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Fort Lauderdale Florida Elder Law Blog

Notification needed as part of Florida probate process

After the death of a loved one, surviving Florida family members often have many responsibilities. In order to begin the probate process, individuals need to ensure that an executor or personal representative for the estate has been appointed in order to carry out necessary duties. Additionally, it needs to be made known that the estate will be going through the legal process.

Notification was recently printed with an out-of-state news outlet regarding the estate of a recently deceased man. The notice shows that a relative of the deceased had filed for and been granted the role of personal representative of the estate. It was also noted that the decedent had created a will, which will likely guide the probate process when it comes to property distribution and other information.

Medicaid planning may help Florida residents at low-income risk

Having a limited income can cause many Florida residents to face substantial issues. As those individuals get older, they may face an even greater risk of facing poverty. Under such circumstances, these parties may not have the ability to take care of their daily necessities as needed, and if medical issues arise, they may lack the means to properly pay for care. Therefore, individuals may wish to consider Medicaid planning.

In particular, women, older individuals, people of color and parties in rural areas face a substantial risk of having a significantly low level of income. This issue may often cause these and other parties to second-guess whether taking care of their health is in their best financial interests. Even with assistance from Medicare or other benefits programs, parties still feel that the costs may prove too much.

Guardianships may benefit incapacitated Florida residents

Many elderly individuals can face a myriad of issues in what many consider their golden years. While having reached retirement and being able to do whatever they want may have seemed enjoyable for a time, health issues and other problems could arise. In some cases, family members of older Florida residents may find themselves looking into information on guardianships.

Though many people may think of young children needing guardians, adults could have this need as well. Anyone over the age of 18 who has a serious intellectual or developmental disability or mental illness may need a guardian. In cases of elderly parties, it is not unusual for dementia or similar illnesses to develop and leave those people unable to care for themselves as needed.

Hoffman estate may face probate complications due to size

When closing an estate of a deceased individual, the estate plan created by the decedent can play a significant role in how the procedures are carried out. For instance, if parties took the time to place their assets into trusts, they may have allowed their families to avoid certain legal proceedings. However, if only a last will and testament was used, probate proceedings will likely be necessary.

Florida residents may be interested to learn that the estate of late actor Philip Seymour Hoffman is facing probate issues. Apparently, Hoffman's desire to keep his children from being "trust fund kids" resulted in his utilizing only a will to leave his $35 million estate to his girlfriend and their children. Though a will may be able to dictate his wishes effectively, it has also left the estate open to considerable estate taxes.

Elder abuse is rising. Can you recognize it?

The decision to put a loved one in third-party care is never easy. The choice requires planning, cooperation and trust from many people, and a misstep in care can leave loved ones vulnerable. Having an estate plan, guardianship or medical care directive already in place may help avoid some of the obstacles elder care presents, but sometimes the unthinkable still happens.

Many experts believe that elder abuse is an issue that families fail to address in planning. However, Baby Boomers who understand elder care and the potential for abuse can be in a better position to recognize and prevent it, both for themselves and for loved ones.

Probate may help Florida residents handle estate tasks

The loss of a loved one may trigger a chain reaction of feelings and tasks to which Florida residents feel the need to attend. Grief is an understandable and common feeling, and trying to deal with those emotions can sometimes seem overwhelming. When surviving family members are also tasked with handling the probate process surrounding a loved one's will, having some information on the process may help lessen stress.

With probate, the court examines an individual's will and works to validate it. Once validated, the process can continue to ensure that appropriate parties who were named as heirs and beneficiaries obtain the property left to them. Typically, if a person was married at the time of his or her death, a surviving spouse would inherit the majority, if not all, of the estate.

Florida guardianship, examining committees, and elder abuse

In Florida, a guardianship is the legal process by which a guardian is given legal decision-making authority over the property or person of another, who is called a ward. A guardian must be an adult who is competent to make decisions that are in the best interest of the ward. A ward may be a minor child or an adult. In the case of a child, a guardian may be necessary due to the death of the child’s parents or their incapacity. For an adult, however, a guardian may be appointed in the event the adult has become incapacitated.

According to The Florida Bar, adults may lack capacity if they cannot keep themselves healthy and safe or adequately manage their property. A determination of capacity is made by a committee of three persons appointed by the court. Members of this committee, two of whom are physicians, usually make functional, physical, and mental health assessments of the alleged incapacitated person. Upon the completion of their assessments, a hearing is held. If a majority of committee members do not agree that a person is incapacitated, the court usually dismisses the proceeding. However, if the evidence presented by the committee along with additional testimony of interested persons reveals a degree of incapacity sufficient to appoint a guardian, the court may enter an order determining a person incapacitated and appointing a guardian.

Florida inheritance taxes in a nutshell

Retirees in Florida who are planning how to structure the distribution of their estates need to consider the tax implications of their gifts to get the most out of their money.

Forbes released its analysis of the 2017 IRS estate tax limits late last year. Individuals have a $5.49 million gift limit for 2017. Estate tax limits increase with inflation, so this year's number represents an increase of around $80,000 for last year. After the first $5.49 million (called the lifetime limit), there is a 40 percent federal tax on estates. Because each person has a $5.49 million limit, this means that each couple has approximately $11 million to leave before taxes apply. A surviving spouse may be able to roll over the unused amount of the estate limit after his wife's death. For example, if a wife dies first and leaves $1 million to her sister, provided the proper tax documentation has been filed, her surviving husband can bequeath his $5.49 million plus her remaining $4.49 million to his heirs without incurring inheritance taxes. As Forbes notes, a marital deduction covers what one spouse bequeaths to the other, so no matter how much money the wife in the previous example left her husband, he will not face federal estate taxes.

Managing problems late in life

Life is about making the right plans. At times, spontaneity pays off and, at others, the lack of a proper foundation causes bigger problems.

Most Americans understand that retirement plans are important, spending years to fund your post-work years. Meanwhile, many families carefully draft estate plans that cover what will happen to assets like your home, business or family heirlooms. What most people overlook, though, is the period where health declines force difficult decisions about independent or assisted living.

Analysis: Stroke rates up among young adults in the U.S.

When people think of stroke victims, they may not think of young adults. However, strokes can strike adults of all different ages. In fact, a recent Scientific American analysis indicates that recent times have seen strokes going up among younger adults in America.

The analysis focused on stroke rates among individuals in the 18 to 34 age group. It looked at federal data on such rates here in the U.S. between the 2003-2004 period and the 2013-2014 period. It found that stroke rates went up among individuals in this age group over this span.