Jump to Navigation

Miami Estate Planning Law Blog

Does the new tax law make my estate plan obsolete?

As a savvy Florida resident, you know that Congress passed and President Trump signed into law the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act in late December. What you may not have asked yourself, however, is whether or not this new law affects your estate plan.

As Market Watch explains, the new law may well rid your estate of the need to pay federal estate taxes, the infamous "death tax" that plagued so many estates for so many years. Under the old law, your estate had to pay an estate tax if its value was over $5.6 million. Under the new law, that tax-free value is now $11.2 million. Since Florida does not have its own estate tax, this means that unless you are among the uber-rich, your heirs now get more than they would have had you died last year.

Creative things you might include in your pet's trust

Hollywood may have contributed to the erroneous belief that you can leave your inheritance to your beloved cat or dog if you have no other heirs. However, real life is not as simple for our furry friends. You may consider your pets to be members of your family, but the law does not see it that way. Fortunately, at the Law Offices of Frye & Vazquez, P.L., we know how you and other Florida pet owners can include pets in your estate planning and make sure their needs are taken care of if they outlive you.

We have brought up the topic of pet trusts previously in this blog. As you know, you can designate someone to take over as caregiver to your animals. Pet trusts can be as customized as you need, points out the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. You might consider adding the following points to your pet trust, which could ensure your pet's emotional as well as physical well-being:

  • The walking or playtime schedules your dog enjoys, as well as his favorite toys and treats
  • Instructions on how to cook homemade cat or dog food with fresh ingredients
  • Your wishes on how to care for your pet when he or she reaches old age, as well as compassionate euthanasia preferences
  • Not only your first choice as your pet's caregiver, but a second and third choice if the first choice is unwilling or unable to take on the responsibility
  • A monetary reward for caring for your pets, which you may want to keep a "surprise" until the caregiver agrees, to ensure nobody is solely driven by the prospect of a financial reward

For what reasons can you challenge a will in Florida?

If you feel that someone's Florida will disinherited you or insufficiently provided for you, you may be wondering if you should challenge it. The first thing you need to know is that not everyone can challenge a will. You can only do so if you are an "interested party;" i.e., a close family member who has the legal right to inherit from the decedent had (s)he died without making a will.

A will challenge is difficult, and upwards of 99 percent of wills go through probate without one. There are only a few reasons why a probate court will overturn someone's will, but if you can prove that one of those reasons applies to the will you are challenging, you may prevail.

What is a living will?

If you are a Florida resident who has very strong preferences about what kind of end-of-life medical care you want to receive and/or what types of medical treatments you want and do not want should you become incapacitated by illness or injury, you may wish to consider having a living will. As FindLaw explains, a living will, often called an advance directive, is not really a will as people normally use that word.

Whereas a regular will contains your instructions regarding who you want to receive which pieces of your property when you die, a living will contains your instructions to doctors and hospitals regarding the medical treatments and procedures you want them to perform - or not perform - if you become terminally ill or sustain injuries that leave you in a permanent vegetative state.

What does it mean to die intestate in Florida?

If you are a Florida resident who has not yet gotten around to making a Last Will and Testament, you may wish to reconsider your recalcitrance. While no one likes to think about their own death, having a will is one of the best ways for you to make sure that when you die, your property will go to those and only those to whom you wish to distribute it. If you die before you make a will, you will be considered to have died intestate and the state of Florida will decide who your heirs are and which of them gets which portion of your assets and property.

The Florida Bar explains that by law your descendants, and therefore your heirs, are your current spouse and your children, natural or adopted, whether by your current spouse or a previous relationship. Under some circumstances your descendants could also include your grandchildren, parents, siblings and other people more distantly related to you.

Is it possible to avoid probate in Florida?

Some Florida residents dread the thought of probate. When your loved one dies, maybe you just want to make the arrangements, attend the funeral and settle any legal matters as fast as possible without any interference from judges or courtrooms.

What is it about probate that seems so intimidating? FindLaw defines it simply as "a court-supervised process of distributing and overseeing property after a person dies." That cannot be so bad, can it? Yet, you may be hoping to avoid it, and the good news is sometimes you can.

The importance of a trustworthy guardian for elders

Florida elder law is designed to protect aging individuals, sometimes in cases when they are unable to make healthy and competent decisions on their own. However, these protections come with a cost: One must place one's trust in an appointed guardian. Guardianship should be established carefully, regardless of the fact that it is a relatively straightforward process in the state.

The main argument for careful consideration of guardianship comes from the legal definition of the guardian-ward relationship. The Florida Legislature website has the full text of the law online, which begins by stating that an individual's rights are removed and transferred when a court establishes guardianship. This includes civil rights, including many basic freedoms, as well as legal rights, such as signing contracts and interacting with accounts. Guardians must uphold certain professional duties in order to legally wield these rights for another person.

Tips for reducing the burden of estate tax

If you are among the many Florida residents working on your estate plan, you would be wise to consider whether you will have to pay estate tax. If so, it may prove beneficial for you to think about how you might be able to minimize the amount owed. At the Law Offices of Frye & Vazquez, P.L., we have helped many residents work through these and other estate-planning issues, aiding Floridians as they plan for the future while helping them retain more of their own wealth.

Per U.S. News & World Report, just how much you may ultimately owe in estate taxes will depend on several factors, among them how much you have in assets. Odds are, you want to minimize your estate tax burden as much as possible so that more of the assets you worked so hard to generate make their way to your beneficiaries, and there are several techniques you can employ in doing so.

Tips for reducing inheritance conflict

Estate planning can be a tricky process, and in many cases, not everyone is going to be pleased with how you decided to distribute your Florida estate. At the Law Offices of Frye & Vasquez, P.L., we understand the many ways in which estate planning and distributing your assets can lead to conflict among your loved ones, and we have helped many people involved in the estate planning process take strides to minimize associated stresses.

Per the American Association of Individual Investors, there are certain steps you can take during estate planning that minimize conflict and allow your beneficiaries to lose as little money as possible to taxes and the government. For example, you may find it beneficial to create a separate list that details who is to receive what in terms of your personal possessions, which are often the root of familial conflict. Make sure to sign and date this list to ensure validity, regardless of whether you handwrite or type it.

Consider a trust if disinheriting a child

If you live in Florida and are working on your estate plan, you may have concerns about leaving money or assets to one or more of your children. Parents disinherit their children for many different reasons, but regardless of your reasoning for doing so, establishing a trust may help ensure your wishes come to fruition. At the Law Offices of Frye & Vasquez, P.L., we understand the estate planning needs of parents who wish to disinherit their children, and we have helped many such clients enact plans for their futures, and those of their families.

Per Kiplinger, creating a trust may help you avoid the process of probate, which can prove lengthy and complicated, and it may also help prevent your disinherited children from disputing your wishes in court. How? During probate, your heirs and beneficiaries receive notification that they are named in your will, and the details of your estate also become public record, giving children you left out an opportunity to contest the omission.

2015 top 100 lawyer ASLA
Avvo Rating Excellent Top Attorney Estate Planning
Subscribe To This Blog's Feed

Contact Form

Bold labels are required.

Contact Information

The use of the Internet or this form for communication with the firm or any individual member of the firm does not establish an attorney-client relationship. Confidential or time-sensitive information should not be sent through this form.


Privacy Policy

FindLaw Network