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Monday, December 19, 2016

Simple Tips for Personal Representatives


How can I prepare for being a personal representative?

While being named as the personal representative (another way of saying executor) of a friend or loved one's estate may be an honor, it is also a serious responsibility. In fact, managing deceased person's assets can be complicated and stressful, but there are steps you can take to make getting the job done easier.

The first thing to recognize is that coping with the loss of a family member or friend is emotionally challenging. Dealing with grief can not only make you sad, but also irritable and anxious, all of which can affect your ability to think clearly and to make reasonable decisions. While there may be things that need to be done quickly, such as arranging for the funeral, everyone should take time to mourn the loss of a loved one before assuming the duties of an executor.

Once you're ready to begin the legal process of administering the deceased's estate, here are some simple tips to keep in mind:


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Wednesday, December 14, 2016

The Nexus of Digital Assets and Estate Planning

What is the Florida Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act?

Americans increasingly conduct their affairs digitally through the use of email, social media, computer storage of digital pictures, videos and music, as well as online bank, insurance, and investment accounts. Many people never stop to consider what will become of their online existence if they are incapacitated, and how their electronic property will be administered when they die. Human life is short, but the Internet is forever. Who will manage our digital selves when our biological selves are no longer able to do so?
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Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Tips for Avoiding a Will Contest

How can I prevent my will from being contested?

Will challenges and probate litigation are much more common than many people realize, and they often drag on for months and years and can even deplete the estate. While entire treatises have been written about this topic, there are just a few basic reasons a will can be contested and some simple steps you can take to prevent such a will contest after your death.

Reasons for a Will Contest

There are a number of bases on which a will (or, with much greater difficulty, a trust) can be challenged. The first is that the will itself was not properly executed. Generally, the document must be signed by the person making it (the "testator") along with two witnesses. While it is not technically necessary to notarize the will, Florida probate law has a provision for "self-proven wills" which can simplify the probate process. This requires the testator and the witnesses to execute a Self-Proving Affidavit before a notary. The need to have a properly prepared and executed last will and testament is one of many reasons that do-it-yourself wills are problematic.

The best way to avoid a will contest is to engage the services of an experienced estate planning attorney who takes the time to fully understand your life situation and your wishes before drafting your will. If the will is later challenged, the attorney who met with you privately, who assessed your capacity. who prepared the document, who explained it to you, and who supervised its execution will be a very important witness in defense of that will.



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Tuesday, November 15, 2016

A Childless Single's Guide to Estate Planning

What basic estate planning documents should single people with no children have in place?

While many of our estate planning clients are married couples or single people with children, It is also important that single people without children create an estate plan. Of course the concerns and needs of childless singles differ, but it is just as vital for them to have a comprehensive plan to protect themselves and their assets. Unmarried people don't have spouses who can usually step in to manage the affairs of an incapacitated married person, and childless people don't have descendants to serve as their "natural heirs." Consequently, it is critical that they thoughtfully plan their estates and advance directives.

By failing to have a will and other essential documents in place, the state's laws will determine which heirs will inherit your assets. These "heirs at law" are usually close relatives such as children, parents and siblings. If no living relatives can be located, the state may ultimately acquire these assets. In either scenario, these decisions may not be consistent with a person's wishes, or disputes can arise between those who believe they are entitled to an inheritance. For example, the artist Prince passed away unexpectedly in 2016 without a will. He was unmarried and had no children, and his parents had both predeceased him. Under the laws of the state of Minnesota, where he lived, his siblings would inherit his substantial estate in equal shares. Since Prince had no will identifying his siblings, several persons came forward claiming to be children of his late father. The result was lengthy and expensive probate litigation.


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Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Common Estate Planning Mistakes


How can I avoid mistakes in my estate plan? 

Many people have heard of the term "estate planning," but may not understand what it means. Put simply, estate planning is about getting your affairs in order, protecting your assets, deciding in advance who will make decisions for you if you are unable to do so, and providing for your loved ones. Although there is a wealth of information at our fingertips online, the internet is not a reliable source for estate planning information and guidance. As as result, many individuals are poorly advised and misinformed. Let's take a look at a few common estate planning mistakes.


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Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Nursing Homes Barred from Requiring Arbitration


What is being done about elder abuse in nursing homes?

Last month, we wrote a post on the factors involved in selecting a nursing home in light of widespread neglect and abuse in the elder care system. The Obama Administration has since issued a rule that will make it easier for the families of injured nursing home residents to sue for damages.  Specifically, the US Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (a division of the Department of Health and Human Services) has barred all nursing homes that receive federal funding from requiring residents to resolve disputes through arbitration. This new rule is designed to provide greater protection to as many as 1.5 million residents.


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Sunday, September 25, 2016

Things to Consider When Choosing a Nursing Home

How can I select the best nursing home for my aging parent?

The fact that our society as a whole is living longer and the number of seniors is growing fast means that many individuals will face the difficult choice of entering an assisted living facility ("ALF") or a nursing home. While many elder care facilities provide quality health care to their residents and patients, nursing home neglect and abuse continues to plague the system. For this reason, elders and their loved ones need to choose an ALF or nursing home carefully, and also have a plan for financing long-term care.  

Why are patients injured in nursing homes?

Patients are often neglected and injured for a number of reasons. One overarching problem is that some nursing homes care more about making profits rather than patient care. As such, these facilities look to cut costs by not retaining adequate staff or hiring workers who have not received adequate training.

When patients are neglected, not properly supervised, or heavily sedated (as they sometimes are in an effort to minimize their care needs) they are more likely to be injured in falls, which can have catastrophic consequences



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Thursday, September 22, 2016

Why Young Parents Need an Estate Plan

What steps do new parents need to take to protect their family?

New parents are faced with many challenges, usually including exhaustion and sleep deprivation. While adjusting to parenthood requires hard work and patience, it is also essential to think about the future. No one wants to think about death or becoming disabled when welcoming a new child into the world, but this is the perfect time to protect your family by putting an estate plan in place.



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Sunday, August 21, 2016

The Ins and Outs of Deportation

Under what circumstances can deportation take place?

Since most Americans are themselves here as a result of immigration, the forced removal of new immigrants from our midst is a controversial and emotionally fraught matter.

Deportation, legally known as "removal," occurs when a non-citizen is ordered to leave the United States. There are several reasons a non-citizen may be deported. Usually deportation occurs as a result of a violation of immigration laws, typically because the immigrant either entered the US without authorization, or overstayed after legal entry, or worked in the US without possessing a visa that authorized employment. Far less often, deportation occurs as a result of the non-citizen committing a serious crime. Deportation is very traumatic to the affected immigrants, who may have established homes, families, and social networks in the United States, and who in many cases no longer have any of the above in their homelands. Since most immigrants enter the United States seeking to work, deportation also can be disruptive to their employers, who face the unexpected loss of valuable employees. From every perspective, the threat of deportation is a serious matter and should not be taken lightly. If you are embroiled in a situation involving possible deportation, it is essential that you consult with an attorney experienced in dealing with immigration matters.


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Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Crackdown on Abuse of Guardianships in Florida

How is Florida trying to protect its most vulnerable seniors?

The Sunshine State, where so many Americans look forward to spending their retirement years, has a disportionately large elderly population. Unfortunately, along with the outsized senior population comes a larger than average proportion of guardianships and, regrettably, the fraud that sometimes accompanies them. Not only does Florida have the largest population over the age of 65 in the country, but thanks in large part to Alzheimer's, dementia and other debilitating mental or physical ailments among the elder population, there are 50,000 people who have been declared "wards" of court-supervised guardianships in the state. A breathtaking amount of wards' assets-- nearly $4 billion -- is under the control of guardians.


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Thursday, July 21, 2016

Probate and Estate Planning In the Cloud: Florida Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act

What is the Florida Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act, and why is it important?

On July 1, 2016, the Florida Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act took effect. "Digital assets" include electronic records like emails, texts, online photographs, and social media accounts. Before the passage of the Digital Assets Act, Florida, like most other states, lacked any legal authority addressing the disposition of such assets in the event that an individual becomes incapacitated or dies. As a result, fiduciaries - including agents acting under Durable Power of Attorney, court-appointed guardians, trustees, and Personal Representatives of estates - were frequently denied access to digital assets by custodians of the incapacitated or deceased person's accounts. Every experienced probate attorney can attest to the growing problem posed by lack of legal access to digital assets.


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