How Should Parents Go About Picking a Guardian for Their Children?

On behalf of The Law Office of Wickersham and Bowers posted in Estate Planning on Monday April 12, 2021.

Have you written a will? If so, have you thought about your wishes for your children? Planning your estate is important, but your children’s long-term welfare should be your top priority. For this reason, your will should include the names of legal guardians you feel could best care for your children if you became incapacitated, passed away, or were otherwise unable to provide for them. Before you decide on guardians, the following are some key points to consider.

1. Think about the Big Picture

If one of the guardians you choose passes away before you update your will, and the other is unable to assume the role on their own, you’ll be in a dilemma. So, creating a backup plan that considers all of the “what-ifs” makes good sense, and gives you control of your children’s well-being even if you’re incapacitated or deceased.

2. Provide Detailed Instructions on How Your Children Should be Raised

Is there a certain school you want your children to attend? What about their nutritional needs and religion? As their biological parent, your wishes should be respected. While you can’t certify that your child will study ballet or learn how to play soccer, you can at least make clear your desires about how and where they’re raised.

3. Select Multiple Guardians

Choosing three or four different guardians safeguards your children’s future, particularly if your first or second choice fails to work out. Carefully selecting a number of backup guardians ensures that your children will be taken care of, no matter what happens.

4. Consider Parenting Skills, Beliefs, Finances, Age, and Living Situation

It might be beneficial if the named guardian is a parent, so they already know how to raise children. Also, their religious or moral beliefs, financial situation, age, and living situation are all key factors to consider when thinking about your children’s future life and well-being. If the prospective guardian meets all of your criteria except the element of financial security, you might consider establishing a trust for your children so their guardian can raise them in comfort. 

Ultimately, you are the only one who can determine the ideal custodian for your children if you’re unable to care for them yourself. To learn about how our experienced Florida family law attorneys can help you choose the right guardian and guide you through the guardianship process, call us toll free at 386-252-3000 or fill out the contact form on our website. 

Understanding Health Care Surrogates and Living Wills

On behalf of The Law Office of Wickersham and Bowers posted in Estate Planning on Monday March 08, 2021.

Both health care surrogates and a living will serve very similar functions, however, they operate in slightly different ways too. Below is an overview that will provide you with some information on what they are and how they are different, to help you decide which one is best for you.

Health Care Surrogates

A health care surrogate is an individual you appoint to make medical decisions based on your own wishes. You may have also heard it being referred to as a ‘power of attorney’ for health care. After you have appointed someone to be your health care surrogate, they will not get any power to make decisions until you are unable to make them yourself.

Due to the level of responsibility that you will be granting someone, you must be sure of who you decide to appoint. You need to ensure that they have a deep understanding of all your health care wishes and that they will make all decisions based on your own values. It is such a big decision, therefore you need to take plenty of time to consider your options.

Living Will

Much like a health care surrogate, a living will can help by ensuring that your medical decisions are based on your own wishes when you cannot make them yourself. Instead of appointing an individual to make the decisions for you, a living will is a document that will outline all your wishes. Your doctors will be able to follow your living will to ensure that they are treating you in the way that you would have asked. For example, it may contain any types of treatments that you do or do not want and how you feel about resuscitation.

However, while living wills are hugely helpful to doctors, they can be too narrow. It is impossible to foresee all types of situations and therefore it is important to note that your living will may not be helpful in all medical situations.

We Can Help

Overall, both health care surrogates and a living will are there to ensure that all medical decisions are made based on your wishes. While a health care surrogate is an individual making the decisions on your behalf, a living will is a document that outlines your wishes for your doctor to follow.

The Law Office of Wickersham and Bowers provides top-notch legal representation to clients in Daytona and southern Florida. Our areas of legal practice include family lawpersonal injuryeminent domain, and estate planning and probate. Our firm has over 60 years of addressing our clients’ legal issues. Please feel free to contact us by filling out our online form or calling us at (386) 252-3000.

Can an Estate Lawyer Help You Ensure Your Home is Safe Should You Become Incapacitated?

On behalf of The Law Office of Wickersham and Bowers posted in Estate Planning on Friday February 02, 2021.

When an individual becomes incapacitated without any legalized contingency plans, the decisions and allocutions made regarding the individuals are left to the laws of the state and outside parties claiming to act in the individual’s best wishes. The end results can frequently conflict with the wishes of the incapacitated individual. Consulting with an estate lawyer before an incapacitation can occur can prevent this from happening; estate lawyers can work with individuals to create legally binding power of attorney documentation, guardianship designations, wills, trusts, and other legal processes that ensure that the individual and their property are treated in accordance with their wishes.

Power of Attorney

A Power of Attorney (POA) is a legal document that grants a person the power to act on behalf of another person. The POA defines the decisions that the designated representative can resolve on the person’s behalf; such decisions often include medical care, finances, and personal property. Many states make legal distinctions between durable POAs for healthcare and durable POAs for finances, making the definition and division of assigned duties clearer. A POA can be revoked by the person granting permission as well as by a court issuing a nullification order. POAs are commonly used for individuals planning for contingencies due to severe mental or physical disabilities or incapacitations.

Guardianship

Guardianship is the legal process where a person is assigned to make decisions for another person who cannot communicate their decisions, lack the mental capacities to make sound decisions, or are provably susceptible to fraud or undue influence. Unlike a POA, a guardianship strips the covered person from many of their legal rights and can generally be overturned only by court orders. Guardianships are considered as last resort measures due to the restrictions of rights involved.The Law Office of Wickersham and Bowers provides top-notch legal representation to clients in southern Florida. Our areas of legal practice include family lawpersonal injuryeminent domain, and estate planning and probate. Our firm has over 60 years of addressing our clients’ legal issues. Please feel free to contact us by filling out our online form or calling us at (386) 252-3000.

Tips for Minimizing Estate Taxes Your Family May Be Responsible For

On behalf of The Law Office of Wickersham and Bowers posted in Estate Planning on Tuesday January 5, 2021.

Many people worry about what will happen to their money when they pass away. They have worked hard all of their lives, and they want their families to benefit from their saving and accumulated wealth. The last thing hard-working Americans want is for the government to take the money they have earned away from their family members through estate taxes. If you are worried about the impact of estate taxes on your property, here are some tips to make your family’s tax burden smaller. 

What Is An Estate Tax?

An estate tax is something your estate (what remains of your money or physical property after you die) must pay. Usually, your estate is your home, savings, stocks, and other assets you might have. Your estate must pay a tax after you pass on, and in some cases, it can be very steep. If you aren’t prepared, an estate tax can take up to 40% of the estate that you have left your relatives, which is shocking for many people. If you don’t want to give your money to the government, here are some ways to reduce your estate tax liability. 

How to Reduce Your Tax Liability

First, you need to know that the ceiling of taxable liability that you can claim for your estate is now one million dollars, rather than the five million ceiling pre-2012. While this may sound like a lot of money, it shrinks perceptibly when you figure in your retirement accounts and your home. 

The first thing you need to do to reduce your liability is to be sure you take all of your exemptions that you can for you and your spouse. You are allowed to claim all of the estate when your spouse dies with no liability. Next, if you have assets remaining, you can reduce your tax liability by giving the assets to family, or by putting them in a trust. Both are good ways to reduce your liability. You may also want to include in your estate tax plan purchasing life insurance to cover estate tax costs, so that your family isn’t left to pay tax debt. If you have questions about your estate, and estate taxes, you should consult an estate attorney. 

Make it a Holiday Tradition to Update Your Will and Testament

On behalf of The Law Office of Wickersham and Bowers posted in Estate Planning on Friday December 11. 2020.

When did you last update your will and testament? If you haven’t updated this important document within the past several years, it may be outdated. You may have additional heirs who need to be added to your will, or you may need to remove an heir. Your assets may also have changed. One good idea to ensure your will is always current is to make updating it a holiday tradition.

Why Update Your Will Yearly?

Many people may wonder why updating their will every year is necessary, especially if their assets and heirs haven’t changed. You may not actually need to make changes every year. However, you should still review your will annually. This will remind you of what your last wishes are and give you the opportunity to make changes.

Making this a Habit Ensures Changes Are Made

If you’ve had a new child, gotten divorced, or had any other major life changes, you may recognize that you need to update your will. However, life is busy. You may keep planning on making an appointment to have your will updated, but then you never seem to find the time to do so. If you make updating your will a holiday tradition, you’re more likely to do it because it’s a routine task. This helps ensure that these major life changes are reflected in your will. If they aren’t and you unexpectedly die, it can cause considerable work for your heirs.

Why Update Your Will Around the Holidays?

There’s no specific reason to updating your will around the holidays as opposed to any other time of the year. However, most people do tend to think about things in defined terms, whether that term is a week, a month, or a year. By updating your will around the holidays, you can look at the past year and determine what may have changed. It can be easier to list changes from January up to December instead of from last year’s June to this year’s June. As the year closes, most people have already made all of their major purchases or life changes. However, if you have a wedding scheduled for late December, you can always schedule your meeting to update your will a little later. Just make sure it gets done.

Things to Consider When Setting a Medical Power of Attorney

On behalf of The Law Office of Wickersham and Bowers posted in Estate Planning on Sunday November 1, 2020.

When it comes to the care and treatment of a loved one, you want to have your full focus on their best benefit. Setting a medical power of attorney can eliminate a lot of unnecessary stress. It puts your mind at ease because you have an assurance that the desired health decisions will be made according to you and your loved one’s wishes.  Establishing a medical power of attorney in Florida is a relatively simple process. However, having a legal advocate like the Law Office of Wickersham & Bowers will give you the assurance you need to make this process uncomplicated and stress-free.

What You Should Know When Setting a Medical Power of Attorney in Florida

A medical power of attorney (also known as a Florida Designation of Health Care Surrogate or an Advance Directive) is a legal document that authorizes you to appoint yourself (or an alternate individual) to make health-related decisions on behalf of a person who has specific health care preferences in the event he or she cannot make these decisions for themselves. 

For example, if you are appointed as medical power of attorney (MPA) to a loved one, you (or an additional person elected as a secondary authority) can make medical decisions regarding health treatment on behalf of your loved one according to his or her wishes set forth in the MPA documentation.  If a situation occurs when medical choices must be made and your loved one is not in a capacity to give clear instruction, as the MPA, you are the mouthpiece for your loved one when it comes to communicating with health providers. 

It is crucial to complete the medical power of attorney documentation accurately and appropriately according to your loved one’s intentions. Doing so protects the person you are serving in their stead, as well as legally protecting yourself under Florida Statues Section 765.203.

Getting the Best Care When Setting a Medical Power of Attorney

At the Law Office of Wickersham & Bowers, we realize being responsible for the medical wishes of someone you care for can be a tremendous responsibility. That is why we are here to guide you through the process of setting a medical power of attorney. We are here to make transitions in you and your loved one’s life as seamless and easy as possible. For further information about setting a medical power of attorney, please contact us by email or at 386-252-3000 today. Our caring, professional legal team in Daytona Beach Florida is here to help you during your time of need.

Agreements You Can Get Set Up Before or During Your Marriage to Protect Your Wealth

On behalf of The Law Office of Wickersham and Bowers posted in Estate Planning  on Thursday October 1, 2020.

When two people marry, often times financial responsibilities become shared; spouses take on each other’s pre-existing and future debts (credit card debts, collection accounts, student loans, etc.), open joint financial accounts, and file together during tax season. However, when couples divorce, shared assets are divided among both parties, as well as assets gained individually before or during marriage. 

No one wants to lose financial property in the event of a divorce. Marital agreements are contracts between spouses that protect an individual’s assets and address how alimony and property are distributed during a divorce.

Two Types of Marital Agreements

There are two types of marital agreements. A Prenuptial Agreement (also called “premarital agreements”) is signed by the potential spouses before the marriage. A Postnuptial Agreement is put in place after marriage. These contracts don’t have to be renewed and they don’t expire. It is smart financial planning to have a marital agreement in place because it allows spouses control of their individual property during marriage and keeps non-marital accounts, non-marital funds, and separate (not joined, non-marital) property separated. Marital agreements:

  • Cover each spouse’s financial rights during marriage and in the event of divorce 
  • Can protect individual annuities (life insurance policies, retirement plans, pensions, etc.) from being divided between spouses in event of divorce 
  • Determines a waiver of alimony during separation or divorce, or alimony costs and duration
  • May ensure individual’s income earned during marriage is not distributed to spouse in the event of divorce
  • Protects an individual from incurring the debts of their spouse during marriage and protects against legal obligation of debt repayment on those debts after divorce

For some, it might seem unromantic to discuss with your partner the subject of a marital agreement, but it is a very practical option to consider in the event of a divorce for a variety of reasons, plus it protects personal finances and family fortunes. Marital agreements are ideal for:

  • People who owned assets prior to the marriage that they want to protect, 
  • People with children from a previous relationship who want to protect their child’s inheritance from being subject to division in the event of divorce, 
  • Or people who have businesses they want to keep separate from their marriage in the event of divorce.

To file a marital agreement, it must meet certain requirements. Full disclosure of both spouses’ financial information to include statements and assets must be provided and reviewed by attorneys from different firms representing both spouses and found to meet all legal guidelines. 

At our firm we can help you explore options of asset protection and choose the right marital agreement for your needs. Contact our office to schedule a consultation.

Who Should You Choose As Your Power of Attorney?

On behalf of The Law Office of Wickersham and Bowers posted in Estate Planning on Monday August 31, 2020

Appointing a power of attorney can be an uncomfortable and terrifying prospect. Choosing the wrong person or people can throw the incapacitated parties, their families, and their estate into disarray. However, the alternate – leaving everything to chance after the incapacitated party’s death – could cause even more problems.

There are multiple factors to consider when deciding on whom to grant powers of attorney.

Types of Power of Attorney

There are two types of power of attorney:

  • Durable Power of Attorney: A durable power of attorney has control over the signer’s financial, legal, and business holdings from the moment that the signer finalizes the documents to the moment that the signer revokes the power.
  • Contingent Power of Attorney: A contingent power of attorney has control over the signer’s financial, legal, and business holdings from the moment that the signer is incapacitated to the moment that the signer is no longer incapacitated.

Note that both types of power of attorney are revoked if/when the signer dies.

Traits to Seek in a Power of Attorney

Selecting the right power of attorney is more complicated than picking the nearest friend or relative. The power of attorney will have to perform multiple duties under stressful circumstances. Powers of attorney should have the following qualities:

  • The power of attorney should get along cordially and respectfully with the signer’s family. Conflicts with the signer’s family can lead to litigation, which would reduce the value of the signer’s states and therefore reduce the chances of the signer’s wishes being met.
  • The power of attorney should be free of external influences that would override the signer’s wishes with their own. A strong-willed spouse, family member, or friend might successfully manipulate the power of attorney to gain the signer’s funds.
  • The power of attorney should advocate for the signer’s wishes without being unyielding. Compromises may be necessary to make peace with the signer’s family, but the signer’s wishes should be the top priority.
  • The power of attorney should not hesitate to put the signer’s best interest above their own. Designating someone as power of attorney grants tremendous influence over the signer’s estate. An unscrupulous power of attorney could take some or all of the signer’s estate. 
  • The power of attorney should not inherit from the signer’s estate upon death. This would create a conflict of interest where the power of attorney has little personal motivation to honor the signer’s wishes.

Let Us Help You Appoint the Right Power of Attorney

Our firm can help you manage your estate and ensure that your requirements are met. Call our offices, and we’ll schedule a consultation with you.

Should Kids Be Involved in Estate Planning for an Elderly Parent?

On behalf of The Law Office of Wickersham and Bowers posted in Estate Planning on Thursday, July 16th, 2020

Estate planning is often an uncomfortable topic for many people. Some think that planning their estates means that they are a step closer to the grave. Although it might be an uncomfortable to do, planning your estate can be instrumental in avoiding chaos after you have passed away. 

For the elderly, planning your estate should be a priority. That’s basically so that should anything happen to you; you’ll know that everything is in order. In cases where the parent is quite senior, having the children involved in the estate planning process and this is why:

Someone You Can Trust

People of advanced age are often taken advantage of by unscrupulous people in our society. As a parent gets older, their bodies or mental faculties might start to fail them. To ensure that all your day-to-day finances are taken care of, you will need to appoint a power of attorney. That power of attorney can be given to your child and as such they should be involved in the estate planning. 

In Cases Where There Is a Minor

In cases where the parent is elderly and they have children under the age of 18, a personal guardian should be appointed. To ensure that everything transitions as planned, it’s good to involve the child when making this decision. If something happens to you and the child is left without a parent, leaving that child to someone they know and trust will work out a lot better. As such you might want to speak to the kids about whom they feel most comfortable with. 

In Matters of Finance

When planning your estate, financial matters take up a huge chunk of the planning. Although it’s not a must to keep your children in the loop when it comes to financial matters, it’s always good practice to keep people in the loop concerning the state of things. If your children are adults, you can speak to them about the state of the finances and also let them know what you expect upon your departure. This is usually beneficial to the kids so that they can know what to expect upon your passing. 

All through this period of time, you should always have a trusted lawyer by your side. At Wickersham & Bowers, we ensure that all matters regarding your estate planning are handled professionally and diligently so that everything stays in order.