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Clearwater Probate and Estate Administration Law Blog

Blended families complicating estate planning

A few decades ago, the estate planning process was relatively easy. With less divorce and a stable economy, many parents simply passed along their estate to their children in a will. Times are changing.

Divorce is much more frequent, as are people remarrying, which can introduce stepchildren into a relationship. Life expectancy has also increased, as have health care costs. The reality is simple: Families need to get to work on estate planning in an open, honest manner, so that no one's feelings are hurt when they get less than they thought they would.

Planning more complicated for foreign parents with US kids

People have moved to Florida for many reasons during the last several decades. A friendly tax and retirement climate is one of the main reasons. And people have come from all over the world to live there. For parents who live in another country but have children living in Florida, estate planning is still important.

For parents who want to make sure they leave as much to their children as possible, being able to handle multinational tax issues is paramount. Many countries are now sharing information in order to rein in tax dodging, and the Internal Revenue Service is allowing people to voluntarily report funds that had been stashed offshore.

Suddenly flush with cash? Start planning

This blog often talks about the need for older Florida residents to plan for the future. And while those estate planning decisions are definitely necessary, what about the people who suddenly come into a great amount of wealth and don't know what to do about it? Luckily many of the decisions that need to be made are the same.

Many times we hear stories of lottery winners or children who come into a large inheritance blowing the money within a few years. One of the most paramount decisions that advisers recommend is to wait before making any large purchases. Take the time to make a plan and consult with experienced financial advisers.

Advanced directives essential in estate planning

When it comes to health care decisions for elderly Florida residents, many are unprepared. It can be intimidating to think about, but along with making a will when estate planning, there needs to be a plan for who will make decisions that honor your wishes when it comes to your medical care.

Florida residents can take their lead from physicians. A 2003 survey of 745 doctors found that 64 percent of participants had an advanced directive, a document that outlines their wishes when it comes their medical care when they can't make those decisions on their own. Sadly, only 20 percent of the public has taken these same measures.

Comprehensive retirement plans must include tax discussions

Florida's status as one of the most retiree-friendly states in the country is due in no small part to its warm weather and beautiful scenery. The lack of taxes on retirement benefits and estate contributions sure does not hurt either. Since Florida also does not have an income tax, they aren't taxed on retirement income either. That gives Florida an edge as a retiree haven that some other states just don't have.

As our population ages and life expectancies continue to climb, more people are stretching their retirement income for longer periods of time. This means that the issue of retirement income taxation is more important than ever before; having to factor in for tax deductions could take years off a retiree's livable income and it could impact other estate-related issues as well. The fact that Florida doesn't tax such income can be an incentive for some people to spend their sunset years in the Sunshine State.

Farmers especially need to plan ahead to minimize taxes

While this blog has reported extensively on estate taxes and the need to plan ahead in order to minimize the tax burden for future heirs, it is especially important for Florida farmers to plan ahead.

As we've previously reported, if Congress doesn't act, the estate tax exemption will decrease from $5.1 million to $1 million, and the tax rate on that estate will increase from 35 percent to 55 percent. And this could be especially dangerous for farmers who think they will just be able to pass their estate on to their children, because the land values are increasing quickly.

2013 could be costly for estate taxes

With a presidential election set to happen later this year, and a polarized political climate unlike any in this country's history, Florida residents should not count on any tax relief being extended for 2013. This could have large implications for Florida residents who are working on an estate plan and trying to keep as much wealth in the family as possible.

For 2012, the gift tax and estate tax exemption is $5.12 million, meaning anything given away under that amount cannot be taxed. But that exemption will expire at the end of this year unless Congress acts, which is not guaranteed.

Man adopts girlfriend to protect trust assets

A strange case is developing in Florida, as a man who is the target of a wrongful death lawsuit is trying to use legal maneuvers to protect assets in a trust that he set up for his children. The trust is worth hundreds of millions of dollars, according to reports.

The 48-year-old man has two biological children who are not yet 35 years old, the age he designated that they will have access to the trust, so he legally adopted his 42-year-old girlfriend as his daughter, which would entitle her to one third of the assets in the trust.

Equal distribution does not avoid probate, it avoids probate litigation

As Florida residents get older and decide to start thinking about the various estate planning decisions that need to be made, one of the key goals in mind is to usually help their heirs and beneficiaries avoid probate court and lengthy litigation over control of assets. And these are situations that can affect any person, not just the super wealthy.

One estate planning attorney who has a history of being in the middle of probate battles involving celebrities and other wealthy clients, said one of the biggest problems he encounters is second or third spouses being pitted against children from a first marriage.

Every adult needs a will

This blog recently reported on the mishaps that celebrities made in estate planning and how Florida residents can learn from those mistakes. This week's annual celebration of the life of Martin Luther King Jr. brought attention to the fact that he never made a will before he died.

King's family is currently battling his 86-year-old former secretary over possession of documents that the secretary says King wanted her to have. His family however, says the notes belong to King's estate, which his family controls. The documents include a note from civil rights activist Rosa Parks. Had King made a will, he could have specified who he wanted to have possession of the documents.

The Charles Law Offices
Phone:     727-475-6340
Toll Free:  866-607-6531
Fax:         727-683-1484

Clearwater Office
Plymouth Plaza
26750 U.S. Highway 19 North
Suite 110
Clearwater, FL 33761
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Largo Office (Main Office)
Wells Fargo Building

801 West Bay Drive
Suite 518
Largo, FL 33770
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St. Petersburg Office
Wittner Centre
5959 Central Avenue
Suite 100
St. Petersburg, FL 33710
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Ask Attorney Susan M. Charles, J.D., LL.M.

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