Attorney Jay Fleece Is Featured in the 23rd Edition of The Best Lawyers in America©

Baskin Fleece partner Joseph W. “Jay” Fleece, III, was selected by his peers for inclusion in The Best Lawyers in America© 2017 in the field of Trusts and Estates Litigation. Best Lawyers is based on an exhaustive peer-review evaluation. This year, 7.3 million votes were analyzed, resulting inBaskinFleece lawyer Jay Fleece the inclusion of almost 55,000 lawyers in the 23rd edition. Lawyers are not required nor allowed to pay a fee to be listed. Corporate Counsel magazine has called Best Lawyers “the most respected referral list of attorneys in practice.”

To schedule an appointment with a Baskin Fleece attorney, call (727) 572-4545. For more information about Baskin Fleece, visit www.BaskinFleece.com.

Wills, Probate and Trusts: How Property Passes on Death

BaskinFleece lawyer Jay Fleece

By Attorney Jay Fleece

When a person dies, their assets, be it real estate, bank accounts, stocks, bonds, jewelry, automobiles or whatever else they may own must pass to someone legally entitled to those assets. There are three basic ways property passes on death. Each way depends on how the particular asset is owned or titled at the time of death.

Probate

If someone owns an asset in their individual name at the time of death, that asset should pass to the beneficiaries specified in the decedent’s will. If the decedent did not have a will, then the Assetsdecedent’s property will pass under the laws of intestacy. In other words, the state of Florida decides how your assets will be distributed. This does not mean all of the decedent’s property passes to the state, but rather to individuals based on their relationship to the decedent.

Florida statutes 732.102 and 732.103 set forth the statutory scheme for intestate succession. For example, if an individual dies without a will and is survived by a spouse and children of that marriage, then the surviving spouse is entitled to the first $60,000.00 of assets and anything over that amount is equally divided between the surviving spouse and the children.

When property passes under the terms of a last will and testament or by intestate succession, the process by which this transfer is accomplished is called probate. Probate is a court supervised process whereby a decedent’s property is transferred in an orderly fashion to those legally entitled to the assets.

Living wills and trustsTrusts

Some people elect to create a revocable “living” trust during their lifetime. In such a case, certain assets are transferred to the trust and retitled  in the name of the trust. The individual creating the trust, called the “Grantor,” has full power to change, modify and revoke the trust during his or her lifetime. After the death of the grantor, these trusts become irrevocable and the trust property is disposed of in accordance with the terms of the trust. This type of trust, called a “Grantor Trust,” often contains language very similar to language used in a last will and testament, which specifies how and to whom the decedent’s property will pass. A trustee named in the trust document would then have the responsibility of distributing the trust assets in accordance with the terms of the trust. Administration of a trust is similar to the probate process but is not subject to court supervision.

contractual provisionsContractual Provisions

Assets governed by contractual provisions pass outside the probate and trust administration process. Instead, these assets pass directly to the recipients designated in the contract governing the asset. The most prevalent type of asset that passes by contract is joint bank accounts. Typically a bank account titled in two or more names will pass to the surviving owners of the account. Other assets governed by contractual provisions include payable on death accounts, and accounts “held in trust for.”  Payable on death accounts are frequently referred to as “Totten Trusts.” Other forms of contractual arrangements that pass property directly to a named beneficiary include life insurance policies, retirement accounts and annuities.

Screen Shot 2016-08-29 at 9.36.32 AMWhy you should engage in estate planning

While each of these areas are discussed in greater detail in other articles, this basic outline should illustrate how important it is to make sure that you understand how your assets are titled and how they will pass on death. The unintended consequences of improperly titling your assets could have a devastating effect on your estate plan. For those with substantial wealth, estate planning from a tax perspective can save on income and estate taxes.

This blog is designed for general information only. The information presented at this site should not be construed to be formal legal advice nor the formation of a lawyer/client relationship. Because the law is continually changing, some provisions in this blog may be out of date. It is always best to consult an attorney about your legal rights and responsibilities in your particular case.

What Happens To Your Facebook Account When You Die?

Colleen Carson

By Attorney Colleen Carson

In today’s fast paced, technology driven age this is a question whose answer will affect many individuals. So, what exactly will happen to your Facebook account when you pass away and who will make that decision? Facebook offers users the ability to make this decision during life by providing two options. You can either choose to have your account memorialized, which transforms your profile into a place where your friends and family can gather to reminisce and share memories about you, or you can choose to have your account permanently deleted. In order to exercise one of these options and ensure your wishes are carried out, you must assign a legacy contact to your Facebook account during your lifetime. A legacy contact is the person you designate to manage your Facebook account upon your passing.

Facebook Memorialized Page

An example of a Memorialized Facebook page

At your death, any friend or family member can notify Facebook of your passing by filling out a Memorialization Request formFollowing this request, Facebook will solely grant your designated legacy contact the ability to manage your account, and if you choose to have your account memorialized, the word “Remembering” will appear next to your name on your profile. Assigning a Facebook legacy contact is important for the process of memorialization because your legacy contact is given permission to add additional posts to your timeline on your behalf, respond to new friend requests, and update your profile picture and cover photo. If you have chosen permanent deletion, your Facebook Deceased Person's Accountlegacy contact must fill out the Special Request for a Deceased Person’s Account form to have your account deleted. Having an assigned legacy contact ensures that your wish for your Facebook account, whether it be memorialization or permanent deletion, will be carried out.

In the event that you do not assign a legacy contact to your Facebook account, the process of carrying out your last wish becomes far more unpredictable.  Without a legacy contact you have no say as to whether your account is memorialized or permanently deleted. The option chosen will depend on the wishes of the first individual to contact Facebook regarding your account. Any person may request to have your account memorialized, but only a verified family member may request permanent deletion of your Facebookaccount. Facebook will either memorialize or permanently delete your account based on the instruction provided by the first person to contact them. Without deciding what to do with your Facebook account, one of your digital assets, during life and without assigning a Facebook legacy contact to carry out your decision, the fate of your Facebook account when you pass is both unpredictable and out of your control; as is the fate of all of your assets, without proper estate planning. If you want to learn more about protecting your assets when you pass and how proper estate planning acts as a fundamental element of that protection give BaskinFleece a call at (727) 572-4545.

This blog is designed for general information only. The information presented at this site should not be construed to be formal legal advice nor the formation of a lawyer/client relationship. Because the law is continually changing, some provisions in this blog may be out of date. It is always best to consult an attorney about your legal rights and responsibilities in your particular case.

Terri Schiavo, Karen Quinlan and Estelle Browning: Historical Cases that Led to Development of the POLST Form

Quinlin Terry SchiavoAttorney Hamden Baskin discusses the historical end-of-life cases of Terri Schiavo, Karen Quinlan and Estelle Browning and how they influenced the creation of the POLST (Physicians Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment) form.

 

 

What is Probate?

Living willProbate is a legal process through which the assets of a deceased person are properly distributed to the heirs or beneficiaries under a will, or if there is no will, according to Florida law. The Court oversees the estate to make sure debts are paid and proper distribution is made.

There are 3 types of Probate Proceedings:

1. Formal Administration is available for all estates.

Probate2. Summary Administration may be filed when it appears the decedent’s will does not require Formal Administration and that the value of the entire estate subject to administration in this state, less the value of property exempt from claims of creditors, does not exceed $75,000, or that the decedent has been dead for more than 2 years.

3. Disposition of Personal Property Without Administration may be filed to request release of the deceased’s solely owned assets to reimburse the person who paid the final expenses; funeral bills, medical bills for the last 60 days, etc. This procedure may be accomplished with the filing of an informal petition.

WillThe decedent’s will, if any, and certain other documents are required in order to begin probate proceedings. Typically, these documents are filed with the clerk of the circuit court in the county in which the decedent lived at the time of his or her death. The clerk maintains an ongoing record of all documents filed with the court and clerk, for the administration of the decedent’s probate estate. Click here for a list of the required recordable documents.

You may wish to seek legal advice before deciding which type of proceeding is appropriate. For help or answers to estate-related questions, you can contact BaskinFleece at 727.572.4545.

 

This blog is designed for general information only. The information presented at this site should not be construed to be formal legal advice nor the formation of a lawyer/client relationship. Because the law is continually changing, some provisions in this blog may be out of date. It is always best to consult an attorney about your legal rights and responsibilities in your particular case.

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POLST (Physicians Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment)

A POSLT is a form that your doctor fills out with you that expresses your wishes for life-sustaining medical treatment. Attorney Hamden Baskin explains the differences between a Living Will, a DNR and a POLST:

 

This blog is designed for general information only. The information presented at this site should not be construed to be formal legal advice nor the formation of a lawyer/client relationship.

Implications of the Recent Update to the Guardianship Statute

BaskinFleece is proud to announce that attorney Jeffrey A. Eisel has been made a partner, effective January 1, 2016.By Jeffrey A. Eisel, Esq.

As of July 1, 2015, significant changes were made to Florida Statute Chapter 744 regarding guardianships. Many of the changes to the previous statute focus on professional guardians. One major change that will affect many, if not most, guardianship proceedings is the change to 709.2109, Florida Statute. This statute concerns the efficacy of a Power of Attorney during the pendency of the guardianship proceedings. Prior to the changes to the statute, a Power of Attorney was deemed suspended during the pendency of the guardianship proceedings.

GuardianshipThe statute now reads as follows (emphasis added):

If any person initiates judicial proceedings to determine the principal’s incapacity or for the appointment of a guardian advocate, the authority granted under the power of attorney is suspended until the petition is dismissed or withdrawn or the court enters an order authorizing the agent to exercise one or more powers granted under the power of attorney. However, if the agent named in the power of attorney is the principal’s parent, spouse, child, or grandchild, the authority under the power of attorney is not suspended unless a verified motion in accordance with 744.3203, Fla. Stat. is also filed.

744.3203 states as follows:

1) At any time during proceedings to determine incapacity but before the entry of an order determining incapacity, the authority granted under an alleged incapacitated person’s power of attorney to a parent, spouse, child, or grandchild is suspended when the petitioner files a motion stating that a specific power of attorney should be suspended for any of the following grounds:

(a) The agent’s decisions are not in accord with the alleged incapacitated person’s known desires.

(b) The power of attorney is invalid.

(c) The agent has failed to discharge his or her duties or incapacity or illness renders the agent incapable of discharging duties.

(d) The agent has abused powers.

(e) There is a danger that the property of the alleged incapacitated person may be wasted, misappropriated, or lost unless the authority under the power of attorney is suspended.

Grounds for suspending a power of attorney do not include the existence of a dispute between the agent and the petitioner which is more appropriate for resolution in some other forum or a legal proceeding other than a guardianship proceeding.

This is an added step which now must be addressed in many contested guardianship actions where family members are the ones who may be abusing powers purportedly granted to them by the alleged incapacitated person.

The statute further addresses the requirements for such a pleading.

2) The motion must:

(a) Identify one or more of the grounds in subsection (1);

(b) Include specific statements of fact showing that grounds exist to justify the relief sought; and

Elder law, elder care(c) Include the following statement: “Under penalties of perjury, I declare that I have read the foregoing motion and that the facts stated in it are true to the best of my knowledge and belief,” followed by the signature of the petitioner.

(3) Upon the filing of a response to the motion by the agent under the power of attorney, the court shall schedule the motion for an expedited hearing. Unless an emergency arises and the agent’s response sets forth the nature of the emergency, the property or matter involved, and the power to be exercised by the agent, notice must be given to all interested persons, the alleged incapacitated person, and the alleged incapacitated person’s attorney. The court order following the hearing must set forth what powers the agent is permitted to exercise, if any, pending the outcome of the petition to determine incapacity.

(4) In addition to any other remedy authorized by law, a court may award reasonable attorney fees and costs to an agent who successfully challenges the suspension of the power of attorney if the petitioner’s motion was made in bad faith.

These changes to the Guardianship Code make it imperative to address the issues of Powers of Attorney naming family members, as contemplated in 709.2109, Florida Statute, to ensure the protection of the alleged incapacitated person and their possessions.

For more information about guardianships, call Baskin Fleece at (727) 572-4545.

This blog is designed for general information only. The information presented at this site should not be construed to be formal legal advice nor the formation of a lawyer/client relationship.