The Florida Estate Planning and Probate Law Blog is focused on recent federal and state case law and planning ideas.


When creating a Trust it is important to understand the differences between the different types. Similar to a Power of Attorney or Health Care Surrogate they can range from simple to extremely complex.  Most individuals are familiar with the terms "Family Trust" or "Marital Trust," but there are many different types that can be utilized as a part of your estate plan. The only rule is that if the trust benefits a spouse, “you must cause the trust to be included in the second spouse’s estate, for estate-tax purposes.”  If it is not included in the second spouse’s estate, the assets would have the same basis as at the first spouse’s death. 

Trust options include, a Credit Shelter Trust, Special Needs Trust, Elective Share Trust, Trust for non-US spouse, Life Insurance Trust and Charitable Trusts.

Credit Shelter Trust.  A Trust created upon the first spouse's death to shelter a portion or all of their estate tax exemption amount.  This makes certain the estate-tax exemption is in place.

Special Needs Trust. A Trust established for a special needs child or adult to protect the assets from government attachment and allow the individual to maintain all of their government benefits.

Elective Share Trust.  A Trust established, upon the death of the first spouse, which provides the surviving spouse with the required 30% share of the deceased spouse's estate and ensures the assets pass, upon the death of the surviving spouse, to their designated beneficiaries of the predeceased spouse. Typically utilized in the case of second marriages.

Trust for Non-US Spouse. A non-US citizen spouse is not entitled to the unlimited marital deduction. As a result, to protect the assets that would pass to them upon the death of the first spouse, the funds would pass into this Trust. The assets would then be held for their lifetime or distributed to them should they become a US citizen.  

Irrevocable Life Insurance Trust.  Life insurance can help beneficiaries pay estate taxes. The death benefit is paid to a Trust instead of an estate or individual and stays outside the estate’s taxable value. 

Charitable Remainder Trusts.  “Assets can pay to a client for life, to children for life, and to grandchildren for a period of time, and then go to a charity.”


♠ Posted by Marc J. Soss

The world’s most popular social network will now begin allowing its members to designate someone, a “legacy contact,” to manage parts of a decedents accounts posthumously. Members can also choose to have their presence deleted entirely. Previously, Facebook automatically froze the accounts of members it learned had died, angering some heirs who wanted to edit the deceased’s online presence. Following a trend, in 2013, Google began allowing its users to select digital heirs for its Gmail, cloud storage and other services, dubbed “inactive account managers.”

Facebook legacy contacts will be able to manage accounts in a way that can turn the deceased person’s Facebook page into a kind of digital gravestone. Legacy contacts can write a post to display at the top of their friend’s memorialized profile page, change the friend’s profile picture, and even respond to new friend requests on behalf of the deceased. If granted prior permission, legacy contacts can also download an archive of posts and photos from the deceased, but not the contents of his or her private messages.

To select your legacy contact, go to Settings and choose Security and then Legacy Contact at the bottom of the page—it’s the same for the Facebook website or mobile app. There you can designate an existing Facebook friend (in other words, only someone who’s already part of the social network), grant that person permission to download an archive of your data, or choose to have your account deleted after death.

There’s more fine print worth paying attention to: You can only select one person—and no backup—so spouses and partners who often travel together may face a difficult choice about whether to designate each other. Facebook members can change their legacy contact selection at any time, but once they’ve died, a legacy contact can’t pass along the responsibility to someone else. If you don’t choose a legacy contact on Facebook but name a digital heir in a legal will, Facebook will designate that person.
Article posted from the Wall Street Journal


The first signs of elder financial abuse are easy to miss. Maybe there's a new, overeager "best friend" who gives off a strange vibe, excessive secrecy around a new friend, or paranoia or anger when talking about money.  It is very rare to discover the sudden withdrawal of large sums of money.  
A perfect storm of factors make America's elderly the target of a fast-growing, insidious crime. Americans are living longer, and with the shift from pensions and toward retirement savings, they face an array of complex choices about what to do with their money. Making matters worse, as each year passes, their cognitive abilities tend to decline while the stakes of their money decisions get higher. Criminals always steal from where the money is, and scam artists always flock to wherever financial confusion can be found.
MetLife estimates that older Americans are cheated out of $2.9 billion annually. In another study, one in 20 older adults report being victimized by "financial mistreatment" at some point in the recent past.  The average loss is between $100,000 to $150,000, an entire lifetime of savings, with no opportunity to rebuild their savings. 
Variations on a Scam
There's a wide range of crimes older Americans face. Some crimes or deceptions are committed by family, friends or trusted advisors. It is not uncommon to hear about a neighbor, acting as a caregiver, stealing from someone suffered from dementia. In most cases the funds are gone forever, used it to pay for improvements on homes, and to purchase luxury items (boat, fancy car, etc.).
Elder fraud can also involve professional financial advice ranging from ill-conceived to criminal. Everyone has heard to story about elderly Americans being placed into costly annuities or bad insurance products.
The Biggest Challenge
To make matters worse, research confirms what those who would cheat older Americans know that the elderly are often the last to know their mental capacity is slipping. "Participants who suffer cognitive decline experience a reduction in their financial literacy but no change in their confidence in managing their money." That leaves children or other family members in the unenviable position of trying to wrest financial control from aging relatives who don't want the help.
Signs of Elder Abuse
The National Committee for the Prevention of Elder Abuse offers this detailed list of signs that someone might be suffering from elder abuse.
"Some of the indicators listed below can be explained by other causes or factors and no single indicator can be taken as conclusive proof," the agency cautions. "Rather, one should look for patterns or clusters of indicators that suggest a problem."
  • Unpaid bills, eviction notices or notices to discontinue utilities
  • Withdrawals from bank accounts or transfers between accounts that the older person cannot explain
  • Bank statements and canceled checks no longer come to the home
  • New "best friends"
  • Legal documents, such as powers of attorney, which the older person didn't understand at the time he or she signed them
  • Unusual activity in the older person's bank accounts including large, unexplained withdrawals, frequent transfers between accounts, or ATM withdrawals
  • The care of the elder is not commensurate with the size of his/her estate
  • A caregiver expresses excessive interest in the amount of money being spent on the older person
  • Belongings or property are missing
  • Suspicious signatures on checks or other documents
  • Absence of documentation about financial arrangements
  • Implausible explanations given about the elderly person's finances by the elder or the caregiver
  • The elder is unaware of or does not understand financial arrangements that have been made for him or her.