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Palm Beach Estate Planning Blog

Understanding charitable trusts

If you enjoy giving back to your Florida community by donating to your church or favorite charity, have you ever thought about establishing a charitable trust to give your donations more structure and certainty? If you are unfamiliar with charitable trusts, it likely will surprise you to learn that not only can such a trust benefit your church or charity, it also can benefit you in a variety of ways.

When you set up a charitable trust, you can split the assets you put into it between your designated charitable beneficiary and a designated noncharitable beneficiary, who can be you yourself if you so desire. In addition, you can designate yourself as your trust’s trustee.

What powers may the court grant in a guardianship

When Palm Beach residents reach the point where they believe a family member can no longer act on his or her own behalf, they may begin to explore the alternatives. If the incapacitated individual does not have powers of attorney in place, it may be necessary to seek a guardianship. For those contemplating serving as the guardian, it may be helpful to understand the powers a court may grant.

A potential guardian may want to understand that these powers are actually duties to be fulfilled on behalf of the incapacitated person. The court takes these responsibilities seriously, and so should the guardian. For this reason, not just anyone may serve in this capacity. A potential guardian must be at least 18 years of age and not have a criminal record containing convictions for either gross misdemeanor or felony charges associated with dishonesty such as embezzlement, bribery or forgery, among other things.

The administration of trusts can get complex. Don't do it alone

You may have been flattered when your Palm Beach relative came to you asking if you would be an integral part of his or her estate plan. Now that he or she has passed away, you find yourself being appointed the successor trustee to his or her trust. You may be finding out too late that the administration of trusts can get complex and requires you to complete numerous duties, and now you are unsure how to proceed.

In addition to being responsible for distributing the assets in the trust to the beneficiaries in accordance with its provisions, you will also be responsible for making sure the assets are appropriate invested. You must keep accurate records and file any necessary tax returns. You will also need to keep in communication with the beneficiaries.

Wills need to meet certain requirements in order to be valid

Like other Palm Beach residents who are just beginning the estate planning process, you may have numerous questions. For instance, you may know that wills are considered the cornerstone of estate plans. However, you may not understand how a will functions upon death or what may be included in it. Moreover, you may not realize what it takes to ensure that a court rules your will as valid when the time comes to administer your estate.

Without some basic requirements, a will may not live up to the scrutiny of the court. For example, in order for a will to be valid, the person making it must be of sound mind. In other words, you must understand the nature of your estate, that you are making arrangements to dispose of your assets and the effect of your will.

Undue influence and Florida wills

You may have heard of cases where someone's will faced a challenged based on undue influence. Understanding what this term means from a legal standpoint could help you gain clarity and make strategic decisions to help lessen the chances of your will facing this and other challenges. It can also be helpful if you are going through the probate process in connection to a loved one.

Enlisting the help of an experienced lawyer to draft your will and plan your estate can go a long way toward ensuring your wishes are carried out. Legal guidance can also be a helpful thing to have when navigating issues related to the probate process.

What you may need to know about guardianship

When you discover that an aging parent may no longer be able to care for him or herself, you may begin looking for a way to help. Someone may have mentioned to you that you could seek a guardianship, but you are not sure what that entails. Before heading to a Palm Beach-area court, it may be a good idea to understand the basics.

A guardian may be appointed when the court determines that the ward, or incapacitated person, has a physical or mental condition that precludes the individual from making decisions or taking care of him or herself. The court prefers to appoint a guardian who has significant ties to the ward. If you are seeking a guardianship for an ailing parent, you could fit that requirement. In order to be appointed, you need to be willing to take on the responsibilities and duties of the job. Just as importantly, you need to keep the ward's best interests in mind when making any decisions.

The basic progression of formal probate administration

When you accepted the task of serving as executor to your loved one's estate, you may not have fully understood the breadth of the process you would undertake. Now that your loved one has passed away, you may be searching for answers to your questions regarding probate administration here in Palm Beach. Below is a brief synopsis of the progression of this process.

The first phase of probate is formally opening your loved one's estate. During this time, the initial documentation gets filed with the court so that you may be formally recognized as the executor by the court. At this time, you will need to publish a notice to all of the decedent's creditors. This step needs to be taken early on in the process since creditors have a 90-day window in which to file claims against the estate. 

What benefits do revocable living trusts provide?

During the estate planning process, Palm Beach residents make numerous decisions regarding how to structure their plans. As part of the decision-making process, they may consider drafting and executing revocable living trusts to meet their goals. If you are one of those people, you may wonder what advantages this type of trust could provide you and your family.

Perhaps the most well-known benefit of a revocable living trust is that the assets contained within it do not need to go through probate. This allows your loved ones immediate access to the assets in the trust instead of having to wait until the assets can be distributed at the end of the probate process. In addition, instead of going through the public process, the details of the trust remain private.

Having a will and updating it are two critical steps

When it comes to wills, there are two important issues that every person must confront. The first is whether or not you even have a will. That may sound silly, but many people put off drafting and completing their will, and that failure to complete a will could cost them dearly in their later years. If you don't have a will, then you should do everything in your power, right now, to complete one.

Once you have a will, you will have to confront the second issue: keeping the document updated. This will be even more difficult than putting the document together in the first place because there will be many life moments that require you to review and update your will.

How to decrease the chances of someone contesting your will

Did you know that around 64 percent of Americans do not have a will? According to a poll reported by USA Today, 27 percent of American adults stated they did not have a will because they believed there was not an urgent need for one. 

If you are an adult, then you should have a will. It becomes even more important when you marry or have children. You want your loved ones to receive care after your passing, and the last thing you want is for anyone to contest the provisions you include in your estate plan. Some states allow you to put a no-contest clause in your will, but in Florida, that kind of clause is unenforceable. Here are some other ways you can decrease the likelihood of someone feeling cheated by your will. 

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