Estate Planning

Estate Planning can be a complicated term. Some people think it has to do with what assets you have and where they go upon your death. This is partially correct. However, a comprehensive Estate Plan will also address what to do with your assets and your needs while you are living, in case you become incapacitated. An Estate Plan might just be a simple Last Will and Testament, or it could be a complex Trust with a Will and guardianship considerations. The best choice you can make for you and your family is to sit down with a knowledgeable and experienced attorney, who can guide you through the process.

Please visit the additional Estate Planning pages on Shulman Law for a general understanding of what services are offered. As no two Estate Plans are alike, contact Shulman Law for a consultation. At Shulman Law, the premise is that you should LEAD your legacy to where you want and not leave anything to chance.

Who needs an Estate Plan?

The short answer is everyone needs an Estate Plan. Sure, it may only be a house, or a small amount of money, 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 will never 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 a judge to make decisions for you.

The best time to meet with an Estate Planning attorney is BEFORE you need it. Be proactive. Keep in mind that the last thing you want to leave to your heirs is a headache. A little planning now can go a long way after your death, and can avoid costly court appearances with probate. Even if you are not sure what you need, set up a consultation with an attorney to discuss your options.

What happens if I die without a Will?

To truly understand the value of Estate Planning is to understand the consequences of having no Estate Plan. In Florida, if you were to die without a will, any assets that would have passed through the will go through Intestate Succession. What does that mean and who gets your property? Well, it is not a straightforward answer. Intestate Succession, or distribution to your lineage, depends on whether you’re married, whether you have children, who comprises your family, and what other planning you may have done.

For instance, the way a piece of property is deeded will determine whether that property would be subject to probate. If the property is deeded with survivorship, then the will would have no effect on that property, and it would pass to the survivor. If you have a life insurance policy, and no will, there is no impact – life insurance proceeds go to the beneficiary named in the life insurance policy, and the will would have no effect on that policy. But what about a bank account with no co-signer, no beneficiary, no Payable on Death designation? Or, what about the safety deposit box? How do you determine which of the kids or grandkids get to benefit from the proceeds of funds left behind? Passing without Estate Planning documents can truly leave a headache for your family.

At Shulman Law, there are Estate Planning packages available, or a la carte services, to meet your needs. Set up a consultation today to help maneuver your estate, and LEAD your legacy.

Post-Mortem Services

Have you just lost someone and the last thing you want to do is struggle through understanding what needs to be done to straighten out their estate? Shulman Law offers consultations and services to those who have lost a loved one. Commonly, a spouse will have inherited property, vehicles, boats, bank accounts and other assets without probate, and have no idea where to start with retitling property or accessing certain assets.

Shulman Law has helped numerous clients with straightening out their affairs after a loss. We can assist with ordering death certificates, preparing the proper documentation to file with governmental agencies, assist with accessing assets and can do a comprehensive review to help you when you need it the most. We also review your accounts and discuss important updates you need to make; such as re-designating beneficiaries after the loss of a loved one.

Last Will and Testament

A Last Will and Testament is a document that, in its simplest form, establishes how you wish your personal property and debt to be distributed or satisfied. A will can address guardianship elections for a minor child, include burial instructions, and even take care of charitable giving following your death. Whether you need a will or another estate planning strategy is an important conversation to have with an attorney who handles this area of law. At Shulman Law, we can provide insight to what is the appropriate way to handle your estate so you get the result you want for your heirs.

Many clients come in and ask for a will without knowing how it works in the real world. Did you know that if you have a will, with no other estate planning documents, that there is a good chance your estate will still go to probate? A judge in your jurisdiction will still have to receive the will, creditor issues will have to be dealt with, and heirs can still contest a will. Whether a will is the right move for your estate can only be answered by an estate planning attorney.

But what about those online will forms? In short, they’re worthless. Even if you correctly provide all of the information, there is no way to tell whether the document you create from a pre-filled form will work for your jurisdiction. What if you found out that the $10 form you filled out is erroneous, and will cost your heirs thousands of dollars in probate? Do your family, your heirs, or your dog a huge favor and meet with an estate planning attorney for a consultation.

Revocable Living Trust

A Revocable Living Trust can be the essential document of an Estate Plan. A major difference between a Revocable Living Trust and a will is that a will must go through probate, while a revocable trust does not have to. Another benefit to a revocable trust, that many clients find attractive, is that you can add to and take away from the trust, retain power over the assets in the trust, and be in control of the terms of the trust.

What is a Revocable Living Trust? Think of it like a bucket. You create the bucket, put things in the bucket, you can add and take away from what you put in the bucket, and you can even destroy the bucket. But what if you forget to put something in the bucket? That’s where an experienced Estate Planning attorney comes in hand. While a trust can disperse property after death, a thorough Estate Plan should also include a will that is drafted to handle exactly this issue: when there are items not covered by the trust. Imagine this scenario: you do everything right by moving a number of assets into a trust. But then, you receive an inheritance, put it in an account, and forget to update your documents. Who gets that money? How is it distributed? A comprehensive estate plan won’t leave anything to chance. And, one benefit that clients especially enjoy when it comes to a Revocable Living Trust is…that it’s revocable! Let’s say you get divorced, and the benefit was for your spouse – no problem, you can revoke it.

There is a fluidity to a Revocable Living Trust that lets the grantor, the person making the trust, stay in control during their lifetime. Talking with an Estate Planning attorney, such as Shulman Law, will ensure that you are making the right decision for your estate planning needs.

Living Will

There are times when a client insists that they want a Living Will, without knowing the difference between a Living Will and a Last Will and Testament. A Living Will is a document that states your intention regarding withholding or withdrawal from life-prolonging procedures when faced with a terminal condition. A Last Will and Testament disposes of personal property, addresses debt, contains the appointment of a personal representative and revokes prior wills. They are not one in the same. A Living Will can be completed independently, or can be part of an Estate Plan. However, it is important to know that a Living Will provides direction for a very limited issue, and does not address your assets.

There are also differences between a Living Will and a Healthcare Surrogate. A health care surrogate gives the authority to the person of your choosing during any incapacity. Alternatively, a Living Will is limited to those circumstances addressed above. Just like any other Estate Planning document, contact an experienced attorney, such as Shulman Law, to assist with your planning needs. You will want to thoroughly understand the documents that are being executed and what each document can accomplish.

Estate Planning for the LGBT Community

With the legalization of marriage, Estate Planning for the LGBT community looks much like the planning completed for any other couple. However, there are always considerations that should be discussed. Are you married? Do you have children? If so, are both parents on the birth certificate? Has there been an adoption? These are all important questions for legacy planning, and in considering the execution of a Pre-Need Guardian. There are also taxation implications. While the Defense of Marriage Act was in place, a same-sex couple was treated as individuals for taxation purposes. With the end of DOMA, same-sex married couples enjoy the same benefit as any other couple, to pass unlimited assets to their spouse without being subject to federal or gift tax.

Hand in hand with Estate Planning is a comprehensive review of all accounts. Have you updated your beneficiaries to your spouse for your life insurance? Have you elected your spouse as your beneficiary for your IRA? Do you have separate bank accounts or joint accounts? Is there a Payable on Death or Transfer on Death on file for your accounts?

You should contact an attorney that is knowledgeable regarding LGBT issues and Estate Planning. Shulman Law offers comprehensive Estate Plans for all couples and individuals, and is also experienced in handling matters for the LGBT community. On top of Estate Planning, Shulman Law has also offered services in Donor Agreements and is well versed in drafting documents to protect you and your family.

Power of Attorney

A basic definition of Power of Attorney is that it’s a legal document where one person gives another person legal authority to handle matters listed in the document. It can be as broad or as limited as you wish, and can include everything from the rights to sell (a car, house, etc.) to the rights over contracting and signing legal documents. There is even a Power of Attorney that allows the person to delegate the authority to make healthcare decisions. Great care should be taken before executing a Power of Attorney. You will want to speak with an Estate Planning Attorney to discuss the benefits, and drawbacks, of granting someone Power of Attorney. Shulman Law can provide an individualized review of your situation and provide advice as to the pros and cons of executing a Power of Attorney.

There are various types of Power of Attorney. It can be a Limited Power of Attorney – which can limit the authority to a single act. A General Power of Attorney – provides broad and wide-sweeping authority. A Durable Power of Attorney – provides authority even if the person who gave the authority becomes incapacitated. A Power of Attorney with Healthcare Provision – provides authority to the person to make certain health care decisions (this is often supplemented by a living will). Given that there are various options, and that the drafting of a Power of Attorney is so important, it would serve you well to meet with an attorney, such as Shulman Law, to discuss what is appropriate for your situation.

Retirement Planning

The majority of clients that wish to have an Estate Plan created carry the bulk of their wealth in retirement accounts. Commonly, an IRA, 401(k), or 403(b) contain a large portion of the estate. So, how do Estate Planning and Retirement Planning work together? A knowledgeable Estate Planning attorney, such as Shulman Law, will discuss ALL assets with you and advise you on the tax implications for your estate, and even include a referral to a tax specialist, such as a CPA, to assist with the planning. Keep in mind that the number one goal of Estate Planning is to limit the headache for your heirs, and to limit the financial exposure after you pass.

In speaking with an Estate Planning attorney, an important question is: should we create a trust? This is not an easy question to answer and is unique to every situation. The attorney will take into account your assets, who you beneficiaries are, whether you’re married, if your beneficiaries are minor (or have spending issues), and many other considerations. Any attorney working on an Estate Plan for you should require a lengthy pre-drafting meeting or a comprehensive worksheet to make sure that all of your assets are discussed. At Shulman Law, not only do we complete a thorough “fact finder”, but we also educate our clients to ensure comprehensive planning. A small detail, such a beneficiary update or a Payable on Death designation, can save a client’s beneficiaries time, money, and aggravation.

Estate Planning for the Disabled and Elderly

A concern for some clients is planning for the future of a loved one who is disabled. A Special Needs Trust can be very valuable in the right circumstances. The purpose of the trust is to make sure that your loved one is financially secure, without jeopardizing the government assistance that is otherwise assisting that person. In order to properly utilize a Special Needs Trust, contact an attorney, such as Shulman Law, to assist with the process of drafting it. A Special Needs clause can be written into a Last Will and Testament or a Trust, but it can also be an independent document.

There are some financial ramifications that can accompany a Special Needs Trust, especially when set up for the benefit of an elderly person. Speaking with a knowledgeable attorney in Elder Law is essential to understanding the benefits, and costs, associated. Alternatively, if a Special Needs Trust is not properly drafted, or is not included in an Estate Plan, the result can be the loss of Medicaid, SSI, food stamps, or other governmental supplemental care. Contact Shulman Law to ensure that your wishes are properly carried out, without inadvertently causing financial strain to your loved one.

Shulman Law is a full service Estate Planning Law Firm that can assist with all areas of Estate Planning, including: Contested Wills, Health Care Surrogate, Power of Attorney, Guardianship, Pre-need Guardianship, Inheritance, Living Wills, Missing Heir Searches, Contested Trusts and Estates, Decedents Estates, Estate Administration, Estate Litigation, Estate Planning, Estate Planning for Parents of Handicapped Children, Estate Planning for the Disabled, Estate Planning for the Elderly, Estate Planning for Unmarried Couples, Estate Planning for Gay and Lesbian Couples, LGBTQ Estate Planning, Estate Settlements, Family Trusts, Family Wealth Transfer, Financial Planning, Living Trusts, Personal Planning, Pet Trusts, Powers of Attorney, Revocable v. Irrevocable Trusts, Retirement Planning, Special Needs Trusts, Trust Administration, Trust and Estate Collections, Trust Law, Trust Litigation, Trust Planning, Unclaimed Property, Wealth Planning, and Wealth Preservation.