Understanding Trustees: What Do They Do?

living trusts and estate planningIf you or a loved one have been designated as the Trustee of a Trust, it is crucial that you understand its roles and responsibilities. This month, we looked at the duties that come with being a Trustee, and what the Siegel Law Group, P.A. can do for you.

What is a Living Trust?

A Trust is a legal arrangement through which an individual, referred to as a Trustee, holds legal title to effectively manage their own assets or another person’s assets. Generally, the Grantor will name themselves as the initial Trustee and assign another person or entity to serve as the Successor Trustee.

The most common type of Trust is a Living Trust, created to avoid Guardianship and Probate proceedings in the event of the Grantor’s incapacity or passing, respectively. The Successor Trustee will then take responsibility for the Trust assets until they are finally distributed to the beneficiaries listed in the Trust agreement.

Many people choose a Revocable Living Trust instead of a Will in their Estate Plan due to its flexibility. As long as you are alive and competent, you can change the Trust agreement, add or remove assets, or even cancel it at your leisure.

The Do’s and Don’ts of a Trustee

As a Trustee, you are expected to take responsibility for the assets set aside in a Trust for someone else. This means that you won’t be able to reap the benefits from the Trust unless the agreement allows for it.

Florida law grants Trustees a wide range of responsibilities to effectively manage the Trust. Duties include, but are not limited to:

  • The Trustee must follow the instructions in the Revocable Living Trust agreement.
  • The Trustee cannot combine Trust assets with their own. You must keep separate checking accounts and investments and be able to account for them.
  • You cannot use Trust assets for personal use unless the agreement states otherwise.
  • Beneficiaries must be treated equally unless otherwise specified by the Trust.
  • Trust assets must be invested in a responsible manner that will result in reasonable growth with minimum risk.
  • The Trustee is held responsible for managing accurate Trust accounting records, filing tax returns and reporting to the beneficiaries as required by the Trust.

trusteesRoles and Responsibilities

A Trustee assumes legal responsibility to administer the Trust in compliance with the agreement and Florida law. They are responsible for managing the Trust in the best interest of the beneficiaries. If you have been appointed Trustee, duties may vary based on what assets the Trust owns.

In order to effectively manage the Trust, the Trustee must make efforts to control all assets described in the Trust. If requested by a beneficiary, the Trustee will create a list of the Trust’s assets and liabilities. The Trustee must distribute the property in the Trust, or any additional assets to beneficiaries as described in the agreement.

At Incapacity

  • Oversees care of the ill person, including care of any minors and dependents.
  • Understands insurance benefits and limitations.
  • Applies for disability benefits
  • Develops a team of advisors.
  • Notifies the bank and others.
  • Transacts necessary business and maintains accurate records.

At Death

  • Contacts attorneys to review Trust and process.
  • Keeps beneficiaries informed and distribute assets to those specified in the Trust.
  • Develops a team of advisors.
  • Inventories assets and determines current values.
  • Pays bills and performs final accounting tasks.
  • Makes partial distributions if necessary.
  • Collects benefits, manages records and files tax returns.

Consult Estate Planning Attorney Barry D. Siegel Today

In short, serving as a Trustee gives you the opportunity to provide a great service to the Trust’s beneficiaries. If you are considering executing a Will or establishing a Trust to protect the financial future of your loved ones, Attorney Barry D. Siegel can help.

The Siegel Law Group, P.A. offers assistance for Wills, Trusts, and Estate Planning to help you get a head start on securing your future. For more details on the duties of a Trustee, contact The Siegel Law Group, P.A. today and learn what our Estate Planning services can do for you.

Revising Your Estate Plan After Divorce

estate planning and divorceDivorce can be hard, especially when it involves retirement and Estate Plans.

Wills, Trusts, and other Estate Planning documents are rarely top of mind during the emotional process of divorce. However, it is critical to take the time to secure and update your Estate Plan to reflect your wishes soon after the divorce proceedings. Here’s what you should know:

1. Life Insurance Policies

After a divorce, it is important to review all beneficiary designations. While some states will automatically terminate a former spouse as a beneficiary, you will want to take the steps necessary to ensure that your beneficiary forms are up-to-date.

With the help of your Estate Planning attorney, you can determine which assets can be assigned to new Beneficiaries. You may want to consider changing your life insurance beneficiary from your spouse to your updated Trust, for example.

2. Estate Planning Documents

In addition to revisiting your beneficiary designations on retirement plans and insurance policies, it would be wise to review and update the following documents:

  • Wills
  • Revocable Trusts
  • Powers of Attorney
  • Health Care Powers of Attorney and Living Wills
  • Bank and Brokerage Accounts with “Pay on Death” Provisions
  • Titles to Property

3. Additional Considerations

In addition to the items mentioned above, it is also wise to be aware it is also wise to be aware of any possible potential conflicts of interest with your current advisors and find new advisors if necessary. In some cases, advisors may be forbidden from working with one or both spouses because of perceived or actual conflicts of interest.

Dedicated Estate Planning in South Florida

If you are dealing with Estate Planning questions during your divorce, you’ll want the assistance of a knowledgeable attorney. An experienced Estate Planning attorney can help you determine the necessary revisions to your Wills, Trusts, and other Estate Planning documents.

If you would like to speak with an attorney about updating your Estate Plan, please do not hesitate to call Barry D. Siegel at the Siegel Law Group at (561) 955-8515 or (855) FLA-ESTATE for your no-cost, no obligation consultation.

9 Unexpected Estate Planning Problems

Estate PlanningWhen it comes to Estate Planning, it is crucial that you consider the issues that may arise after you have moved on.

On top of all of our responsibilities, it may be difficult to set aside enough time to ensure your Estate Plan is in order. When we forget to plan ahead, all sorts of unintended consequences and problems can occur. Consider these nine unexpected Estate Planning problems to avoid.

1. Probate

Court-supervised administration of your estate is never an easy journey. Despite helpful court personnel, there are still filing fees, privacy issues, and long waiting periods before distribution.

Probate is a complicated legal process that can hold up your assets for months and force your inheritors to go to court. Remember to plan ahead with a comprehensive revocable living Trust with beneficiary designations to avoid your assets being held up in Probate.

2. Asset Protection

Many people do not take advantage of the asset protection opportunities that Estate Planning has to offer. One weakness of simply transferring your assets to your loved ones is that it will not always rest safely with them. Their future divorces, creditors, or poor choices can strip the assets quickly and cleanly, leaving them none the better.

Protect the future of your loved ones by establishing a Trust in their name. With the right provisions, creating Trusts for loved ones means that your assets can be protect the assets from their future divorces, predators, and creditors and scammers for years to come.

3. Family Disharmony

The death of a loved one can be a stressful time for everyone involved. While you might hope your family and friends will handle your passing gracefully, disharmony can arise due to improper Estate Planning.

Long-standing tensions and disagreements can flare up and cause problems as your estate administration becomes a battleground for family politics and disputes. Consider how to help resolve these potential conflicts to avoid a family battle down the line.

4. Attorney’s Fees

The most effective way to manage legal fees is to handle them while you are alive and able to oversee the Estate Planning process. Failure to plan is likely to increase the total amount of fees paid, especially in the event of a family legal battle over your assets.

5. Successor Fiduciaries

Without a clearly stated successor trustee or back-up executor, your loved ones may have to go through court proceedings. Planning back-up trustees or executors to fill a vacant role can help avoid conflict, confusion, and time-consuming court proceedings.

6. Contingent Beneficiaries

Create an Estate Plan in the event that your immediate family members pass away and/or are unable to inherit your estate. Old friends, distant relatives, or charities are usually the preferred options when parents, siblings, or children aren’t an option.

7. Updating Beneficiary Designations

Beneficiaries are those who inherit your assets upon your passing. Oftentimes, beneficiary designations. Keep them up to date to avoid confusion and dispute of current and ex-spouses fighting over who is the real beneficiary.

8. Joint Accounts

In the event of your passing, a joint account will pass your assets to the other joint owner. Joint accounts are a useful way of passing assets without requiring complex legal planning. However, joint accounts result in Probate upon the passing of the surviving joint owner, also joint ownership can add extra liability when it is not necessary.

9. Failing to start

The number one unexpected problem when it comes to Estate Planning is procrastination. Once a disability or death occurs, Estate Planning options are limited. Protect your future of you and your loved ones by setting up an Estate Plan today!

Estate PlanningEstate Planning in Boca Raton, Florida

Estate Planning doesn’t have to be difficult. At the Siegel Law Group, P.A., Attorney Barry D. Siegel brings years of experience helping clients secure their assets and protect the future of their loved ones.

Not sure where to start with the Estate Planning process? We can help. Contact the Siegel Law Group, P.A. today to make sure your future is secure. To learn more about our Wills, Trusts and Estate Planning services, call (561) 955-8515.

Probate & Estate Planning

ProbateEveryone Fears It, But Few Know What It Is

Typically, people begin Estate Planning with the intention of avoiding Probate. Probate has been given a bad reputation, but there is nothing inherently “bad” about it at all.

Probate protects a person’s rights and wishes in the event that they pass intestate, or without a Will or Trust. With Probates, a judge determines the distribution of the deceased’s assets in accordance with state law.

What Happens During the Probate Process?

The legal procedures for a Probate can differ drastically depending on the state, judge, and the size of the estate.

In any case, an executor (in Florida we call it a Personal Representative) will be chosen to carry out several steps during the Probate. The executor is typically a spouse, parent, child, or close relative.

Often, the executor is assisted by an attorney, since most executors are family members with no legal training to properly carry out each step of the Probate process.

During the Probate process, the executor is generally responsible for:

  • Appearing in court with an original copy of the Will (if there is one) and ask the court to open a Probate.
  • Being formally appointed by the judge to the executor of the Probate.
  • Purchasing a bond (if required by the judge or state).
  • Having several copies of the death certificate for administrative purposes (i.e. filing final tax returns, closing accounts, etc.)
  • Finding and make an inventory of all assets owned by the deceased
  • Opening a new checking account to place the deceased’s assets to handle all payments and distribution of assets.
  • Notifying and paying all creditors and providing each with a death certificate.
  • Publish a notice to creditors in the local newspaper as proof for all unknown creditors.
  • Filing a final federal income tax for the deceased and an estate tax return.
  • Giving a full, documented report of all transactions made in behalf of the decedent to the judge.
  • Distributing all remaining assets and property between the beneficiaries, if any.
  • Closing the estate.

So Why Does Probate Have a Bad Reputation?

The negative connotation associated with Probate is due to the fact that it is a tedious, time-consuming, and sometimes costly process that can be avoided with proper
planning.

In addition, Probates become public record, and most families would rather their personal affairs to be private.

A simple, clear-cut Probate, for example, can take anywhere from six months to a year to work through the system. Those who are beneficiaries may have to wait six months or longer to receive their inheritance.

While the process may be long and resource-consuming, sometimes a Probate is necessary and even the best choice in the event that a loved one passes intestate.

Probate and Estate PlanningLet the Siegel Law Group, P.A. Represent You and Your Family

The Siegel Law Group, P.A. offers confidential, compassionate, and experienced legal advice. From Estate Planning services to protecting your most valued business assets, Attorney Barry D. Siegel is available to help you through each process step by step.

Interested in learning more about the Probate process? It’s important that you focus on your family during this difficult time. Let Attorney Barry D. Siegel of the Siegel Law Group, P.A. guide you through the legal process for a safe and secure future for you and your loved ones.

To schedule a consultation at no cost to you, contact the Siegel Law Group, P.A. today at 561-955-8515 or through our toll-free number at 855-FLA-ESTATE.

Avoiding a Family Feud by Using a Personal Property Memo

When it comes to writing a Will or a Trust, most of us think we know what to include.

Real estate? Check. Investments? Check. Expensive jewelry? Check.

All those are important to get down on paper, but what about the countless knickknacks, heirlooms, and personal possessions you’ve accumulated over your lifetime?

While seemingly innocuous, these can be a source of unnecessary tension and conflict after your passing.

Familial Conflict

The truth is that while real estate and any of the other big ticket items can seem more important, to your family the monetary value of what you leave behind isn’t always as important as the emotional value of what used to be yours.

Disagreements ovPersonal Property Memoer what should be whose can quickly turn vicious; tempers flare and emotions run high even among the most seemingly well acclimated family. The death of a loved one is a difficult time and can bring to the surface long buried insecurities and resentments.

Unfortunately, bequeathing every item you own to a specific recipient is too time consuming and arduous a process to be practical.

A variety of alternatives have been used throughout the years to determine ownership. For example, some in their Will or Trust have had their family members bid over items in contention, or have them take turns picking a single item at a time. While these methods are obviously creative, they are all also in their own ways prone to cause unnecessary conflict.

What is a Personal Property Memo?

Wills and TrustsThe simplest fix? A personal property memorandum.

This is a list that can be attached to the end of a Will or a Trust and changed or updated at any time with a minimum of hassle. In the list, try to anticipate which items you own will have the most sentimental value to your family, or which are likely to be a source of conflict.

List the items, and who the recipients should be. You can also state that any items not listed or picked out by your heirs be donated to charities or sold at auction.

Always Be Prepared

The most important aspect of any effective Will or Trust is to minimize the logistical and legal factors that your family may face, so they can have the space and time to grieve without unneeded stress.

A personal property memo is a simple and reliable way to steer your family clear of more heartache than is absolutely necessary, and lay out clearly and precisely your wishes.

Need help writing and attaching the personal property memo? For more information on our services, and what Attorney Barry D. Siegel can do for you, contact the Siegel Law Group, P.A. today at (561) 955-8515. We look forward to helping you plan a secure future.

Understanding Special Needs Trusts

Special Needs TrustDo you know what a Special Needs Trust can do for you?

This month, we’ll look at the many advantages a Special Needs Trust can offer you and your family.

What is a Special Needs Trust?

A Special Needs Trust, also known as a Supplemental Needs Trust, allows you to take care of your loved ones financially while ensuring he or she continues to receive government benefits.

This type of trust contains set instructions that allow the Trustee to meet the needs of the beneficiary, but prohibits the Trustee from providing for those needs if they are already covered by Medicaid or other programs.

A Special Needs Trust also prohibits the Trustee from using the assets to reimburse any government program after the beneficiary’s death. Typically, these types of trusts are used by clients with special needs children or grandchildren.

But have you considered that anyone could become a special needs person during their lifetime?

Planning Ahead

In the event of an unforeseen accident, it is crucial that your family’s assets are protected.

If you want to leave your assets to a family member with a disability, it is important that you plan carefully. Otherwise, you could potentially jeopardize your loved one’s ability to receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Medicaid benefits. By setting up a Special Needs Trust, you can avoid some of these problems.

With the help of an estate planning attorney, you can plan a living trust that will ensure your assets are distributed equally to your loved ones. This trust can also state that if your child passes away, their portion of the trust will be passed down to that child’s children.

A Special Needs Trust can contain special needs instructions in the event of a beneficiary’s disability, but is not just limited to food, clothing, or shelter. It can provide for anything that Medicaid or other government programs are not providing.

For example, if the beneficiary enjoys reading or watching films, the trust could be used to purchase DVDs, online streaming subscriptions, audio books, and more. The trust could even cover beauty care or hair styling services, or even home décor and other personal items the beneficiary would enjoy.

A well-designed Special Needs Trust can significantly improve a disabled beneficiary’s life much more enjoyable, all while protecting their remaining inheritance to pass to the next generation.

A Special Needs Trust is not meant to cover the basic necessities that government aid typically insures. By providing the additional finances and care needed on top of what the government provides, you can help your family maintain a higher quality of life.

Special Needs Trust & Estate Planning Services in Boca Raton, FL

If you are worried about providing for a loved one with a disability, Attorney Barry D. Siegel is here to help.

At The Siegel Law Group, P.A., we can help you prepare for their future, without discounting them from important financial aid opportunities from the government, such as Medicaid and SSI.

An Estate Planning Lawyer will ensure your loved ones receives the right amount of care he or she needs in the event of your absence. When you call The Siegel Law Group, Attorney Barry D. Siegel will work with you to create a custom Special Needs Trust that works for you.Special Needs Planning

Call The Siegel Law Group today to learn more about our Special Needs Planning Services with a complementary consultation. For added convenience, The Siegel Law Group, P.A. offers appointments available all throughout South Florida to better serve clients just like you.

So, what are you waiting for? Protect the future of your loved ones with Special Needs Planning today when you call Attorney Barry D. Siegel of the Siegel Law Group, P.A.

To learn more about what Barry D. Siegel can do for you, call (561) 955-8515 or contact us toll-free at 855-FLA-ESTATE today.

Asset Protection Planning

Why Asset Protection Planning?

Asset Protection Planning

Maybe you took a small amount of money and turned it into a fully-functioning business. Maybe you inherited the business from somebody else, then worked tirelessly to make it even more successful.

Either way, you’ve worked hard for your assets.

In today’s litigious society, aren’t you a little afraid?

A lawsuit can pose a serious threat to your assets.

If your company breaks environmental regulations, your personal assets are at risk.

Sexual harassment claims put your personal assets are at risk.

There are so many ways that a foolish verdict can destroy your future.

Asset Protection Planning Can Help

Asset Protection Planning Asset Protection Planning uses certain legal structures that discourage opportunistic creditors. These structures make it harder for your assets to get taken away from you.

These structures can also be great for negotiation. Because people don’t want to go through the hassle of untangling the legal structures, you can strike good deals with creditors so they will settle for pennies on the dollar.

Asset Protection Planning in South Florida

Now is the time to protect your assets.

Do not wait until a problem arises; instead, call Attorney Barry Siegel today at (561) 955-8515 to arrange a complimentary, no-risk consultation. With years of experience under our belt, you can trust that The Siegel Law Group, P.A. will help you protect your assets.

So, what are you waiting for? Contact The Siegel Law Group, P.A. today and discover what an Asset Protection Plan can do for you and your loved ones.