simms are located in Volusia County, Port Orange, New Smyrna Beach, Daytona and the surrounding areas.

To contact attorney Debra G. Simms, P.A. in Port Orange or New Smyrna Beach, FL please call 877.447.4667.

Most people are not aware of the value of a certified estate planning attorney. Most people generally believe they have planned well if they have a will in place. A will may not be the best plan because a will does not avoid probate when you die. Interesting fact: a will must be examined by the probate court judge before it can be admitted to probate. A defective will not be accepted and your estate will be administered as though you don’t even a have a will!

Basic estate planning definitions:

  • Will – Only goes into effect when you die. It is a legal document that names the beneficiaries who inherit a person’s assets and names a representative to administer and distribute the estate.
  • Probate – Legal process used by the court to ensure debts are paid and assets distributed in accordance to your will. If you don’t have a valid will your assets are distributed according to state law.
  • Living Trust – Legal document, similar to a Will in that it contains your instructions for what you want to happen to your assets when you die; however, it avoids probate at death because your assets pass to a trustee and then to your beneficiaries; an additional advantage is that it can provide for control of your trust assets while you are alive which prevents the court from controlling your assets if you become incapacitated. In other words, a living trust which provides for incapacity can avoid a Guardianship proceeding whereby you would become a Ward of the State!

The Simms Law Firm recommends a simple and proven alternative to a will which is the revocable living trust. It avoids probate and lets you keep control of your assets while you are alive- even if you become incapacitated – and after you die.

So what is the downside of probate?

Four simple points really.

Expensive – Legal/executor fees and other costs have to be paid before assets can be fully distributed to your heirs.
Time – Probate can take six months to two years to process an estate. Nothing can be distributed or sold without court and/or executor approval. Tough break if your family needs the funds for living expenses.
● No privacy – Probate is a public process. That means “interested parties” cull these notices and can slow down the process to contest the will.
● No control – The process is tied up internally in the court process – this takes the whole process out of your hands. Courts move slowly because of the court calendar; public information and claims on the estate.

To contact attorney Debra G. Simms, P.A. in Port Orange or New Smyrna Beach, FL please call 877.447.4667.

Many people ask me whether estate planning is different for the baby boomers than it was for their parents’ generation.  Being a boomer, myself, I feel well qualified to answer that question.  And the answer is Yes!

It’s different than our parents

Our parents’ lifestyle during their working years differered from ours in many ways.  They often had a single job, lived in a single city, sometimes even a single home, for most of their working lives.  They had one mortgage and paid it off before they retired.  The paid off house was worth many times over what they paid for it.  They could sell the home, buy a smaller house or condo, and have substantial funds left over from the sale to invest for retirement income.
Sound a little different for us boomers?  Well…we often changed employers, occupations, cities, and often “traded up” our housing several times during our work years.  We were less risk adverse than our parents and most of us grew up believing that our government, the most powerful and wealthy country in the world, would always take care of us when we were too old to work.  Our children were encouraged, no pushed, to make lives of their own often far far away from Mom and Dad.

How is it going for Baby Boomers?

Well, many of us live by ourselves (the divorce rate is still going strong at 50% for first timers and even higher for second timers), have no equity in our homes, didn’t save enough money (all the kids have college degrees, don’t they?) and instead of playing golf, bridge, majong, in our 60’s and 70’s, we will be at our desk by 9 am until…well, until we can’t anymore.
So what are the successful strategies for retirement and estate planning for us boomers?  Is it too late to plan to retire when you’re already at retirement age?  What are the options?

Reverse Mortgages

Here is one that I know of that has a bad rap.  Reverse Mortgages.  These are loans against the equity in your home that need not be paid back until the homeowner no longer lives in the home as a principal residence.  The usual requirements are that the borrower must own the home, be at least 62 years old, and have equity in the home.  The amount that can be borrowed is based upon your age, the current market rates, and the limit for the area where the house is located.
You can receive the funds under a number of payment plans including a lump sum, a line of credit, monthly payments, or a combination thereof.  Besides cash, there are other benefits:  the lump sum is not income so it’s not taxed, you can maintain your ability to live independently in your own home, and you don’t necessarily lose the ability to apply for federal and state entitlement programs, such as Medicaid.  It’s not for everybody, and certainly not for those who can’t afford to maintain their homes, but it is an option.  Just shop around and compare the costs and make sure that it fits in with your overall estate planning goals.  That’s where I come in.  Plus, I’m a boomer, and I did all that dumb stuff, too.

To contact attorney Debra G. Simms, P.A. in Port Orange or New Smyrna Beach, FL please call 877.447.4667.

It’s holiday time again and I just love Thanksgiving!  Last night my daughter and I were talking about how disappointed we are if we are invited out for Thanksgiving and the food isn’t good.  Then we get all bummed out because we have to wait a whole year to eat this kind of food again – in bulk – with little or no guilt!  That’s something to be thankful for – gluttony with no guilt!  So, usually, we just cook it ourselves!
Holiday time brings another joy besides food.  Don’t get me wrong, food is high up there.  But, for me, it’s extra special when I can be with all my daughters in one place!  It’s one of the few times that all 5 girls can make the time to come from the 4 corners of the earth and share a few days with mom.  And this year, we have an extra bonus – their dad is coming, too.  We haven’t had the whole family together at one time for a holiday in over 10 years!
So, all this family time, and seeing the girls all grown up (sort of) has given time to reflect on my own estate plans.  Don’t tell my secret, but my own estate plan isn’t up to date.  You know that famous quote about how the shoemaker’s children go without shoes?  Well, it’s the same with lawyers.

Discuss estate planning

But, this year, I am resolved to talk to my girls about what I want for my later years and also discuss estate planning.  I am even trying to give some of my stuff away, but they won’t take it!  I know this is hard for children to talk about, none of us wants to think about our parents aging.  But, since I preach these topics all day to my clients, it’s time that I take stock and make sure that me and my children are all on the same page.
I think the end of the year is a good time to put your affairs in order.  It’s a good time to look at your old wills, powers of attorney (did you know the law just changed in November on Powers of Attorney?), Medical Directives, and Living Wills.  It might be time to think about setting up a Revocable Trust or doing a Lady Bird Deed.  And it will cost you nothing if you come to see me.  My estate planning consults are free.  And, while you’re there, ask about Long-Term Health Care Planning. We might need to take a look at some Elder Care issues such as Medicaid Planning.  After all, we already paid for Medicaid in every single paycheck, right?
Call now and get a free Estate Planning consultation.  Don’t wait until it’s too late!
Happy Thanksgiving!
To contact attorney Debra G. Simms, P.A. in Port Orange or New Smyrna Beach, FL please call 877.447.4667.

Your Digital After-Life: What happens to your e-mails after you die?

Ever wonder what happens to your e-mails and posts when you’re gone? I don’t want to dwell on the macabre during this celebratory time of year, but the New Year is a good time to plan for the future.

Unfortunately, there is no standard way internet providers handle the accounts of their users’ accounts after death. Every provider is different.

For example, Facebook’s privacy policy states that your heirs can request that your account be deleted or “memorialized.” Memorialized profiles restrict profile access to confirmed friends and allow friends to write on the user’s Wall in remembrance. Anyone can request that a user’s account be memorialized by simply notifying Facebook and showing a death certificate or a news article that indicates the death.

 Gmail generally requires a death certificate, an e-mail you have received from the account in question, and proof that you have legal authority over the estate.

 Your Social Media Pages After Your Gone

social media when your dead

If a Twitter user has passed away, the account can be removed. Family members can ask to save a back up of their loved one’s public “Tweets”. The heirs need to provide their contact information, their relationship to the deceased user, the username of the account or a link to the profile page, and a link to the obituary.

Yahoo is a different story. Yahoo has a terms agreement that says there is “No Right of Survivorship” and that accounts are “Non-Transferable.” Upon receipt of a copy of a death certificate, your account may be terminated and all contents permanently deleted.

A few helpful advocacy groups are spreading awareness of “digital afterlife” issues and a quick online search shows that there is a growing industry of commercial services for online memorials, digital estate planning, post-mortem e-mail notification, and password storage systems.

If all this seems messy and mysterious, I will offer a few basic steps to manage your online affairs after death.

The first step

The first step is to inventory everything about your online life, such as your email accounts, Facebook, Twitter…everything. Use a speadsheet or create a table in a word-processing document. For each website, list the name, URL, your username and password. Include any additional information someone might need to access each account.

Be sure to state whether there is any money at stake in an account.  For example, do you have any money sitting in your Paypal account? Do you have an ongoing business on eBay?


The second step

The second step is to check each site you use for their policy on deceased members and the access rights of heirs. Determine what authorization you may have to supply, if any, and put that information down on your inventory. If a site allows users to be memorialized after death, state whether you want that or not on your inventory. Do you want your heirs to be able to download your content or delete your account? Some accounts are deleted automatically if inactive for a period of time, so you should also note this information on your inventory. Remember, each site has different privacy and policy issues. Know your rights.

The third step

The third step is to notify your heirs about your intentions for your digital content. Do not share usernames and passwords, just let them know that you’ve created a document with detailed information about your digital possessions and tell them where you will keep that document once you print it out. A logical place for it would be with your will or other important papers. Do you know someone who can act as your digital personal representative? Maybe you have a favorite geek who could help your legal representative. Write it down.

Also, leave instructions about who to email about your death. Your email contact list could be lengthy, so it may be wise to print the list and cross out the names of the people you don’t want contacted.

Planning is tedious but crucial and your heirs will appreciate your considerate forethought.

Happy New Year from the Law Office of Debra G. Simms!

To contact attorney Debra G. Simms, P.A. in Port Orange or New Smyrna Beach, FL please call 877.447.4667.

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