The recent Zelman case involved all-too-familiar fighting between a second wife and first kids. The children of 85-year-old Martin Zelman instituted guardianship proceedings alleging that Martin’s wife was taking advantage of him and isolating him from his children, in part to take control of his substantial assets. The children alleged that Martin had “accidentally” deposited $3 million in the couple’s joint bank account, and that the money should be returned to Martin’s sole ownership.
Guardianship is a legal concept where, if a court determines that a person (called the “ward”) is not capable of handling his or her own affairs due to age or incapacity, the court appoints a “guardian” to handle these affairs for the ward. We've previously addressed some predatory practices that have put individuals at risk (see here). Recently, new laws have taken effect in Florida to help provide increased protections for wards (see here).
We're thrilled to announce the opening of a new branch office on Amelia Island in order to better meet the estate planning and related needs of Northeast Florida residents! The office is located at 5211 South Fletcher Avenue.
Revocable Living Trusts are planned with the intention of keeping the family out of court. If this intent fails, courts have alarming powers to interfere with your plan. The recent case of Rene v. Sykes-Kennedy illustrates this point.
Recently, there has been a lot of buzz around the need to fix the rules governing “professional guardians” (i.e., persons who have been appointed guardian over three or more legally incapacitated individuals) in order to protect Florida’s elderly from predatory practices. (See here, here, here, and here.) While the Florida legislature is taking steps to address the issue, you can mitigate your risk of becoming a victim by implementing anticipatory provisions in your estate planning documents.
In December 2014, Congress passed the Achieving a Better Life Experience (“ABLE”) Act, which provides for a new type of tax-free savings account for persons who are born with a disability or become disabled at a young age (25 or younger). This is an exciting new tool because it will allow special needs individuals to possess – and possibly control, depending on the individual’s capacity – more money than under the prior law.
When working with clients who have minor children, we spend a lot of time discussing the kids: their individual personalities, the values the clients are trying to instill, and concerns for their future. We do our best to craft an estate plan that will secure the children’s financial future. This usually involves planning both from a financial perspective (making sure there is enough money for future expenses, especially if something happened to the clients), with the help of the clients’ financial advisors, and from a legal standpoint (ensuring the children will have access to any money when and how the clients judge best).
Now that graduation season is behind us, we have some important information for parents of young adults who are going off to college or starting their first job. Once your child turns 18, he or she is automatically an “adult” in the eyes of the law, no matter how immature or inexperienced. Being an adult comes with the right to manage your assets (including opening credit cards and taking out loans) and make decisions about your life (such as where to live, who to socialize with, and whether you want medical treatment). As you might imagine, this silent leap into full adulthood can cause some nasty surprises down the road.
Our Relationships Series previously has covered the unique estate planning challenges faced by blended families and by same-sex and other unmarried couples. Today we will address another group that is in dire need of proper planning: families with children under the age of 18.