Many families struggle daily with the demands of caring for a family member with health or developmental challenges. Whether it is autism, Parkinson's, cerebral palsy, birth defects or some other debilitating condition, the challenges can be immense. Perhaps one of the more challenging aspects which these families face is making sure that resources are available to provide medical and other necessary benefits over the course of the family member's lifetime.
When person establishing a Trust (soemtimes called a "Settlor") does not take the steps necessary to fund the Trust, in most instances a probate will be necessary in order to allow the transfer or liquidation of those assets. This would apply to most assets which are titled only in the Settlor's name and which do not have a beneficiary or a POD designation.
A "Lady Bird Deed" (or more accurately called an "Enhanced Life-Estate Deed") is a type of deed which provides the grantor--i.e. the real estate property owner--with certain rights during life, with the remaining interest going to a named grantee at the grantor's death. The grantee under a Lady Bird Deed receives a "remainder" interest.. This means that the grantee gets title to the property upon the death of the grantor but has virtually no rights during the grantor's life. Florida is one of a list of states that recognize the use of this type of deed.
Not uncommonly, we have prospective clients come into the office after a loved one has died. Their request is often simple...for example:"I need a deed to put Mom's house into my name. Her Will says I'm supposed to get it. Can you prepare that deed for me?" Unfortunately, it's not that simple. In most instances, there will need to be a court order to transfer the property. And in Florida, that means opening a probate.
Having a Living Trust has a number of advantages. A person can set up the Trust so that their assets can by-pass probate. This saves on time and expense in the distribution of the person's assets. In addition, by not going through probate, the distribution is private and not subjected to public disclosure.
Many times clients who have a Living Trust ask whether they also should also have a Last Will & Testament. After all, doesn't the Trust do essentially everything without needing the Will? Most experienced estate planning lawyers would agree that the answer is a resounding "yes." Even though you have a Trust, you should still have a Will--a special kind of Will often referred to as a "Pour-Over Will."
Like many professions, lawyers tend to concentrate their practices on certain areas. There are lawyers who practice in almost every imaginable topic. One popular lawyer website lists over 235 areas of the law in which lawyers concentrate their practice. This is in contrast to a general legal practitioner who does a little bit of everything. As the old adage says, a general practitioner is a "jack of all trades but master of none."
Most well-drafted Trusts contain a spendthrift provision-also sometimes called a restraint on alienation provision. Such a provision sets forth special language preventing creditors from attaching or "taking away" the interest of a beneficiary named in a Trust. Florida law enforces spendthrift provisions so long as they apply to both voluntary and involuntary transfers.
Many times, the term "residue" will be used in a person's Will or Trust. So what is the residue of an estate and what is covered by the term?
As an estate planning lawyer, one of my principal objectives in drafting a client's Will or Trust is to name the beneficiaries which the client wants to receive their estate. Often this will be a spouse or children and in some cases, other family members. What happens if the person named dies before the person who established the Will or Trust? Does the intended devise (gift) go to the deceased beneficiary's children or to someone else? The answer is, "it depends."