Florida Estate Planning and Probate Law Blog focused on recent case law and planning ideas.

FLORIDA ESTATE PLANNING CONSIDERATIONS WITH LARGE INHERITANCES

Receiving a large inheritance can be an unexpected windfall or curse to a beneficiary. To avoid a negative outcome, it is not uncommon for individuals to evaluate alternative methods to transfer wealth to their beneficiaries. A recent survey found that only thirty-two (32%) percent of baby boomers are confident their beneficiaries are prepared both emotionally and financially to receive an inheritance. Their concern stems from the desire for their beneficiaries to learn about hard work, failure and the joys of success and concern over their ability to handle sudden wealth. In making these decisions, individuals must also be concerned with: (i) the relationships of their beneficiaries (family harmony, divorces, current spouse’s and in-laws); (ii) student loan debt; (iii) establishing a 529 Education Plan for children or grandchildren; (iv) medical issues and a special needs trust; and (v) a drug or gambling problem or other destructive addictions. It is important to consider whether you want a beneficiary to receive their inheritance in one lump sum or distributions spread out over multiple years. All of these issues and more can be addressed in a well-designed estate plan.

NEW 2016 CONNECTICUT POWER OF ATTORNEY LAW



Effective October 1, 2016, the new Connecticut law governing “Powers of Attorney” (written designations of authority) will go into effect (a major update to the 1965 law. The new law, known as the Connecticut Uniform Power of Attorney Act imposes new obligations on banks to whom POA’s are presented by requiring them to either accept a notarized POA or request additional documentation within seven (7) business days. Once the documentation is presented, if the bank requests it from the agent, it will have five (5) days to either accept the POA or reject it (based upon suspected abuse or the bank’s knowledge that the POA has been revoked). In those cases, the bank continues to be free to refuse to accept the POA, without sanction or liability. Alternatively, if the bank refuses to accept the POA without sufficient cause, the attorney-in-fact can obtain a court order mandating acceptance of the POA and potentially recover reasonable attorney’s fees and costs from the bank.



The new law also provides that (i) the commencement of a divorce or separation proceeding will automatically revoke the POA designation of a spouse; (ii) the POA remains effective during incapacity without any additional language; (iii) existing POA’s remain valid; and (iv) the new law’s presumptions, such as revocation of a former spouse’s designation as attorney-in-fact and durability, will apply to prior POA’s. In addition, the new law creates a second, long statutory form that includes estate planning powers, allowing gift giving and other powers.

FLORIDA GUARDIAN CHARGES BIG BUCKS TO PROTECT WARD WITH ALZHEIMER'S LIVING IN HUNGARY



www.abcactionnews.com

A grieving daughter is fighting against a system that was designed to protect her dad

SARASOTA, Fla. - A grieving daughter is fighting against a system that was designed to protect her dad. She regrets the decision of turning to Florida's professional guardian system for help. She says that decision cost her father's estate a million dollars, and as the I-Team found out, the guardian was racking up those bills, when her father was living thousands of miles away.


“He was an immigrant, came here with one little suitcase and worked himself into millions of dollars,” said Mercedes Gyorgy, describing her father Akos Gyorgy. He earned millions as a Sarasota real estate broker, eventually owning 8 homes in three countries.. But his family says his estranged wife exploited him when he got alzheimer's disease.


They asked for the court to appoint a guardian to protect him and his assets, but now believe that was bad decision. “We turned to the courts to stop the financial abuse, and after that, over a million dollars has been spent on this guardianship,” Mercedes Gyorgy said. On Wednesday, she asked the court to release her late father's remaining assets to his estate, but the guardian and the guardian’s attorney are fighting against that.  “In the first two months of the case, one attorney billed $30,000,” Mercedes said.  And some of those bills came while her father was not even around.


He had disappeared while his Emergency Temporary Guardian was supposed to be protecting him. “I Called the police. They never called the police. They never called the police and said this man was missing,” Mercedes said. In a court document filed weeks later, it was revealed that Akos Gyorgy, who was incapacitated, managed to catch a cab from Sarasota to Orlando, then flew to Frankfort, before catching another flight to Budapest Hungary. Gyorgy was originally from Hungary, as was his estranged wife.


Mercedes says her father met her when his friend placed an ad in a Hungarian newspaper seeking a new bride for him, after his first wife died of cancer. He lived there for five years, which family members contend was out of the Sarasota court-appointed guardian’s jurisdiction.  While the guardian supposed to protect him from his estranged wife, she made multiple trips to Hungary to visit him. So did the guardian. On one visit, he billed his ward nearly $24,000 for a first class plane ticket, lodging at a 5-star hotel, and other expenses. “It was a vacation for sure,” Mercedes said. And that's not all. The court allowed the guardian to use the ward’s money to buy him a $200,000 home in Hungary just weeks before he died.


“It's a crazy case, but unfortunately, it's not that out of the norm with what's been going on in guardianship in the state of Florida,” said Marc Soss, who represents Gyorgy’s family. The judge says he's taking all of the testimony under advisement and will rule in the near future when the remainder of the ward's assets will be transferred back to the ward's family.

HOW YOU CAN PREPARE FOR YOUR ESTATE PLANNING MEETING




While meeting with an estate planning attorney may not be on your bucket list of items to accomplish during your lifetime or among your New Year’s resolutions, it is not something that you should put off until you are on your death bed. Many individuals are intimidated by the prospect of planning their estate, however, in most cases it is much easier if you come prepared.



A typical Florida estate plan consists of the following important documents: Last Will and Testament; Revocable Trust (for many individuals); Power of Attorney; Health Care Surrogate; Living Will; and Pre-Need Guardian Declaration. The Revocable Trust (if one is created), Power of Attorney, Health Care Surrogate, Living Will, and Pre-Need Guardian Declaration are all designed to operate during your lifetime and provide guidance in how your personal and financial affairs are handled during your lifetime.  In contrast, the Revocable Trust and Last Will and Testament control how your property is distributed after your death.



When you meet with your estate planning attorney, they will guide you through the various choices and planning options available to you, so that your legal documents reflect your intentions. In order to make your time with your attorney most productive, the following is a list of things that you should discuss and prepare in advance of the meeting:



Create a list of your assets and liabilities. This list should include the value of your home (including mortgage), bank accounts, investment accounts, business interests, personal belongings with value (e.g., artwork or jewelry), insurance policies on your life and retirement accounts. For each asset on the list, include an estimate of its value or current balance, as well as whether you own the asset in your individual name or in joint name with another person, such as your spouse or children. This information will assist your attorney in guiding you through the planning process.



Agents During your Lifetime



Health Care Surrogate: Who will make medical decisions for you if you become incapacitated. The individual you name to serve as your health care surrogate will be empowered to make health care decisions for you, if you are unable to do so. Thought should be given to whom should be appointed for this position, along with a successor to him or her.



Power-of-Attorney: Who will take care of your financial affairs if you become incapacitated. The individual you name to serve as your power of attorney will act as your agent with regard to your financial matters during your lifetime. The power of attorney will become effective immediately after you sign it. Thought should be given to whom should be appointed for this position, along with a successor to him or her.



Living Will: End of Life Decisions. The individual you name to serve as your surrogate will act as your agent with regard to your financial matters during your lifetime. The power of attorney will become effective immediately after you sign it. Thought should be given to whom should be appointed for this position, along with a successor to him or her.



Administration Upon Your Death



Who has the ability and skill to serve as your Personal Representative(s). The individual or professional entity that you select to serve as the Personal Representative of your probate estate will be charged with settling your estate following your death.  Their duties will include collecting your assets, paying debts, expenses and any taxes that may be due and then distributing the remaining estate assets to your beneficiaries. With married couples, each spouse typically names the other to serve as their personal representative.  The next consideration is who or what entity will serve as their successor, if they fail to survive you or are unable to serve. You may name more than one individual to serve in this role, but under Florida law they must either be a family member or resident of the state. Most importantly, it is important that the selected individual(s) or entity are trustworthy.



Who has the ability and skill to serve as your Trustee(s). The individual or professional entity that you select to serve as the trustee of your Trust, upon your death or inability to serve, will be responsible to manage your financial affairs, while you are alive, and settling your financial affairs following your death.  Similar to a Personal Representative, their duties will include collecting your assets, paying debts, expenses and any taxes that may be due and then distributing the remaining estate assets to your beneficiaries. With married couples, both spouse’s typically serve as the trustees, while they are capable. The next consideration is who or what entity will serve as their successor, if they fail to survive or are unable to serve. You may name more than one individual to serve in this role, without any restrictions of family membership or resident of the state. Most importantly, it is important that the selected individual(s) or entity are trustworthy.



Items of Personal Property and to whom they should pass upon your death.  Create a written document which states how you would like to dispose of your personal items (wedding ring, jewelry, automobile(s), baseball card collection, etc.) at your death, even if you do not believe they have any monetary value. Without a separate written statement, your personal items will pass to a surviving spouse or be divided equally among your children or beneficiaries. The itemized list can potentially avoid family disputes over items with sentimental but no monetary value.



Plan for Distribution of your Estate. How, to whom and in what amounts you want your remaining estate assets distributed is the next important decision you will need to consider. Your assets can be distributed to any individual (family member, friend, acquaintance, etc.) or charity you may select. The assets can be distributed outright or over an extended time period (they reach a certain age, until the beneficiary needs or wants funds, etc.). There is no wrong decision as you are free to distribute your assets as you choose.