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By Phillip B. Rarick, Esq.,  Weston Asset Protection Attorney

The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande is a current, hot selling book written by a physician and advising how to get things right by implementing commonsense systems.

In today’s modern medicine, coupled with our information age, where virtually every procedure can be scrutinized by an “expert” easily found on Google, it should be standard procedure for every doctor to have a comprehensive asset protection plan –  one that is up-to-date to  meet the challenges of our fast-changing legal system.

By Phil Rarick & Jacqueline Bowden Gold, Weston Estate Planning Attorneys

In 1992 estate planning attorneys  Robert Esperti and Renno Peterson wrote the best selling book, The Living Trust Revolution that captured the major shift in estate planning arising from the $6.8 trillion worth of wealth transfer beginning to take place in the United States.  That was 1992.   With the baby boom generation now retiring it is estimated that nearly 45 million U.S. households will hand down about $68.4 trillion over the course of the next quarter-decade, according to research firm Cerulli Associates.  Note: the estimate of this massive wealth transfer is now ten times the size from 1992!

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The living trust revolution correctly foresaw the shift in estate planning from wills, as the cornerstone of estate plans, to living revocable trusts.  This revolution has helped many families avoid the cost of probate and keep legal control within the family for managing the wealth transfer.   I am convinced it has helped prevent many family disputes and outright family wars that break out when the family patriarch or matriarch dies without a well drafted trust. A well drafted trust lays out clear instructions about the family matriarch’s wishes and intentions.  It is when the matriarch leaves “in a vacuum” instructions that she creates an environment for family warfare.

By Phil Rarick, Weston Estate Planning Attorney

You and your spouse are finally going out for the evening.  The babysitter, a  high school  student,  has arrived and you are loading the young woman with last minute instructions:  time for bed, make sure the kids brush their teeth, books to read little Tommy, etc, etc.   What is ironic is many such fretful parents leave more instructions for their babysitter when they are out for a brief night out than they do if they would suddenly die.

Many parents have life insurance to provide for their spouse and children.  What is missing here is that life insurance without detailed instructions could mean that your son or daughter gets a windfall when they turn 18 and then proceed to blow it on a hot car and high living – your dream of them getting a quality post high school education is up in smoke.

You will miss this deadline if you do not read carefully – and you may need a magnifying glass to find it.  Within the past two weeks you should have received in the mail a “Notice of Proposed Property Taxes” or “TRIM Notice” from your county property tax appraiser.  Buried at the bottom of your  Notice in small print is an important deadline for appealing your tax assessment.

Clearly, the county does not want to encourage you to appeal your property taxes.

Note these deadlines:

By Phillip B. Rarick, Weston Estate Planning Attorney

Irrevocable divorce trusts should always be an important tool in the Family Law Attorneys bag of tools as a well designed trust can address multiple issues that cannot be fully resolved through a Divorce Agreement.   It may be a good idea to brainstorm possible irrevocable divorce trust solutions with an experienced estate planning attorney at the commencement of the case. Here are a few examples:

Dissolution #1:           Husband and wife have minor children, ages 8 and 10.  Wife is big shopper and bad money manager.  Your client is the Husband.  He is concerned that if child support payments go directly to wife she will use some of the funds to buy expensive clothing and keep up her lavish life style  – to the detriment of the children.  Both parents agree that they want to ensure that the children go to a private high school and a prestigious college or university after high school.

By Phillip B. Rarick, Esq. and Jay R. Beskin, Esq.

Last year the Federal annual gift tax exclusion was $15,000 and the amount remains the same for 2019.  This means you can walk down the street and give out $15,000 to every person you meet and not have to file a gift tax return.   If you are married, husband and wife can combine their annual exclusions and give $30,000 to each child or grandchild.  As long as your gifts are below the annual exclusion amount, they are not counted against the lifetime gift exemption which is currently $11.4 million per person (Note: Be careful this is temporary and expected to drop to $5.6 million in 2026).

Note:  Be very careful about making outright gifts to children.  It is far safer to use a “Gifting Trust” so that the money is wisely used for the child’s college education or other needs – and so that the child does not blow it when he  turns 18 or his creditors grab it when he is in his 20’s.

By: Phil Rarick, Esq. 

A Short Story With a Big Lesson

Everyone admired the Anderson family.    Walter and Joan had 5 children and had worked hard all their lives to give their children the best of American life:  each child received a car when they were a junior in high school – provided they had a 3.2 GPA.   Two children went to FSU, two went to University of Miami, and one to Cornell.  They all enjoyed the benefits from Walter and Joan’s small business – a flower import business next to the Miami airport.   Walter and Joan had started the business 45 years ago, the year they were married, and it had grown into a business with 19 employees and many good customers including Publix.

By:  Phillip B. Rarick, Weston Estate Planning Attorney

In 2008 Florida passed an amendment to our Trust Code designed to allow a Trustee to use trust funds to pay legal fees incurred in defending a breach of trust litigation without prior court approval, so long as the Trustee gave notice to qualified beneficiaries of its intent to do so.

On its face, Florida Statute, F.S. 736.0802(10), seems to give the Trustee access to Trust funds to defend itself, but on closer examination, it creates a potential conflict of interest sandtrap.

By: Phil Rarick

Here is a scenario we see more and more with persons who try to do estate planning themselves, specifically Florida Wills, without consulting with an experienced estate planning attorney.     Louise has three adult daughters, Erma, Madeline, and Roseanne.  The daughters are all close and speak to each other at least once a week.   Louise wants to treat them all equally.  Louise has four major assets: her home, a traditional IRA, a checking account, and a savings account.

Louise downloads a Florida Will form on the internet and says each child is to get one-third of everything she might own at death.  She is careful to sign the will before a notary and two witnesses with a “Self-Proving Affidavit”.  Louise dies, and the daughters schedule a meeting with a Probate Attorney.  At the meeting the probate attorney informs the daughters that the Will is good under Florida law.   However, despite the Will, 100% of the assets go to Erma.  Madeline and Roseanne are not happy.  How can this happen?

By: Jacqueline R. Bowden Gold

Our office handles probate estates for many out of state residents through our Florida Counsel services. In handling the estates there are three common problems we see with Non-Florida Wills that can easily be avoided by consulting with a Miami Estate Planning attorney. If you have a non-Florida resident who owns Florida real estate an ancillary administration may be required upon their passing.  You should consider these problems when drafting their Will:

  • Naming an out of State Attorney as Personal Representative or Executor.
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