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Miami Estate Planning Law Blog

How can I choose an executor for my estate?

The executor of your estate will be responsible for many essential duties after you’re gone. From settling outstanding debts to ensuring your heirs receive your assets, the duties of an executor are often quite complex. That’s why picking the right candidate is so important, and AARP offers guidance on how you can do just that.

Consider age and state of health

What is the federal estate tax?

When you create your estate plan in Florida, you have to prepare for everything. This not only includes ensuring all your assets are accounted for but also that you plan ahead for what happens after you die when it comes to taxes. While the state may assess estate taxes on your estate, the federal government does as well.

According to the IRS, taxes paid on any property transferred as part of your estate are estate taxes. These may not affect you as they are only for an estate worth $11,180,000 or more as of 2018. Most people will not have an estate that large. However, if you do, it is essential that you understand the tax implications.

What is the cy-pres doctrine?

If you are the executor of an estate, you may be responsible for ensuring the terms of the trusts and wills are carried out according to the deceased’s wishes. When a trust is dissolved, the money and/or property is transferred to the beneficiary designated in the trust. There are some situations, however, where the details of the trust may be impossible to carry out, as the terms have become impractical, illegal or otherwise impossible to pursue. In this case, the cy-pres doctrine may come into effect. Rather than voiding or failing the entire trust, the cy-pres doctrine enables the executor or the court to adjust the terms of the trust so that they can be carried out.

The term ‘cy-pres’ means ‘as near as possible’, meaning the terms of the trust will be changed to mirror the original terms, as closely as possible. The property or money included in the trust will be designate to a charitable purpose that is closely related to the original terms of the trust. There may be a case where the court decides to fail the entire trust rather than apply it toward a charitable organization. If the deceased had a particular purpose or intent in accomplishing a specific goal with the money toward a certain charity, the court may fail the trust if that particular goal could not be accomplished.

Estate planning with illiquid assets

When Florida residents create an estate plan, they may wonder what to do about so-called "illiquid" or "hard" assets such as art and jewelry. There may be complex issues around assessing their value as well as deciding who should get them and how.

It may have been a long time since the item was appraised, and values can change. An appraiser should be hired and should be accredited by one of the major organizations such as the International Society of Appraisers.

The subtle differences of irrevocable trusts

Irrevocable trusts are a popular way for Florida families to transfer wealth to their heirs while minimizing tax burdens. There are, however, many nuances in the way these trusts can be constructed that change how money flows from grantors to beneficiaries. Laws that regulate the way trusts are executed in Florida vary from other states in the country, so it's important for each family to carefully consider their own options.

One of the biggest concerns for families is whether the assets in a trust can be taken by third parties that are not beneficiaries such as divorced spouses or creditors. This is complicated and varies by state. In some cases, courts decide this issue based on whether or not the beneficiary has control of trust fund distribution. If they don't have control, third parties probably can't access the assets. This isn't always true, though.

Who is allowed to challenge a will?

Wills are useful estate planning tools that enable you to leave assets to loved ones after you’re gone. These documents can be challenged in court, which is a common occurrence among many families despite the value of assets or property being dispersed. explains just who is allowed to challenge a will.

Heirs named in a prior will

What you need to know about the probate process

When a friend or loved one passes away, you may feel overwhelmed with emotion at the loss. During this hard time, it can be difficult to make important decisions regarding the deceased’s estate and property. If you are the estate administrator, you are responsible for overseeing the estate as it travels through the probate process. Probate is supervised by the court and ensures the property is taken care of and is distributed to the beneficiaries intended by the deceased.

As part of the Florida probate process, you must gather important documents, including the death certificate and life insurance policies, and submit them to the appropriate department. The estate is then appraised and given a value. Any expenses, bills or taxes owed by the deceased are then paid out of the estate’s value. Finally, any property and assets that remain are divided out to the people who are named in the deceased’s last will and testament. You, as the executor of the estate, must ensure that the property is protected from theft and vandalism during the process.

Silent trusts can be effective estate planning tools

As a general rule, a trustee is obligated to communicate information about a trust to beneficiaries. However, some Florida residents and others may find that talking about a trust doesn't fit their estate planning needs. For instance, a parent may feel as if a child will develop poor personal or professional habits if he or she knew about a large future inheritance. Parents may also worry that their children will be the target of lawsuits if anyone knew about the trust.

While silent trusts are permissible, there may be limitations as to how far a trustee can go to withhold information from beneficiaries. For instance, the trustee may be required to provide a copy of the trust upon request, and it is possible that a silent trust could prohibit that as well. The trustee could also be prohibited from talking to anyone other than a designated individual acting on behalf of a beneficiary.

Trusts can help support loved ones' education

Many people in Florida want to be able to leave behind a legacy that future generations may use to further their education. Whether people are considering their children, grandchildren or other loved ones, they may be looking for a way to shape their estate plan in order to support their educational development. There are several different mechanisms that people can use to make educational bequests; one of the most popular of these methods is the creation of an educational trust.

Trusts can be very flexible, allowing people to set different conditions that allow people to access their bequests. There are also a few different ways that people can create an educational trust when several beneficiaries are being considered. One of the most common methods is a pot trust, created when all of the funds are left behind in one "pot." However, people who create this type of trust may want to include certain conditions to make sure that there is enough money for all potential beneficiaries. Of course, beneficiaries could receive unequal distributions if they choose more or less expensive universities. If one beneficiary is much younger than the others, he or she might find that the trust is depleted before they have an opportunity to access it.

Estate planning mistakes to avoid

Some Floridians might assume that they've done everything necessary to properly prepare their estate plans. However, there are still small errors people might make that can cause problems. For example, estate owners should make sure their beneficiary designations are filled out correctly for retirement accounts and life insurance policies.

Another common error is failing to fund trusts properly. If assets are not correctly titled or if other necessary actions are not taken to add them to the trust, they will have to go through probate. Furthermore, estate owners should be aware of which assets are owned collectively with rights of survivorship since these do not pass using a will or trust. Errors with both trusts and beneficiary designations can also have negative tax consequences.

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