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Are you ABLE?

There is a new option for individuals with disabilities to save money and not forfeit their federal benefits. As of July 2016, Florida introduced ABLE accounts – short for Achieving a Better Life Experience. The benefits of this account are unique and only available in four states. Read below to see if an ABLE account is right for you or your loved one:

  1. Individuals who receive Medicaid, SSI or SSDI benefits have previously faced reduced benefits if more than $2,000 in assets were accrued. With an ABLE account, funds placed in the account do NOT count as assets for federal benefits eligibility.
  2. There is a huge tax saving benefit; an ABLE account is similar to a 529 college savings plan.
  3. An account can be established by a guardian, a parent, or by the disabled person. Anyone can contribute to the account; however, the account is always owned by the disabled person.
  4. There are three major limitations for the ABLE account: there is an account maximum allowance of $413,000. The disability must have developed before the age of 26. And, there is a Medicaid payback requirement. Therefore, it is not a substitute for a Special needs Trust, but rather a supplement.
  5. The funds don’t have to sit dormant. There are seven investment options to help the money grow.

Who needs this type of an account? It depends on you and your estate planning needs. Contact Shulman Law for a consultation regarding the estate planning for a disabled child or adult. There are programs such as the ABLE account that may be essential to proper planning, in conjunction with a Special Needs Trust or other planning options.

www.ableunited.com

"Is it Time to Update my Estate Plan"

Is it Time to Update my Estate Plan?

Many clients look to create an Estate Plan because of a change in circumstances. Perhaps they had a child or got divorced, and often, a loss of a family member sparks a desire for planning. It is very common to hear “I just dealt with these issues with my parent’s passing, and it was a mess – I don’t want my children to have the same problem.” It’s great to be proactive, but when is the last time you looked at your will?

I recently spoke with a client who did everything right by having a comprehensive plan put together. The only problem? It was over 20 years ago. In that time, children were born, employment changed, and finances changed significantly. Having an outdated Estate Plan can be as useless as having no plan at all if it is not up to date.

  • When should I update? The rule of thumb is to have your estate plan documents reviewed every three to five years. Or, if there is a major life event. Or, if you just have questions and want your documents reviewed – it’s better to know that you are well taken care of and leaving nothing to chance!
  • Who can update? Any attorney well versed in Estate Planning can review your documents and provide input. It does not have to be the attorney that created your original plan. Often, such a meeting requires you to bring in your documents, your questions, and your changes. It never hurts to have a second opinion.
  • Why should I update? The reason you created an estate plan to begin with was to make sure your wishes were followed, with minimal impact on your family, after you pass. Honor that intention by updating. Maybe that Last Will and Testament from the ‘70s left a portion of your estate to a religious organization you’re no longer affiliated with. Perhaps that Will named a Personal Representative that you have severed ties with. A good Estate Planning attorney will also discuss your beneficiaries on accounts that fall outside of your estate – did you remember to remove your ex from your life insurance?
  • Can I afford to update? Simply, yes. A consultation for a review or having a review of existing documents is far less expensive than having an error. Let’s say you have a trust, and believe that nothing will go to probate. If the trust was not properly drafted, or was not updated to include all of your assets, then your estate may have to go through the expensive and time-consuming process of probate. The idea behind estate planning is to minimize the financial impact on your estate, and to keep it stress free.
  • What can I update? Nearly everything. With the exception of some advanced planning, such as an irrevocable trust, you can update all of your documents. A Will can, and should be, updated. A Revocable Trust can, and should be, updated. Same goes for your Living Will, Healthcare Surrogate, Pre-Need Guardianship selection, Power of Attorney, etc.

With passage of time, often our best intentions become flawed. You may not know what documents you have. You may have forgotten what the documents do, or what they mean. These are all reasons to contact an attorney that specializes in Estate Planning. At Shulman Law, we offer affordable packages to create an Estate Plan, to review pre-exisiting plans, and to modify or update plans.

Shulman Law offers legal representation in Estate Planning, Succession Planning, Charitable Giving, as well as Criminal Defense Attorney services in Fort Lauderdale, Coral Ridge, Oakland Park, Wilton Manor, Lauderdale-by-the-Sea, Pompano Beach, Lighthouse Point, Hollywood and throughout Broward County Florida.

"Planning for Your Expanding Family"

Planning for Your Expanding Family: Estate Planning

A major focus of Estate Planning is preparing for death. But what about when your family expands? With our new addition on the way, this is a topic that is on our minds….and we are taking the appropriate planning steps to prepare for our new family member. However, most parents-to-be put off planning, mistakenly thinking that they don’t need it or that it will be too expensive.

Here are some financial and legal considerations for your expanding family:

  1. Adjust your beneficiaries. You may already have life insurance, and will need to update your beneficiaries (and if you don’t have life insurance, this is an integral part of estate planning). Also, update your 401(k), IRA and other accounts with beneficiaries attached. You can always determine how these funds will be accessed by a child – such as a trust with limitations. At a minimum, update your beneficiaries!
  2. Choose your guardian(s). What would happen with your children if you were no longer here? This is a difficult question for some parents to answer. But wouldn’t you rather decide than have a Judge make the call?
  3. Draw up estate planning documents. You have more assets than you realize. Maybe all you need is a simple will. Perhaps your estate is better suited for a trust. Or, maybe you just need to sit down with a professional to talk you through your planning. No matter what you think your needs are, set up a consultation BEFORE your family expands.
  4. Financial concerns. There is a lot of crossover between estate planning and retirement planning, budgeting, and insurance. Do you have adequate life insurance? How are you going to continue to fund your retirement? Do your assets cause taxation concerns? Working with a professional who has access to a network of professionals in various fields is crucial to comprehensive planning.
  5. Have a plan and execute. Nobody likes to think about death. Most people do not like to talk about money. But, it does you, your family, and your new addition a huge disservice by procrastinating. When you put off planning until after the baby is born, do you really think you want to make the time to sit down with a lawyer? No, you won’t. And, next thing you know, years have passed and you still haven’t put together a plan

At Shulman Law, we offer comprehensive estate planning services, as well as review and updates of your current estate plan. Contact us to set up a consultation, before you’re consumed with diapers and bottles!

Shulman Law offers legal representation in Estate Planning, Succession Planning, Charitable Giving, as well as Criminal Defense Attorney services in Fort Lauderdale, Coral Ridge, Oakland Park, Wilton Manor, Lauderdale-by-the-Sea, Pompano Beach, Lighthouse Point, Hollywood and throughout Broward County Florida.

"Changes Pending in Family Law"

Changes Pending in Family Law

There are significant changes on the horizon for Family Law cases in Florida, deriving from Florida Senate Bill 668. Presently the bill has been passed and now it is before Governor Rick Scott for final approval. Before delving into the details of the bill, it is important to note that it is NOT retroactive – in other words, it would not apply to cases finalized prior to October 1, 2016. The bill focuses on two major areas of change – Alimony and Child Sharing.
Alimony. The bill provides guidelines that would lead to greater predictability on the award of alimony. The guidelines are based on the length of the marriage and considers the income of the parties. Of course, the court can consider other factors and deviate from the guidelines, but must make specific findings in doing so. If you are considering a divorce, contact an attorney as soon as possible as this legislation could severely impact your ability to seek alimony and/or limit the alimony that needs to be paid.
Child Sharing. Relying on empirical research and data, experts have found that the child benefits from equal time sharing. The bill would create a presumption of equal time sharing, unless there is a showing that such an agreement would be detrimental to the child.
Quite often, a bill in one area of the law creates important considerations for other areas. In determining what would be considered “detrimental to a child”, the court will consider the criminal history of the parties. A domestic battery or violation of an injunction is considered a first degree misdemeanor. The bill states that a first degree misdemeanor provides the court with the evidence needed that it would be detrimental to the child to be in the custody of the party with such a crime on their record.
It is essential to speak to an attorney knowledgeable with Senate Bill 668. Times are changing. An attorney you consult with must be well-versed in the pending changes. It is now more important than ever to utilize an attorney rather than represent yourself in a Family Law matter. The changes will be new to the attorneys and to the Judges – you need competent representation to ensure the court follows the law should Governor Scott sign the bill.
Contact Shulman Law for all of your Family and Estate Planning needs. Family Law, Criminal Law and Estate Planning all go hand-in-hand – at Shulman Law, you will receive advice to ensure you are well represented with legally comprehensive strategy.

Shulman Law offers representation in Family Law, Estate Planning, Living Trusts, Wills, Succession Planning, Charitable Giving, as well as Criminal Defense Attorney services in Fort Lauderdale, Coral Ridge, Oakland Park, Wilton Manors, Lauderdale-by-the-Sea, Pompano Beach, Lighthouse Point, Hollywood and throughout Broward County.

 Photo source – Copyright: belchonock / 123RF Stock Photo

Shulman Law offers legal representation in Estate Planning, Succession Planning, Charitable Giving, as well as Criminal Defense Attorney services in Fort Lauderdale, Coral Ridge, Oakland Park, Wilton Manor, Lauderdale-by-the-Sea, Pompano Beach, Lighthouse Point, Hollywood and throughout Broward County Florida.

WHAT IS A LIVING WILL AND WHAT CAN IT DO FOR ME?

Many clients come for a consultation and say “I want a Living Will” or “I had a Living Will prepared a long time ago and I would like you to review it.” More often than not, the terminology is confused. Here are 5 things to know regarding a Living Will.

  1. A Living Will is NOT a Last Will and Testament. The purpose of a Living Will is a directive regarding withholding or withdrawal from life prolonging procedures when faced with a terminal condition. A Last Will and Testament disposes or personal property, addresses debt, contains the appointment of a personal representative and revokes prior Wills. They are not one in the same.
  2. Can I have a Living Will with no other planning? The short answer is yes, you can have only a Living Will executed. However, a Living Will alone is not broad. It is a directive in a narrow set of circumstances. Consider executing a Living Will if you have other planning in place, or supplement a Living Will with a health care surrogate.
  3. What is a health care surrogate and why is it different from a Living Will. A health care surrogate gives the authority to the person of your choosing during any incapacity. An example: a person is in a car accident and suffers an injury such that they are in a medically induced coma. A decision might be required for surgical options – this is where a health care surrogate would be involved. Alternatively, same car accident and the person suffers spinal cord damage where they are permanently incapacitated, and are medically supported for sustenance. This is where a person appointed in the Living Will would be consulted whether to continue life prolonging intervention.
  4. What is needed to execute a Living Will? Speak with an attorney familiar with this area of law, such as Shulman Law, regarding the drafting of your personalized Living Will. You will need to sign the Living Will in the presence of two witnesses, one of whom is neither a spouse nor blood relative, for it to be legally binding.
  5. Can I revoke a Living Will? Absolutely. You can revoke the Living Will in writing, by destruction, or other means. It is important to discuss the destruction with your attorney to determine if another document needs to be executed.

As with all legal documents, you should rely on the knowledge and expertise of attorney who specializes in this area of law. At Shulman Law, we can provide a comprehensive review of your estate, and determine what planning best suits you and your needs.

Shulman Law offers legal representation in Estate Planning, Succession Planning, Charitable Giving, as well as Criminal Defense Attorney services in Fort Lauderdale, Coral Ridge, Oakland Park, Wilton Manor, Lauderdale-by-the-Sea, Pompano Beach, Lighthouse Point, Hollywood and throughout Broward County Florida.

"Divorce and Estate Planning"

DIVORCE AND ESTATE PLANNING: KEEPING YOUR ESTATE INTACT WHILE YOU SEPARATE

A divorce is a major life event, and should be treated as such. Once the divorce is finalized, your estate planning should not stop there. In fact, you should not wait until your divorce is finalized to take advantage of the information below! Take some time to regroup, and then consider the 5 steps every person should take during and post-divorce.

  1. Update your Will and/or Trusts. Your assets will change, and you need to account for that. Your desire regarding who will be the trustee for your children’s trust may change. You may need to update the executor of your will – do you want your ex-spouse in charge of administering your estate after you pass? Didn’t think so….make sure you update your documents!
  2. Update your beneficiaries. In Florida, contract law applies to assets with a beneficiary designation. If you have life insurance or a retirement account, you chose a beneficiary to receive those proceeds. If you pass away without updating the beneficiaries, your ex-spouse will receive those proceeds….a will doesn’t determine the provisions for your life insurance or retirement account, the contract is what counts!
  3. Update your power of attorney/living will/health care surrogate. These are three documents that provides important powers to the person you designated. Most likely, your spouse was the person, or one of the people, you chose. Do you really want the person you’re actively trying to part with to have the power to make decisions regarding your health? Whether to continue life prolonging efforts? To have the ability to utilize a power of attorney while you’re fighting over furniture? Of course not.
  4. Update your bank accounts. Leaving open a joint bank account or credit card can spell disaster. If a divorce gets particularly contentious, do you want your paycheck direct deposited into a joint account just to find out it was withdrawn? No. So take a few minutes and close joint accounts – and, while you’re at it, designate beneficiaries for your new bank accounts to avoid a headache down the road.
  5. Do it now! Don’t wait until the divorce is final to make changes to your estate planning. The above points all show the pitfalls of failing to update your planning. But keep in mind, a divorce can take months or even years to weave their way through the court systems. Don’t take the chance by prolonging these changes and meet with an attorney to address your planning during the divorce.

These 5 basic considerations will help you protect your assets and keep your estate in order. At Shulman Law, we can help you with these 5 basic steps and much more. Click on the “Contact” link to set up a consultation. At Shulman Law, we believe you should lead your legacy, not just leave it….especially to your ex!!

Shulman Law offers legal representation in Estate Planning, Succession Planning, Charitable Giving, as well as Criminal Defense Attorney services in Fort Lauderdale, Coral Ridge, Oakland Park, Wilton Manor, Lauderdale-by-the-Sea, Pompano Beach, Lighthouse Point, Hollywood and throughout Broward County Florida.

"5 ESTATE PLANNING STEPS TO TAKE NOW"

5 ESTATE PLANNING STEPS TO TAKE NOW

Many people I come into contact with, upon learning that I have an Estate Planning practice, immediately respond: “I’ll call you when I actually have an estate to plan” or “One day when I have money I’ll need your services” – this is a huge misconception in Estate Planning. And, for that reason, here are 5 steps every person needs to take.
(1) Recognize that you have an estate. Sure, it may only be a house, or a car, or a baseball card collection. But, don’t you want to have a say where your property will go upon your death? Too many people put planning off until they “need” it. Unfortunately, life takes twists and turns, and you never will truly know when you will need to have your planning done. At a minimum, start with basic planning so you don’t leave your property in the hands of the state to make decisions for you.
(2) Recognize that you’re not immortal. Things happen. Life changes. Sometimes those changes are unexpected and rapid. Consider, as an essential part of your planning, to secure a durable power of attorney, a living will, and a healthcare surrogate. These three documents can assist you with putting a person you trust in charge of your affairs, someone who knows your directives and has your best interests in mind.
(3) Recognize that you should organize. Organize what? Organize your affairs. If you were to pass away tomorrow, does your family know how to find every bank account, are they aware of every insurance policy, are they able to access safe deposit boxes? The idea is to organize for your family – create a journal, make an excel spreadsheet, write it on a sticky note…whatever works for you. Just don’t leave your family guessing.
(4) Recognize that you aren’t as up to date as you should be. I’m not talking about knowing the latest songs on the radio or reality television show. Have you updated your beneficiaries? On all accounts, policies, etc.? Have you updated your estate plan since having another child, remarrying, losing a loved one? Did you remember to include that new car or boat in your planning? Do you have beneficiaries designated for bank accounts? It is essential to update, and to meet with your attorney to discuss the impact of these updates on your estate.
(5) Recognize that you need to sit down with an attorney. There is a saying – “Don’t mistake your google search for my law degree.” This adage is essential for estate planning. Many people want to utilize a preprinted form they pay $15 for on some website. Guess what? That form may be suitable for Minnesota, but not Florida. That form might be missing language that could otherwise leave you with no legally enforceable document. That form was created by someone (or something) that has never met you, and doesn’t care what happens to you after you download it. Rely on expertise, and sit down with an attorney that can discuss your situation and find solutions.
These 5 basic steps will help you to get your estate in order. At Shulman Law, we can help you with these 5 steps and much more. Click on the “Contact” link to set up a consultation. At Shulman Law, we believe you should lead your legacy, not just leave it.

 

Shulman Law offers legal representation in Estate Planning, Succession Planning, Charitable Giving, as well as Criminal Defense Attorney services in Fort Lauderdale, Coral Ridge, Oakland Park, Wilton Manor, Lauderdale-by-the-Sea, Pompano Beach, Lighthouse Point, Hollywood and throughout Broward County Florida.