Common Terminologies Used in Estate Planning

On behalf of The Law Office of Wickersham and Bowers posted in Estate Planning on Tuesday October 12th, 2021.

Understanding the concepts of estate planning can be difficult and exhausting. First, you face difficulty while setting the tempo. Even if you get the hang of it, the extensive range of terminologies used in estate planning can make it harder for you to grasp the concept. Before getting into any field where you lack relevant knowledge, it is always recommended to get in touch with an expert who can guide you through the particular terminologies and the estate planning procedure. 

Here are some of the most repeatedly used terminologies, which will certainly help you go through a simple estate planning document.

Decedent

This term indicates the deceased person whose will is to be considered in front of the authorities. 

Beneficiary

The word ‘beneficiary’ indicates the person who is the authorized person to deal with relevant matters. In the cases of estate planning, the beneficiary is the person who receives control over the deceased’s possessions such as property, money, or other assets. This person can be a spouse, children, or other relatives (if mentioned in the will).

Executor

The executor is the person trusted to execute all the instructions written down by the decedent in their will. In most cases, this executor is a trained attorney. However, it can also be a relative or a friend. 

Testator 

The person assigned to pen down the will for the person in question is called a testator. While testator refers to a male writer, testatrix is a female writer.

Conservator

The court appoints a conservator for someone who is disabled, either mentally or physically, to take care of their assets and set up a will for them to be executed after they pass away. 

Power of Attorney 

If the relevant person in question cannot attend court hearings and deal with other formalities in an estate planning decision, a power of attorney is given charge to deal with all such aspects on behalf of the decedent. 

The Law Office of Wickersham & Bowers deals with all kinds of cases associated with Estate Planning. Contact now or get in touch with our 24/7 customer live support to know more. 

What Is a Prenuptial and a Postnuptial Agreement?

On behalf of The Law Office of Wickersham and Bowers posted in Estate Planning on Monday September 13th, 2021.

What Is a Prenuptial and a Postnuptial Agreement?

Prenuptial and postnuptial agreements are commonly confined to the events of marriage and engagement. Though, there is a common misconception that needs to be addressed. In the olden times, these agreements were discouraged. They were thought to encourage the dissolution of relationships. However, with all the advancements in today’s world, people realize the importance of the protection of their assets for themselves and the generations to come.

Prenuptial Agreement

People considering a second marriage and having major assets can benefit greatly from a prenuptial agreement. Not only that, people who are getting married at a very old age and want to secure some of their assets for their children can make good use of prenuptial agreements.

Sorting such details before getting married can be very useful to avoid marital disputes and divorces in the future. If things are already classified as shared property and separate property before marriage, the property division is easier. This applies to divorce or the death of the significant other.

However, all the assets possessed by both partners must be fully disclosed to form an agreement. In addition, the presence of an attorney at the time of constructing a prenuptial agreement will be helpful in case one of the partners has been dishonest about their possessions.

Postnuptial Agreement

A postnuptial agreement, as opposed to a prenuptial agreement, is drafted after a couple engages in marriage. It can be useful to finalize the distribution of assets in case of sudden demise and other prominent events.

One can opt for a postnuptial agreement to secure savings and assets after a major financial crisis. For instance, the wife may want to ensure a sizeable amount of money to avoid turning into debt because of her husband. Similarly, many other reasons can be the cause of drafting a postnup between couples.

Insufficient knowledge about these legal proceedings may cause you huge losses. Therefore, having an attorney on your side in such matters is always recommended. For that reason, we are here to assist you every step of the way at Wickersham & Bowers.

Do You Need an Estate Lawyer?

On behalf of The Law Office of Wickersham and Bowers posted in Estate Planning on Wednesday August 11th, 2021.

Planning an estate is both a sad time and a complicated time for many families. Depending on the size of the estate and beneficiaries involved, the entire process can feel overwhelming. While it is entirely possible to handle the planning of an estate on your own, there are dozens of legal matters that can come up that can make the entire process even more confusing and take much longer than it should. 

Here are a few things to consider when deciding whether or not you need an estate lawyer on your side. 

How Much Does the Executor Know About the Estate? 

When putting together an estate, there is always someone who is put in charge of all the finances, the assets, and the distribution of the estate. This requires not only an understanding of any wills or other instructions left for the estate, but a deep understanding of the finances surrounding the estate and how best to manage and distribute wealth for all parties involved. 

Because of tax laws surrounding inheritance, the age of the benefactors, and other issues, it is generally a good idea to have an estate lawyer there to assist with planning the estate. 

Are There Minors Involved? 

In the case where part of an estate is to be left to children under the age of 18 (or in some cases 21) then it is necessary for a conservator to be assigned. This person is responsible for managing the assets of the children until they reach legal age. 

Depending on the size of the estate, the way monies are assigned and divided, this can be quite complex and requires the aid of a trained legal professional to execute properly. 

Is Probate Necessary? 

In instances where there is not a clear line of inheritance or when assets are discovered outside the purview of the will, it is generally necessary for these items to go through probate. It is always advised to have a legal representative handle these matters as they can help prevent delays and make sure everything is processed properly. 

At Wickersham and Bowers we know how stress estate planning can be. That’s why we want to be there by your side to make the process as simple and easy as we can. 

Contact us today for a consultation

Who in the Family Could Possibly Challenge Your Will?

On behalf of The Law Office of Wickersham and Bowers posted in Estate Planning on Monday June 14th, 2021.

The number of people who can contest a will is limited. Only someone who would be personally and financially affected by the terms of a will may bring a lawsuit to challenge the will’s validity. Someone in this position is considered to have “standing” by the courts. With this in mind, how does someone stand to contest a will?

Possible Heirs That Were Disinherited

Someone so closely related to the person who passed that they would have received a portion of that person’s estate if they did not have a will is known as an “heir-at-law.” Heirs-at-law are usually considered to have standing to challenge a will.

Beneficiaries Mentioned In A Prior Will

If a person (or an entity) was named in a previous, older will, this would provide sufficient standing to contest the newer will if it removes them from the document. They would also have standing if their share of the estate was smaller in the newer will. In the same way, if an executor of the estate was in the older will but removed in a subsequent will, that person will likely have standing to contest the newer will.

In each case above, each person listed would still have to demonstrate the will in question is for some reason invalid.

Who Cannot Contest A Will?

If you are not a beneficiary in a previous will, or not an heir-at-law, you are unlikely to have legal standing to challenge a will. This applies even if you believe the will is not valid. Minors are another group that usually cannot have standing to contest a will. In most states, however, a parent or guardian is permitted to challenge a will on a child’s behalf.

What Should You Do?

Contesting a will is complex series of laws. If you are considering contesting a will, your first step should be to consult a lawyer that specializes in these kinds of probate matters to see if you may have grounds. Contact the Law Office of Wickersham & Bowers to set up an appointment with one of our experienced lawyers.

Tips for Avoiding Probate

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

Avoiding probate, the legal process of resolving the estate of a deceased person, and distributing that person’s property to beneficiaries, can save money, accelerate the passing on of assets, and protect a family’s privacy. The two major grounds to avoid probate relate to both the time and to the financial resources typically needed to complete the process. Since probate involves the court system, it requires a variety of time-consuming proceedings and hearings that may take months or sometimes years to complete. Meanwhile, the heirs see no inheritance. Besides the slow administration process are the costs related to settling an estate through probate court. The court reduces part of the estate’s value through probate fees, and if an attorney is involved, even more costs are accrued, thus further cutting into the inheritance.

Another rationale for why you want to avoid probate is to keep one’s financial affairs confidential. Probate proceedings enter public record. This means anyone can get the information on how the estate was allocated. This includes the value and the name of the recipient.

Creating a Living Trust is the Easiest Solution

For these reasons, avoiding probate is often the best course of action. The only realistic way for that to happen is to allocate your assets straight to your loved ones. This can be achieved in several ways, but in most instances, the simplest is by creating what is known as a living trust.

When you create a living trust, the writers or grantors of the trusts fund them by placing assets they select into them. They then keep control of those assets until they pass. The grantors also select a person to be the trustee, distributing the property within the trust, based on the grantor’s directions after that person’s passing. When you have a living trust, the whole process occurs without having to engage probate law or turn to the probate court.

Other Methods You Can Use to Avoid Probate

Besides creating a living trust, there are several other ways that you can avoid probate, such as:

  • Joint ownership of property so that one owner gets full possession after the death of the other;
  • Including beneficiaries on every insurance or retirement account to whom benefits will go after someone passes; and
  • Assigning recipients for TOD or POD accounts. TOD stands for transfer-on-death, while POD stands for pay-on-death. 

A Closing Note to Avoid Probate

Make sure you recognize that there are some states in the US have probate procedures for estates that are below specific value. Some states probate laws are easier, shorter, or simply different than this overview. Therefore, whether you should try to avoid probate is relative to the situation in your area.

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.