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PLANNING FOR YOUNG ADULT “CHILDREN”: WHAT PARENTS NEED TO KNOW

Friday, June 27th, 2014 by

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. 

For example, parents have no legal right to medical information for an adult child.  That means that your child’s doctors don’t have to talk to you, even in an emergency situation.  The same goes for anyone that your child signed a contract with, including for a credit card or an apartment lease (unless you are a co-signer).

Fortunately, your child can give you continued access to medical and financial information, and even some decision-making authority, with a few simple documents:

1.       a Designation of Health Care Surrogate naming someone (usually one or both parents) to make medical decisions if he is not able;

2.       a HIPAA Release designating any persons who he would like to have access to his medical records and doctors; and

3.       a Power of Attorney, if he would like to name a trusted person (again usually one or both parents) to have access to and power over his finances.

We are currently offering a “back to school” special: we will provide the documents listed above for a flat fee of $295 for the first child and $195 for each additional child in the same family.  Call us today to get in before summer is over!

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CASEY KASEM: ANOTHER HOLLYWOOD PLANNING FAILURE

Monday, December 16th, 2013 by

Casey Kasem became famous as one of the founders and longtime hosts of American Top 40 and the voice of Shaggy on the cartoon series Scooby Doo.  However, these days he is making headlines as the subject of a legal dispute between his second wife and his three children from his first marriage.

Casey is confined to his home, bedridden at the age of 81 due to Parkinson’s disease.  His wife and caregiver, Jean, has refused to allow Casey’s children to visit him, alleging that any visits would only upset Casey.  After a failed attempt by the children to get a conservator (guardian) appointed for Casey, they are now negotiating for visitation with their father, airing the family’s dirty laundry in court.

The saddest part is that, as we see so often, Casey could have spared his family this public drama if he had planned properly.  We believe that comprehensive living trust planning includes planning for disability, including leaving detailed instructions as to how you would like to be treated if someone else has to take over your affairs.  If Casey had done this type of planning, he could have addressed the predictable discord between Jean and his children by specifically requesting that his children be allowed to visit him, or explaining why he did not want them to visit, if he became disabled.

If you would like to learn more about protecting yourself and your family through comprehensive living trust planning, you are welcome to attend one of our monthly Truth About Estate Planning workshops.  The workshop schedule for 2014 is now posted on our website.

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GUN TRUSTS: ANOTHER FACET OF ESTATE PLANNING

Friday, April 12th, 2013 by

We have been getting a lot of questions about “gun trusts” lately, especially with Congress and the media focused on potential gun control legislation.  Holding firearms within trusts has become necessary and desirable due to the strict rules contained in the National Firearms Act (NFA) regarding certain types of firearms.

Firearms are truly a unique type of property; they can be very valuable, whether monetarily, sentimentally, or both.  They are also dangerous, as recognized by the NFA.  These characteristics of guns, as well as the strict regulations they may be subject to, mean that it is essential to properly plan for their ownership and transfer.

A “gun trust” can, if done correctly, address the issues of owning firearms during your life and passing them on to your loved ones after you are gone.  However, just like other types of trusts, you should beware the inexpensive, “bare bones” version from an attorney who asks you only a few questions and just fills in a form.

The actual language of the trust is very important for compliance with the NFA.  Also, proper counseling is necessary so that you can consider and discuss topics such as who should act as successor trustee (he or she will have physical possession of your firearms) and whether you should require your beneficiaries (who will use or receive the firearms) to get training beforehand.

Because we believe in comprehensive estate planning, we are happy to create trusts which hold firearms for our clients.  However, we will only do “gun trusts” as part of the Cramer Law Center process to ensure that we are able to provide proper counseling and draft a trust that will work for you and your family.

We have been getting a lot of questions about “gun trusts” lately, especially with Congress and the media focused on potential gun control legislation.  Holding firearms within trusts has become necessary and desirable due to the strict rules contained in the National Firearms Act (NFA) regarding certain types of firearms.

 Firearms are truly a unique type of property; they can be very valuable, whether monetarily, sentimentally, or both.  They are also dangerous, as recognized by the NFA.  These characteristics of guns, as well as the strict regulations they may be subject to, mean that it is essential to properly plan for their ownership and transfer.

A “gun trust” can, if done correctly, address the issues of owning firearms during your life and passing them on to your loved ones after you are gone.  However, just like other types of trusts, you should beware the inexpensive, “bare bones” version from an attorney who asks you only a few questions and just fills in a form.

The actual language of the trust is very important for compliance with the NFA.  Also, proper counseling is necessary so that you can consider and discuss topics such as who should act as successor trustee (he or she will have physical possession of your firearms) and whether you should require your beneficiaries (who will use or receive the firearms) to get training beforehand.

Because we believe in comprehensive estate planning, we are happy to create trusts which hold firearms for our clients.  However, we will only do “gun trusts” as part of the Cramer Law Center process to ensure that we are able to provide proper counseling and draft a trust that will work for you and your family.

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Where Will I Live If I Become Disabled?

Thursday, March 21st, 2013 by

With the costs of both long-term care and long-term care insurance increasing, we are seeing a corresponding uptick in concern and questions from our clients about how and where they will live if they lose the ability to care for themselves.  The good news is that there are ample housing options that have been designed to match differing care needs and price points.

Nursing Homes

Nursing homes seem to be the first thing our clients think of when we discuss long-term care.  Often, the clients will express a negative perception of these facilities and a desire to avoid them.  Nursing homes are designed to provide a high level of care to residents who need medical as well as daily living assistance.  As a result, they are generally more expensive than other housing facilities.

Assisted and Independent Living Facilities

Assisted and Independent Living Facilities are designed for older individuals who need or desire some level of assistance with their day-to-day activities but do not require skilled nursing care.  These facilities usually offer a range of services and activities, such as medication management, meal preparation, and community excursions.  The cost of assisted or independent living usually depends on which services are included by the facility or selected by the resident.

Continuing Care Retirement Communities

A continuing care retirement community is a place that provides independent living, assisted living, and nursing home care all at one site.  This allows residents to increase their level of care (and monthly payment) as their care needs grow.  These communities can be a good solution for a married couple where one of the spouses needs significantly more care than the other.

In-Home Care

Staying at home and having caregivers come to them is the most desired care option among our clients.  There are a variety of in-home care companies, just as there are different types of long-term care facilities, based on the level of care needed.  In-home care can be a cost-effective solution when an older person just needs assistance with tasks such as cooking and bathing, but can become cost-prohibitive when skilled nursing care or 24-hour supervision is necessary.

At Cramer Law Center, our trust planning process includes comprehensive planning for possible disability.  We help you provide instructions on how you may be declared disabled, and by whom, and on how you would like to be cared for during a disability (including your housing option preferences).  We also discuss planning for payment of possible long-term care expenses with you and your trusted advisors.

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CAN I DISINHERIT MY CHILD UNDER FLORIDA LAW?

Thursday, March 7th, 2013 by

 

Parents sometimes come to us and ask if they can leave nothing to their son or daughter in their will or trust (“disinherit” him or her).  The reasons for this question vary widely; it may be due to a long estrangement or a recent dispute.  We have also seen strong distrust of the child’s spouse as a cause.

Whatever the story behind the desire to disinherit, a parent can legally disinherit his or her child in Florida, with a few exceptions.  First, parents have a legal duty to support their minor children, so you can only disinherit your children who are over the age of 18.  Second, you cannot disregard an agreement, contract, or court order (usually the result of a divorce and/or child support proceeding) stating that you will provide for your child after your death.

So how do you disinherit your child under Florida law?  The most important step is to consult an estate planning attorney and have them draft a will or trust for you.  A valid estate plan is the only way to have your desire that your child receive nothing recognized by the legal system.  If you die without a valid plan, your assets will pass under Florida’s default estate plan.  This “plan” treats all of your children equally and gives them high priority; they are next in line after your spouse (or first if you die widowed or unmarried).

An estate planning attorney can also counsel you on the practicalities of disinheritance.  Should you leave your child a small amount?  The nominal $1.00?  Nothing at all?  Is there any way to prohibit or discourage the child from challenging your will or trust after you are gone?  Our  attorneys can answer these questions for you and guide you through the process of disinheriting a child.  We are here to help.

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CONTESTED GUARDIANSHIP: NOT EVEN THE RICH AND FAMOUS ARE SAFE

Thursday, January 17th, 2013 by

While even the simplest guardianship is an expensive, lengthy, and public undertaking, a contested guardianship can be much worse.  A contested guardianship is a case in which there are multiple interested persons (usually family members) with different ideas of what is best for the incapacitated person (the “ward”).  As you might imagine, contests like this can drive up the financial and emotional cost of the proceeding, delay results, and air a family’s “dirty laundry” in open court.

A recent celebrity example of a contested guardianship is Fredric von Anhalt’s guardianship (called a “conservatorship” in California) over his wife Zsa Zsa Gabor.  Gabor’s daughter asked the court to appoint her as her mother’s guardian instead, accusing her stepfather of sedating and isolating her mother and mishandling her finances.  All of this and more has been discussed in court, and is memorialized in the public records and gossip columns.  Von Anhalt, who appears to have generally taken good care of his wife, has had to justify all his actions and pay for his defense.

As in the Gabor case, the point most often in dispute in a contested guardianship is who is best suited to take care of the ward as his or her guardian.   This issue is usually resolved by the court at the time it determines that the ward needs a guardian.  However, a serious debate between family members over who should serve as guardian can extend a hearing that should take fifteen minutes into a trial that spans over several days.  Additionally, challenges can continue throughout the guardianship, like they have in the Gabor case.

The good news is that everyone, rich and famous or otherwise, can avoid guardianship altogether with proper planning.  A comprehensive estate plan may include documents such as a revocable living trust, a designation of health care surrogate, and a power of attorney that can serve as an alternative to guardianship, when well-drafted.  The plan also may include a designation of pre-need guardian, which allows you to name the loved one(s) you would want to be your guardian, if a court should ever decide you need one.

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HOLIDAY GREETINGS

Friday, December 14th, 2012 by

Happy holidays from all of us at Cramer Law Center!  We truly appreciate your support which has helped make this another year of steady growth for our practice.

We hope that everyone will be able to spend time with family and friends this holiday season.  For parents with adult children, we encourage you to consider telling them about your estate plan.  Most people avoid this discussion because it involves two sensitive topics: money and death.  However, explaining your will or trust and your desires for final arrangements is one of the greatest gifts you can give your children.  Making clear what you want, and why, will provide peace of mind all around.

Adult children may also wish to initiate this talk with their parents.  We are happy to facilitate family discussions at our office for our clients.  Anyone else needing a little help may find this article useful: http://www.forbes.com/sites/ashleaebeling/2012/11/21/generations-apart-talking-turkey-over-turkey/

We wish everyone a healthy and prosperous New Year!  Please note: our office will be closed on December 24, 25, and 31, 2012 and January 1, 2013.  We will be holding our year-end planning retreat on December 26, 27, and 28 and therefore will be unavailable except for emergencies.

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DEFINITIONS OF FAMILY: YOURS VS. THE STATE’S

Friday, December 7th, 2012 by

With the holiday season in full swing, you are likely thinking about and spending time with your loved ones, your “family.”  Chances are, they are not all related to you by blood.  Most of us have spouses, in-laws, stepchildren, stepparents, or even friends that we consider to be part of our family.  Sometimes we are more tightly bonded with these people than with our actual blood relations.

Unfortunately, the state of Florida defines “family” much more narrowly for the purposes of intestate succession (who gets your stuff if you die without a will).  Your current spouse is your closest family member under Florida law and will get everything if you have a “traditional” family.  However, as soon as you get into a blended family situation – i.e. either you or your spouse had a child with someone else – things get messy.  Your spouse will have to split your assets with your kids in the proportions dictated by the state, regardless of what you would have wanted.  Stepchildren are left out altogether because they are not considered “family” unless you have legally adopted them.

Florida law’s preference for blood relatives can produce even less desirable results if you die without a spouse, children, or a will.  We recently had a case where a man’s assets, primarily his home, were split between more than a dozen blood relatives (siblings, nieces and nephews), many of whom did not even speak to the decedent, rather than going to the few people, including his girlfriend of many years, who actually took care of him.

The state’s intestate definition of “family” is one size fits all, meaning that it often fits no one.  If you don’t agree with the people that definition includes and, especially, excludes, you need to make your definition of family clear with a will or trust.

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2012 LONG-TERM CARE BY THE NUMBERS

Friday, November 30th, 2012 by

Long-term care has been on our minds this month at Cramer Law Center because November is National Long-Term Care Awareness Month.  To further your awareness, here are the latest long-term care statistics for this year:

*National Average:

  • Annual Rate for Private Nursing Home Room….$90,520
  • Annual Rate for Semi-Private Nursing Home Room….$81,030
  • Annual Base Rate for Assisted Living….$42,600

*Florida Average:

  • Annual Rate for Private Nursing Home Room….$94,535
  • Annual Rate for Semi-Private Nursing Home Room….$83,950
  • Annual Base Rate for Assisted Living….$38,808

*Jacksonville, Florida Average:

  • Annual Rate for Private Nursing Home Room….$81,395
  • Annual Rate for Semi-Private Nursing Home Room….$75,190
  • Annual Base Rate for Assisted Living….$39,192

These numbers are staggering as-is, but it gets worse.  Some nursing homes and many assisted living facilities have an additional charge for patients needing memory care for Alzheimer’s or dementia.  And although assisted living facility base rates look appealing next to nursing home rates, they don’t include services such as personal care and medication management, each of  which can cost hundreds of dollars per month.

Have you planned for long-term care?  There is no time like the present to contact your financial advisor and inquire about how best to prepare your finances to meet these potential expenses.  You should also meet with an attorney to discuss the legal planning that will best protect you and your loved ones in the event such long-term care becomes necessary.

Click to view the full survey, including data for all 50 states and many major metropolitan areas: https://www.metlife.com/assets/cao/mmi/publications/studies/2012/studies/mmi-2012-market-survey-long-term-care-costs.pdf

 

 

 

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CONDITIONAL GIFTS – INHERITANCE BASED ON MARRIAGE, RELIGION, OR BEHAVIOR

Thursday, November 8th, 2012 by

In the 1999 movie “The Bachelor,” a young man (Chris O’Donnell) frantically proposes to his girlfriend (Renée Zellweger) and a succession of past girlfriends in the days before his 30th birthday.  The reason for the man’s urgency is that his grandfather’s will states that he must be married on that date or he will miss out on a multi-million dollar inheritance.  If you have seen the movie, you likely thought it was a far-fetched plot; however, it is legally feasible to condition gifts in a will or trust on the marital status, religious observance, or other behavior of the intended recipient.

Many conditions on inheritance have been upheld by courts,  including conditions requiring a potential beneficiary to be or become married or, on the other hand, to remain unmarried before receiving a gift.  It is also permissible to state that your spouse will not be provided for if he or she remarries after your death.  Provisions requiring that a beneficiary only marry within a certain religious or ethnic group are often accepted by courts.  A donor may also legally mandate certain personal behavior from a recipient in order for the gift to be made, such as abstaining from drugs or alcohol, avoiding involvement in criminal activity, or earning a college degree.

However, there are some pitfalls to watch out for with conditional gifts.  You may not require a loved one to act illegally in order to receive his or her inheritance.  You also must watch out for conditions that violate “public policy”, which is legal speak for anything that goes against our societal values.  For example, requiring your daughter to divorce her husband, whom you hate, in order to inherit would likely be considered against the public policy of promoting marriage.  If you are considering leaving any of your assets conditionally, you should consult with an estate planning attorney to ensure that your intent is clear and that any requirements you set will survive a challenge.

             

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Cramer Law Center, P.L.
3030 Hartley Rd., Suite 290
Jacksonville, Fl. 32257
Duval County
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