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Avoid Probate by Making Financial Accounts Payable on Death

Probate can be a time-consuming and, in some cases, expensive process. Probate is not avoidable in every case, but with some advance planning, the need for probate can be minimized. Designating beneficiaries for financial accounts and other assets is a useful tool to avoid or limit probate.

Bank accounts can be made payable-on-death (POD) by requesting the appropriate form from your bank and naming the beneficiary. As long as you are alive, the beneficiary cannot access the funds. Upon your death, the beneficiary simply provides the bank with proof of your death and their identity, and the funds become theirs without going through probate. A joint account can also be made POD, in which case the account becomes the property of the beneficiary after both owners of the joint account die.

Retirement account holders may also name beneficiaries for these accounts upon opening them or at a later date. Further, brokerage accounts and even individual stocks and bonds are, in most states, able to be made POD under the Uniform Transfer-on-Death Securities Registration Act.

Residents of some states can name beneficiaries for their vehicles as part of their vehicle registration. Some states also allow real estate owners to name beneficiaries of the property. This is accomplished by preparing a transfer-on-death deed. If you wish to explore these options, speak with a probate attorney to see if your state allows them.

You should also speak with an attorney if you are married and wish to name a beneficiary other than your spouse or children. Laws vary as to whether they have rights to certain assets that supersede beneficiary designations.

Finally, an important thing to remember is that if you wish to designate a new beneficiary for your assets, for instance if you get a divorce, each individual account must be updated to name your new beneficiary.

Posted on Saturday, January 16th, 2016 at 12:33 am under Estate Planning.

Keep recent and up-to-date powers of attorney for an effective estate plan

Powers of attorney are a very important part of an effective estate plan. A power of attorney is a legal document that grants a person whom you trust, called your “agent,” the power to act on your behalf in certain ways and under certain circumstances. For instance, a durable power of attorney for health care might enable your spouse to make decisions about your medical care if you become incapacitated. A financial power of attorney might permit your adult son or daughter to execute transactions on your behalf.

A potential pitfall that can make your plans go awry is having outdated powers of attorney. There are several reasons why a power of attorney can become outdated. For instance, if your agent passes away or becomes incapacitated or otherwise unavailable, the document is obsolete. Or, you may decide that you no longer trust your agent and want to name a new one. This is common in the case of divorce.

If you have moved to another state since creating your powers of attorney, this is another reason to update them. Some terms have differing legal meanings in different states, and states have varying requirements for filing powers of attorney with the government.

Even if your circumstances are unchanged since creating your powers of attorney, it is still a good idea to sign new ones every three to five years. Some financial and medical institutions may be hesitant to honor older documents due to liability concerns.

If you have powers of attorney that are more than a few years old, or if you lack them entirely, contact Olivero Law today.

Posted on Wednesday, December 2nd, 2015 at 8:09 pm under Estate Planning, News and Press.

Despite decline, Tampa leads big cities in foreclosures

A recent report on national foreclosure statistics paints an improving, but still unfortunate, picture for Tampa, Florida, homeowners.

First, the good news. The Tampa-St. Petersburg metropolitan area has seen a 23 percent decline in home foreclosures in the past year — one of the largest decreases among large U.S. cities.

Now, the bad news. Despite this decline, Tampa’s foreclosure rate is still the highest among the 20 largest metro areas. The rate stands at one in every 527 homes in the bay area, according to RealtyTrac. This applies to all homes in some stage of the foreclosure process.

Another wrinkle in the foreclosure data is that bank repossessions accelerated in most states in August. Repossessions, which conclude the foreclosure process, are on the rise as lenders finally make headway in clearing the huge backlog of foreclosures that piled up in the wake of the housing bust. While this increase is actually a sign of finally putting that turmoil behind us, it will serve as little comfort to those who are losing their homes. In August, bank repossessions in Florida increased 23 percent year-over-year.

If you face an unpayable debt, consult a bankruptcy attorney. Filing bankruptcy will not wipe out your home mortgage, but it will halt the foreclosure process and give you time to make a new plan.

Posted on Monday, October 19th, 2015 at 8:38 pm under Bankruptcy, Estate Planning.

Woman’s handwritten note insufficient to revoke will

The heirs of a deceased New York woman received an object lesson in the importance of taking proper, legally enforceable action when altering a will.

Some years before Patricia Powers died, she apparently wished to revoke her existing will entirely, and attempted to do so by writing a note to that effect on the will’s first page. She also attached to the document her new, 12-page handwritten will and stated her intent to bring it to her attorney to make it official.

Unfortunately, in the subsequent seven remaining years of her life, she did not make that visit. If she had, her attorney would surely have warned her that her note on the will did not legally revoke it.

If Powers had in some way destroyed the document or defaced its contents, her revocation would likely have had legal standing. Her handwritten note in the margin of the document did not suffice.

Actions that strike a layman as straightforward and clear sometimes do not have legal standing. The best course of action for anyone who wishes to create, alter or revoke a will is to speak with an attorney as soon as possible.

Posted on Wednesday, September 23rd, 2015 at 11:14 am under Estate Planning, News and Press.
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Filing Becomes Important As Estate Tax Laws Change Even If Widows Do Not Owe Money

A new portability clause in the American tax laws is good news for estate planning but likely cannot be relied upon permanently.

The provision allows a surviving spouse to claim any exemption not used by their deceased spouse on their own estate tax return. Since the exemption in 2011 was $5 million, a widow left with a $3 million estate owes no taxes. But then when the widow passes, the remaining $2 million can be added to the same $5 million ceiling. This means the widow’s estate is exempt for up to $7 million, according to Forbes.com.

This portability of estate exemption is simple compared to the tax maneuvers some estates attempt to avoid these taxes, and it was praised by tax lawyers upon signing. Unfortunately, the portability option concludes at the end of 2012, so it is only helpful to people who happen to lose a spouse in this calendar year.

In rare cases, someone who is terminally ill could use the portability option but even then it’s still guesswork. The new law also complicates taxes for the surviving spouse if he or she decides to remarry one day.

So, while the sentiment from Congress was well-received in the estate law community because it addresses one of that group’s significant concerns, the portability provision is almost unusable because it sunsets so quickly, according to Legalnews.com.

For now, the portability option will mean lots of paperwork for the IRS. As Congress’ new rules mean fewer estates have to pay taxes, the new law encourages more estates to file tax returns even if they don’t owe, according to Forbes.

So all surviving spouses this year have to file an estate tax return regardless of whether they owe or they lose the portability option forever. Estates have nine months to file an estate tax return and many miss that deadline.

Legislators could agree in 2012 to extend the portability provision in the estate tax law, or they could rewrite the whole thing. Forbes reported that the President has proposed bringing the estate tax laws back to where they were in 2009 when there was a $3.5 million exemption and a 45 percent tax rate.

Congress is notoriously unpredictable when it comes to drafting estate tax law. In late 2009, the U.S. Senate failed to vote on a bill that would have fixed a scheduled expiration of the tax. That meant there were no federal taxes on estates in 2010, according to Businessweek.com.

At the end of 2010, Congress passed the Tax Relief Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization and Job Creation Act. This is the law that brought the exemption to $5 million and introduces the portability option.

Shiobhan Olivero is the Owner and President of Olivero Law If you need a Brandon estate planning lawyer, Tampa estate planning lawyer, or Tampa probate attorney, call 813.654.5777 or visit Brandonlawoffice.com.

Posted on Friday, January 27th, 2012 at 5:48 pm under Estate Planning.
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New Laws Allow Pre Death Caveats Prior to Probate

Brandon, Fla. – New legislation now allows filing pre-death caveats and improves the way caveats are administered. Florida’s Probate Code Section 731.110 now allows an individual who is apprehensive that an estate will be administered or admitted to probate without that person’s knowledge to file a caveat with the court.

“Caveats are vitally defensive ways to block an opposing individual from getting her or himself appointed as the personal representative under an invalid will in advance of a lawsuit,” said Reginald Osenton, a Tampa probate lawyer. “Once a personal representative is appointed, it’s hard to remove that person; caveats will make it apparent what concerns an individual has.”

Caveats will only be in effect for two years after filing and excludes creditors from filing pre-death requests. The legislation changes also eliminate inconsistencies between Statute codes 731.110 and Fla. Prob. R. 5.260.

“The new statute helps to prevent wrongdoers from isolating individuals within a family to get appointed as the personal representative and then have a potentially invalid will admitted to probate,” Osenton said.

In Florida, probate is the legal system where certain assets of a deceased person are used to pay off debts and taxes and the remaining assets are passed onto the heirs or beneficiaries of the deceased person. The process is governed by the Florida circuit courts, and typically takes six months to one year, although in some cases timeframes can increase or decrease.

“We excel in competent estate administration and compassion in a time of crisis,” Osenton said. “Many burdensome tasks occur when a loved one has passed, and any error can cost the estate time and money. Our firm will handle all the tasks in a timely and correct manner.”

Olivero Laws provides clients with skilled and effective legal advice to help them through the probate process. For more than 20 years in Tampa and Brandon, Fla., they have handled a wide array of cases involving the probating of wills, estate administration, and probate litigation. They assist trustees in the administration of trusts, regardless of whether or not they have prepared the will or trust in question. The firm also represents heirs and beneficiaries to ensure that they receive the maximum amount allowed by law from estates and trusts.

To learn more visit, http://www.brandonlawoffice.com.

Posted on Tuesday, February 15th, 2011 at 6:45 pm under Estate Planning, News and Press.
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Why You Need An Estate Plan

By: O. Reginald Osenton, Esq
President, Olivero Law

It is odd that many people plan their funerals, but those same people have not planned their estates. In fact, the majority of Americans do not even have a will. We have heard numerous reasons why people do not have an estate plan. This white paper will present a sampling of those reason, as well as our typical responses.

My children will do the right thing.
Fortunately, most parents are correct when they make that statement. However, we have seen many cases where, after a parent dies, greed takes over and the children do things the parent never dreamed of. In fact, in one case two sons fought over their father’s Cleveland Browns jacket. That’s right, a lawsuit was started over a jacket!

My estate will not have to pay estate taxes.
This statement is true in the majority of cases. Current tax law provides that no estate tax will be due if you die in 2010. Unless Congress makes revisions to estate tax law, beginning January 1, 2011, estates worth at least $1,000,000 will be subject to estate tax. Moreover, tax law also provides that many assets which common sense tells us should not be included in our estates are added. For example, the death benefits paid to your heirs at your death on life insurance policies you own typically are added to your taxable estate. In addition, there are many non-tax reasons to plan.

My spouse will inherit everything from me.
This statement is true in many cases. However, what if your spouse or you have children by a prior marriage? What if your spouse and you die simultaneously? What if your spouse remarries after your death? What if your minor child decides to drop out of school? A properly drafted estate plan addresses these and other “what if’s.”

I told everyone what I want.
Memories fade. People hear what they want to hear. In the suit over the Cleveland Browns jacket, each son testified, under oath, that his father told him that he wanted him to have the jacket. If you want to ensure that your property goes where you decide, the only way to do so is through a properly drafted and executed will or trust.

It is too complicated.
You do not need to have any special legal skill or knowledge to have an effective estate plan. Generally, all you need to do is tell your attorney (who should be experienced in estate planning matters) what goals you want your estate plan to accomplish, and let the attorney draft your documents accordingly.

I already have a will.
This statement raises two concerns. First, if you already have a will, you should review it at least annually to ensure that it still expresses your wishes. In fact, in many cases we review our client’s will and suggest no changes. Second, a complete estate plan has much more than a will. Although a properly drafted will is the cornerstone of any estate plan, your plan also should have a power of attorney and a designation of health care surrogate so that you can designate who will handle your business and who will make medical decisions for you if you become incapacitated. You also should have a living will to you’re your doctors to not keep you alive artificially, like using a respirator. Many estate plans also include trusts established for any number of purposes, such as saving taxes, minimizing probate, or planning for young or special needs heirs.

I will do it later” or “I’m too busy.
Except in cases of imminent death, there is no great rush to complete an estate plan. The plan should be well thought out and done at a reasonable pace. However, you do not want to wait forever. If you lose your ability to understand the nature and effect of your estate planning documents, you will be prohibited from signing them. For example, if you lose your mental capacity because of Alzheimer’s or an automobile accident, you will not be able to execute an estate plan.

I don’t want to think about it.
No one wants to think about the inevitable. However, many of our clients express their sense of relief when they execute a plan, and satisfaction that they do not have to worry about not having a plan anymore.

It is too expensive.
It is no secret that lawyers are expensive. However, our fees for completing an estate plan are probably less than you might think. In addition, think about how much money your heirs could save in taxes, legal fees, and other costs if you have a properly drafted estate plan. Think about how much those sons who fought over the Cleveland Browns jacket paid in legal fees. Had their father prepared an estate plan, such an expensive, stressful, and petty lawsuit could have been avoided.

Author Bio
Reginald Osenton is President of Olivero Law He has practiced law for over 20 years, and has an active estate planning practice, assisting many clients in developing their estate plans. He also has been involved in many cases when our client’s loved one has died leaving an inadequate estate plan, or no plan at all.

Posted on Tuesday, August 31st, 2010 at 10:17 pm under Estate Planning.
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Probate, Estate and Trust Administration Services for a range of needs

Our firm represents personal representatives, beneficiaries, and other interested parties in all aspects of the probate process. When a loved one has passed, you need the services of an attorney who is competent in estate administration matters and who has compassion to help you in a time of crisis.

The probate process is a tedious, time-consuming, and detailed process. There are numerous burdensome tasks to be performed, and any error on a task will cost the estate time and money. While Florida law requires that you hire an attorney to probate an estate, many attorneys will not complete all the tasks for you. We take the burden off our clients by performing all tasks in the probate process for them, thereby ensuring that all tasks are performed timely and correctly.

What is Probate?
In very general terms, probate is the process used to collect the assets of a decedent, to pay the decedent’s debts, and to distribute the assets to the decedent’s heirs. In Florida, that process is governed by the circuit courts, and it typically takes six to twelve months, although in some cases that time frame is shortened slightly or lengthened greatly.

For a more detailed description of our probate process click here

Posted on Tuesday, May 11th, 2010 at 3:31 pm under Estate Planning.

More than just a law office

Olivero Law, P.A., has a network of affiliated attorneys practicing in other legal areas to ensure we can locate a competent attorney in nearly any area of the law for those who contact us. In addition, we have a network of other professionals, such as accountants, bankers, financial planners, mortgage brokers, and marketing specialists, who have affiliated with us to provide our clients with a complete team of professionals to completely and effectively address our clients needs, including those beyond the legal arena.

Posted on Monday, April 12th, 2010 at 3:42 pm under Bankruptcy, Divorce and Family Law, Estate Planning, News and Press, Real Estate Law.