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Miami Estate Planning Law Blog

Gloria Vanderbilt estate worth far less than initial estimates

Some people in Florida might have assumed that when heiress and fashion icon Gloria Vanderbilt died, she left an enormous estate behind. There was speculation that it might be worth as much as $200 million. However, based on probate documents, her estate was valued at $1.5 million, and the majority of that was from her midtown co-op worth $1.3 million. She left the co-op to her oldest son and the rest to her youngest son, journalist Anderson Cooper.

Cooper had said in the past that he did not have a trust fund and did not expect a large inheritance. Vanderbilt was from one of the richest families in the country. Her $2.5 million trust fund would be worth $35 million in today's dollars. Her denim fashion line was reputed to be worth $100 million at one point. However, she reportedly spent a lavish amount of money on philanthropy and on herself.

When to use an irrevocable trust

Some people in Florida who are creating an estate plan may want to consider an irrevocable trust. While a revocable trust is a more common choice because it allows the creator to remain in control of the assets, there are some advantages to an irrevocable trust.

The trust creator, also known as the grantor, cannot make changes to the trust, but the beneficiary can. Assets in the trust are no longer considered to be the property of the grantor but of the trust. This can protect those assets from estate tax. It may not be necessary to pay taxes on income from a home placed in a trust, and a trust may protect assets from creditors or from legal judgments. Without a trust, if a person dies in debt, assets could be sold to pay off the debt.

Estate plans and chronic illness

Almost 157 million people around the country will have a chronic illness by 2020. Florida residents who have a chronic illness or have a loved one who is chronically ill should make sure that their estate plans include the legal documents that directly address their age-related and health-related challenges.

Such estate plans will not really differ from the typical estate plans that most people should develop. However, people with chronic illnesses should have an estate plan that take into account that their condition could progress to the point that their ability to understand the legal documents may soon be hindered. It is important that they get the necessary documents in place as soon as possible after they have received a diagnosis.

What are the behavioral signs of elder abuse?

If you suspect that an elderly loved one in Florida is enduring abuse at the hands of a guardian, it is important to take action right away. Unfortunately, the signs of mistreatment can be very subtle and difficult to spot. They may take the form of behavioral changes, especially if the abuse is not physical in nature.

To further complicate the matter, the American Society on Aging points out that the behavioral signs of abuse can often mimic symptoms related to a mental decline, making it more difficult to recognize their true significance. The following are different types of abuse that may occur and the behavioral changes that your loved one may exhibit as a result. 

How can you lower your risk of dementia?

A diagnosis of dementia limits your ability to make an estate plan in Florida. Your estate planning documents are likely to face a challenge if there is a question of whether or not you were of sound mind at the time that you drafted them. For this reason, it is a good idea to start your estate planning early. 

Needless to say, it is also desirable to avoid developing dementia in the first place. According to the Mayo Clinic, there are a number of risk factors that may lead to dementia. Some relate to your behaviors and are therefore changeable. 

Planning for incapacity: why and how

Estate planning is about more than deciding what will happen after you die. You also need to decide what happens if you become incapacitated or disabled. At the Law Offices of Frye and Vazquez, we know that no one in Florida wants to think about the possibility of disability or incapacity. Nevertheless, thinking about and planning for it is an aspect of estate planning at least as important as making out a will. It may even be more important because it could affect you directly in the future, while your will only affects those you leave behind. 

There are several reasons why it is important to plan for incapacity or disability. Appointing one or two individuals responsible for managing your affairs can prevent financial professionals and health care providers from receiving mixed messages. It can also help to prevent disagreements among family members over how to best handle your affairs. 

Why estate planning is easier with professional help

Estate planning can be a complex endeavor for those living in Florida or anywhere else in the United States. Therefore, it is generally a good idea to create an estate plan with the help of a professional. One attorney remarked that estate planning is akin to waterproofing a basement: While an individual could learn how to do the job him or herself, that person is taking a big risk by not asking for help with such an important project.

There are many problems that can arise when people try to make an estate plan on their own. The biggest problem is that a form could be filled out correctly but not executed properly. This may result in that document being deemed invalid. While the error may be fixed after an individual passes on, it will likely need to be corrected in court.

Estate planning critical for entrepreneurs

Business owners in Florida may have particular concerns when it comes to planning for the future. Making a will and having an estate plan is essential for everyone who wants to protect their loved ones, but it can be especially crucial for business owners. In many cases, a privately held business may be a major source of family income or comprise a large portion of the owner's estate. It can be important for spouses to talk with each other and develop an understand of how the business will be handled after the owner passes away, especially if the company relies on specialized or technical knowledge.

Without an estate plan in place, other business partners and surviving family members may be unsure how to handle matters after the owner dies. The issue of passing a business on to a surviving spouse can depend on how the company is set up. When the family owns it wholly, it is more common to pass on the business, even if there is a decision to sell it later. However, it can be important to develop other agreements if there are additional business partners involved. The partners may reach an agreement to buy out the surviving spouse, for example.

How to avoid estate planning issues

Individuals in Florida and throughout America should have an estate plan. That plan should account for as many different scenarios that a person can think of even if not all of them are likely to occur. For instance, it can be a good idea to include a power of attorney to ensure that financial and medical decisions can be made on an incapacitated person's behalf.

Having a living will means that family members won't have to go to court to determine what type of treatment a person should receive. It is a good idea to name multiple people to fill various roles in an estate. Having alternate trustees or agents allows a person to have his or her wishes carried out if the individual originally slated to fill a given role is unable to do so. Estate plans will ideally be reviewed or changed after a major life event.

The importance of an estate plan for blended families

It is not uncommon today for a person in Florida to be married two or more times in their life. Whether due to divorce or death, many people go on to find happiness again with a new spouse. While that experience can bring great joy into a person's life, it can also bring new complexities with it. If you are in a remarriage, especially with children on both sides, you will know this firsthand.

When it comes time to make a will or a trust, you and your new spouse must figure out how to balance your desire to provide for each other with your desire to leave something for your children and grandchildren. Defaulting to leaving everything to your spouse can leave your kids with nothing in the end.

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