Craig F. Snyder, P.A.
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A Modern Approach with an old fashioned feel PROBATE • ESTATE PLANNING • ASSET PROTECTION • BUSINESS LAW

Jupiter Probate and Estate Administration Law Blog

Dealing with difficulties as a fiduciary

If someone has appointed you as a guardian or power of attorney should he or she become incapacitated or need that level of assistance in the future, you might find that it is more difficult than you imagined to transition into such a relationship. Even if someone has previously admitted he or she needs help, he or she might not feel that way on every given day, and it's natural for adults to fight for their independence in such situations. If you are a caregiver for someone who seems not to want help, there are some things you can do to ease the situation.

First, know that change is hard for everyone. This new relationship is difficult for you, but it might be even more difficult for the person who is giving up independence. Ease into things slowly and make sure you communicate everything in a way that is appropriate for the other person's capacity at that time.

4 duties of an executor

Being an executor for someone else's estate is a big responsibility, but it is also an honor. When someone names you as an executor, it means that the individual trusts you with his or her very last acts on this earth. The person believe you will honestly and lawfully abide by both the letter and spirit of one's wishes when handling estate matters, which includes paying debts and disbursing assets to heirs.

When you are working to settle an estate, it can be easy to become overwhelmed. Not only do you have to take certain actions in certain order, but you might also become aware of information about the person and his or her financial situation that you never knew before. Working with an experienced estate professional can help you get through the process without making mistakes or becoming unduly stressed.

Important steps when changing a will

The status of your estate -- and your relationship with various heirs and beneficiaries -- changes over time. After creating a will, you might get married or divorced. You might have additional children or grandchildren. The ways in which your relationships can change are almost unlimited, as are the reasons you might want to edit a will. To make valid changes to your will, however, you simply can't edit the document and call it a day.

How you must revoke your old will depends on the state your will was created in and the state where you will be creating your new will. In most cases, you can destroy the original copy of the old will, create a valid and executed new will that postdates the old will, or make documented changes to the old will.

Protecting family legacies: Creative assets

Creative assets can be a valuable part of many estates. You don't have to be a famous author or actor to have creative assets. Someone who has published minor works, created trademarked designs for a business or invented something could own creative assets that generate some amount of income in an ongoing manner. Including those assets during estate planning lets you protect them for your heirs, building a legacy for your family that could stretch through several generations.

Legacies have to be protected, though, which means heirs must understand estate administration and what their rights are to creative assets and associated money. News media often covers stories about heirs to singers or writers seeking compensation because someone else used material belonging to the estate. Even if you aren't heir to a creative fortune, enforcing your rights to works and materials could mean a healthy income through the years.

As a trustee, do you understand investment strategies?

You might be surprised to know that investing goes hand-in-hand with several activities related to estate planning and estate administration. First, people use investing to build wealth over time, adding to their estates and building future stability for themselves and their heirs. Likewise, someone who is put in a fiduciary or trustee role over money left to heirs or a charity might also need to be aware of how that money is invested.

A trustee might be asked to manage trusts for minor children, dependents, heirs or a charity following the death of the estate holder. While management of money in the trust is usually governed, at least in part, by the language of the trust, some trustees might oversee investment decisions or help the beneficiaries of the trust do so.

4 ways to use life insurance policies with estate plans

Whole and universal life insurance policies are a mash-up between traditional term life insurance and an investment. That is to say, they offer the basic functionality you'd expect of a life insurance policy, but they also accrue cash value that can be used for a variety of purposes. One accountant is saying that people with old whole or universal life insurance policies shouldn't just let them lapse. They can convert the assets to valuable estate planning tools.

Someone might have taken such a policy out years ago with a plan in mind for the cash value that was building. If the need for the cash changes, individuals might left the policy lapse. Letting the policy lapse after years of paying into it creates waste. Instead, you might consider another plan for that asset.

Heirs can face legal battles outside of probate

Depending on what you inherit from friends or family, your legal battles might include both probate and other matters. This is often true when you inherit real property, such as real estate, in conjunction with someone else.

One case in another city in Florida involves two heirs who inherited a five-bedroom house from their father. The man was allegedly the head of a crime ring in the state, but that allegation has nothing to do with the current legal battle the women are facing. The issues are arising from the women's desire to split their property in two.

Unique ways to divide things with sentimental value

Typically, splitting up money in your will isn't that hard. If you have $600,000 and three children, you can just give them all $200,000 and be done with it. However, things can get a bit trickier with items that hold sentimental value. You have to determine what each item is worth to each person, even if the monetary value is just about nothing.

One way to do it is to tell your children to ask you for certain items. Have them list out their favorite things—like making a Christmas list—and divide items based on their answers.

Can you mess up your estate?

We've talked a lot about why Florida residents need estate plans--those legal documents protect you and your heirs, and their benefits often begin during your lifetime. But estate planning documents such as trusts and wills can be complex. Can mistakes derail the progress and protection you think you've made? Yes, errors or failure to consider important matters during the estate planning process can cause issues later.

One mistake many people make, especially when they handle their own estate planning, is leaving a single lump sum to heirs. While this isn't a bad move on the surface, it's important to consider the implications of every estate decision. Who are you leaving the money to? Does that person have the ability to manage the money so that it makes a positive difference in his or her life? In one case, a man left a large sum to his son, who was a known heroin addict. The son used the entire sum within six months.

What are digital assets?

Digital assets are anything of potential value that is stored online or in digital format. An obvious example would be an online bank account; a less obvious example might include someone's social media page or online brand.

Digital assets are just coming into play as a major part of estate plans for many people, and many people are learning the importance of digital planning only after it is too late. An associate director with The American College's Center for Retirement Income says that some families only think to address the issue once someone has passed away that providers, such as Internet services, will not give them passwords or log-in information.

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Jupiter, FL 33458

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