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Trust Distributions to Beneficiaries under a HEMS or Ascertainable Standard

January 13th, 2023

Posted in Asset Protection,Tax Law & IRS Defense,Wills, Trusts & Estate Planning

“HEMS” stands for “health, education, maintenance, and support” and is commonly referred to as an “ascertainable standard”. If there is a HEMS provision in a Trust, the money distributed can only be used for specific needs of the beneficiary related to health, education, living expenses, or other needs or support that a Trustee can ascertain. Some examples include health insurance, surgery, exercise equipment, prescriptions, tuition, career training, rent, mortgage payments, home repairs, taxes, legal fees, vacations, or other reasonable comforts.


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Understand the Risks of Using Beneficiary Designations

November 16th, 2022

Posted in Asset Protection,Wills, Trusts & Estate Planning

Beneficiary designations for your financial assets are helpful in that assets can be transferred quickly to your heirs without waiting for probate of the Estate (and assuming you do not have a Trust). Although this can be a good option, don’t overuse it or use it blindly. Consider these risks before assuming your assets are protected:


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Portability & Timing of Transferring the Estate Tax Exemption to a Surviving Spouse

September 16th, 2022

Posted in Probate & Guardianship,Tax Law & IRS Defense,Wills, Trusts & Estate Planning

An estate tax return (Form 706) must be filed if the gross estate of a decedent, increased by the decedent’s adjusted taxable gifts and specific gift tax exemption, is valued at more than the filing threshold for the year of the decedent’s death. The filing threshold for 2022 is $12,060,000. The threshold is adjusted for inflation and increases each year. An estate tax return also must be filed if the estate elects to transfer any deceased spousal unused exclusion (DSUE) amount to a surviving spouse, regardless of the size of the gross estate or amount of adjusted taxable gifts. The election to transfer a DSUE amount to a surviving spouse is known as the “portability” election.


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Recently Enacted Law Puts Florida Trees at Risk

July 19th, 2019

Posted in Real Estate Law

Florida is home to some of the most beautiful trees in the world and is known for its oak canopies and palm tree groves that give our cities and neighborhoods their unique look and feel.  Under H.B. 1159, or “Private Property Rights,” which went into effect on July 1, 2019, limitations have been placed on the ability of cities and municipalities to require a permit in order for a homeowner to prune, trim, or remove a tree from his or her property that may pose a danger.  The new law also prevents local governments from requiring a property owner to replant a tree that was pruned, trimmed, or removed.


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Legal Considerations for Rental Property Owners

August 6th, 2018

Posted in Business & Corporate Law,Real Estate Law,Tax Law & IRS Defense

Many local governments have enacted laws which require the owner of a short term rental property to obtain a certificate or other permit in order to utilize the property as a rental. This regulation comes in addition to obtaining a license from the Department of Business and Professional Regulation, a local business tax receipt, and the remission of Florida Sales Tax to the Department of Revenue. The issue of regulating short term vacation rentals has also been addressed recently by the Florida legislature.
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What is Probate?

May 11th, 2018

Posted in Asset Protection,Probate & Guardianship,Wills, Trusts & Estate Planning

Many people have either a fear of probate or confusion about it.  However, probate generally does not deserve the bad feelings its name evokes.  On one hand, sometimes the probate process is beneficial, whereas on the other hand, sometimes it may be more efficient and cost-effective to create a plan to avoid probate.
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Shipwrecks and House Bill 631

April 13th, 2018

Posted in Real Estate Law

This Spring, St. Johns County residents along with visitors across the county flocked to an area of a state protected beach in Guana State Park. With help from national news coverage, the visitors came to lay eyes on a 48-foot section of a once sunken ship which is believed to date to the 1700’s. Had this amazing artifact washed up later this year on a privately-owned stretch of beach subject to an ordinance establishing the customary public use of that part of the beach, the passing of House Bill 631 on March 8, 2018 could have allowed a private owner of beach to prevent the public from viewing the wreckage.
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Impact of Tax Reform on Estate Planning

March 19th, 2018

Posted in Asset Protection,Probate & Guardianship,Tax Law & IRS Defense,Wills, Trusts & Estate Planning

How did tax reform affect estate planning? The tax reform signed into law on December 22, 2017 increased the estate tax exclusion from $5.49 million[1] to slightly over $11 million.[2]  Estate tax is a tax on property transferred upon your death, but only estates valued in excess of the exclusion may owe tax.  In general, assets of a decedent in addition to any lifetime gifts that exceed the annual gift tax exclusion[3] on which gift tax has not been paid, are included in the calculation. For married couples, each spouse could have an exclusion[4]. Most individuals and couples do not have assets exceeding $11 million and $22 million, respectively, so the group to which estate tax is relevant has drastically reduced.
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