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Estate Planning

Estate Planning involves more than just creating a plan for the distribution of assets at death. Lifetime considerations are at least as important. Living wills, healthcare powers of attorney and other "advance directives" are now an important part of the law. Effective October 1, 2011, Florida adopted a comprehensive statute that has significant impact on what powers of attorney are valid in Florida, what a power of attorney must say and how it must be signed in order to be effective and recognized in Florida.

Asset protection, especially in connection with medicaid planning, is an evolving area of the law that is important to more and more seniors. The use of qualified income trusts, personal service contracts, irrevocable trusts, and other methodologies are available to help in medicaid qualification.

Everyone needs a will, whether in connection with a trust or as a stand-alone blueprint for asset distribution at death. In addition, a living trust may be appropriate, not only as a "will substitute" to avoid probate, but also as a way of providing for asset management before or after death. Where a client's assets warrant, a trust can be drafted to minimize or avoid the federal estate tax, or for charitable giving purposes.


Trust and Estate Litigation

‚ÄčTrust and Estate Litigation has become a more frequent occurrence. Trustees often do not account or do not fully account to beneficiaries, despite the clear requirements of Florida law. We represent trustees who are being accused of failing to account or for the commission of other acts or omissions. We also represent beneficiaries who feel a trustee has failed in his duties.

Likewise, we represent disgruntled estate beneficiaries as well as personal representatives who are being sued by disgruntled beneficiaries.

The sorts of issues that arise in trust and estate litigation include will contests, probate of lost or destroyed wills, establishment of a lost trust, trust contests, fiduciary accounting disputes, creditor claim disputes, fiduciary liability, trust reformation, removal of a fiduciary, and claims of undue influence.


Estate and Trust Administration

Estate and Trust Administration generally refers to the post-death process of marshalling the decedent's assets, determining and paying creditors, satisfying tax liabilities, accounting to beneficiaries, and distributing assets to beneficiaries. The fiduciary (personal representative or trustee) has specific duties, obligations and responsibilities in performing his or her duties. When we represent a fiduciary, we assist in making sure the fiduciary is aware of the various duties they have undertaken, advise of the time deadlines and other requirements, help see that tax obligations are met, that all transactions are properly accounted for, that the assets are properly distributed to the beneficiaries, and in the end that the fiduciary is discharged from personal liability.


Real Estate

Real Estate sales are beginning to pick up, and we represent both buyers and sellers, landlords and tenants. In addition, we handle closings and write title insurance through Attorneys' Title Insurance Fund, Inc. We are regularly asked to advise as to ownership issues for estate planning purposes and prepare the necessary deeds or other documents to establish ownership as desired.


Medicaid Planning Elder Law Issues

Medicaid Planning and other Elder Law issues have become more and more important in recent years. Where appropriate, a durable power of attorney and a healthcare power of attorney can be instrumental in providing an effective agent and advocate for a client. Florida's new power of attorney statute, which went into effect on October 1, 2011, helps clarify the law, but also makes it clear that clients should be reviewing any power of attorney they already have to make sure it fully accomplishes what they want and that it complies with the new statute. Although today much medicaid planning often takes place at the last minute, because of the "five year look back," clients who are concerned about asset preservation in conjunction with medicaid qualification should review their situation sooner rather than at that last minute.

In addition to advice and counsel as to medicaid planning, the legal documents necessary to protect assets and qualify a client for medicaid qualification can be timely prepared, including qualified income trusts, personal service contracts, irrevocable trusts and enhanced life estate deeds (Lady Bird deeds).

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