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Frequently Asked Questions

Estate Planning FAQs

A comprehensive estate plan is an essential part of protecting your assets and providing for future generations. It’s important to understand, however, that it’s not enough to simply create an estate plan and forget about it. 

Your estate plan needs to change and evolve over the years. Life changes, so your estate plan needs to change along with it.

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There are key moments in life when you should update your estate plan, such as:

1. Marriage

Marriage can change every aspect of your life. It’s important to remember that marrying someone is as much a financial union as a personal one. Once you are married, most of the assets that you accumulate are both of yours, and your spouse is entitled to a percentage of your estate in the absence of other arrangements. If you have children from a previous relationship (or your spouse has children of his or her own), you need to account for that in your estate plan.

2. Divorce

It is also important to review your plan after a divorce. State laws might prevent your ex-spouse from inheriting under a Will or Trust, but they still might be listed as a beneficiary on certain accounts, or as your power of attorney, so you want to update these documents. If you have a joint trust, you will need to review whether to revoke that trust and create a new one.

3. Birth of a Child

The birth of a child is another event that should trigger a review of your existing estate plan. Children are entitled to inherit under state law. However, many parents would like to ensure that their children receive more than they would under a statute. In addition, state law will not ensure that your children inherit trust property. Your trust documents will need to be updated to reflect how you want assets to be distributed to your children. Finally, you can use a last will and testament to name a preferred guardian. This is critical, should a tragedy occur, where both parents are unable to care for a child.

4. Unexpected Crises

We can never predict the future. The worry of becoming physically ill with the virus, as well as the possibility that you or a loved one could become emotionally ill, weighs heavily on our minds. Once you are in the hospital, or under psychological care, you may not have the opportunity to update your estate plan or ensure you have the right power of attorney, and that your wishes are met.

For these varied reasons, it is a good time to review your estate plan and make sure it is updated. 

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A will is the first estate planning document that most people consider. While there are many clear benefits of having a trust to pass on your property, a will can still be an essential document to have as part of your estate plan. It is particularly effective for small estate plans.

A will designates someone to serve as the personal representative of your estate after your death, known as the executor. If you are using your will to distribute your property to your heirs, then your personal representative will name your beneficiaries and the property each one will inherit. It also is used to name a guardian for minor children; which cannot be done through a trust.

Additionally, some people create a trust but fail to properly transfer all their property into their trust. This means there might still be property leftover that needs to be addressed. You can use a Will to instruct that any of your property that is not included in your trust be transferred to your trust upon your death.

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The most common type of trust is a revocable living trust. This means that you create the trust while you are living; and you can amend the trust or completely revoke it at any time. You are the trustee who can manage and access the trust property while you are capable. If you become incapacitated or pass away, your designated successor trustee will take over. The trustee will then manage and distribute your trust estate according to your instructions.

There are also irrevocable trusts, meaning that they cannot be modified except under strict and specific circumstances. Ownership of particular assets is transferred into the irrevocable trust and it legally removes all the rights of the person who created the trust, called the grantor. This type of trust can severely limit the grantor’s options. However, it can be an effective solution for wealthy individuals seeking certain tax advantages and asset protections.

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Most people should have a will as part of their estate plan. However, you do not have to transfer your property to your beneficiaries through your will. Instead, if you create a trust, your property will be passed to your heirs through the trust. So, which is better – a trust or a will?

Here are some benefits of each and other factors to consider.

1. Preventing probate

Probate is the legal process of distributing and wrapping up your estate. Having a will makes the probate process simpler than not having a will, but having a trust can eliminate the need for probate.

Instead, the property will be distributed directly to your beneficiaries from the trust by your successor trustee. This is the most common reason that people form trusts to pass on their estate.

2. Confidentiality

When a will is submitted to probate it becomes public record and anyone can obtain information about your estate property and assets, as well as what each beneficiary receives. A trust can be created by a will, but that means the provisions of the trust also become part of the public record. On the other hand, only your beneficiaries and trustee have access to the contents of your trust, if created during your lifetime and this confidentiality is an attractive benefit for many people.

3. Planning for incapacitation

Your will becomes effective after you pass away. It does not protect you or your estate should you become mentally incapacitated. You will need additional estate planning documents, such as powers of attorney for healthcare and property, to plan for the possibility that you can no longer manage your healthcare and financial affairs. If you do not have such documents in place, the court might need to appoint a guardian.

If you have a funded revocable trust, the successor trustee can step in and take over if you become incapacitated; though your property will not be distributed until after you pass away. A trust can ensure that your estate is properly managed even if you can no longer do so yourself.

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Depending on the amount of the estate and other aspects of your particular situation, an inheritance might be subject to estate tax, inheritance tax, and/or capital gains tax.

Estate tax

The federal estate tax is based on the current fair market value of the estate. In 2022, only estates worth a minimum of $12.06 million will be subject to the tax. When an estate does have to pay federal estate tax, the tax rate is 18% to 40% of the assets over the $12.06 million threshold.

There is, however, an exception for spouses. If your spouse inherits your estate, they won’t have to pay federal estate taxes even if the estate is over the threshold. Florida does not have a state estate tax, but several other states do. In those states, some people may have to pay estate taxes to their state even if they are not required to pay federal estate taxes.

Inheritance tax

The inheritance tax is not the same thing as the estate tax. The inheritance tax is paid by beneficiaries, while the estate tax is taken directly from the estate. Also, unlike the estate tax, which can be a federal and/or state tax, the inheritance tax is strictly a state tax. Inheritance tax rates vary depending on the state and the value of the inheritance. Florida does not have an inheritance tax, but six other states do.

Capital gains tax

If your beneficiaries inherit property and/or investments, they pay capital gains tax at the time they sell it. The tax is calculated on a “step up basis,” which means that the market value of the property is calculated as its value at the time they inherit it, not its value at the time you originally bought the property.

An experienced estate planning attorney can look at your assets as a whole and create a comprehensive plan to protect your family members from tax burdens.

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Cash is the only asset that your beneficiaries have to report for taxes right away. If they inherit homes, other types of real estate, stocks, bonds, mutual funds, or other investment property, they don’t have to pay taxes on them until they sell them.

The capital gains tax applies to the profit that someone makes on a property or an investment. Usually, in a non-inheritance situation, the tax applies to the difference between the price you paid for the item and the price you receive when it’s sold.

With inherited property, the cost basis is “stepped up” to the time your beneficiaries inherit the property. This can save them a lot of money in taxes.

Example: Say you bought your home for $50,000, lived in it for decades, and at the time you pass away, it’s worth $200,000. Your beneficiary sells it two years later when its worth has risen to $220,000.

Without the advantage of the stepped-up cost basis, your beneficiary would owe capital gains tax on the difference between $220,000 and $50,000, which equals $170,000. With the stepped-up basis, they’ll owe capital gains tax only on the $20,000 difference between the property’s value at the time they inherited it and its value at the time it was sold.

An experienced estate planning attorney can look at your assets as a whole and create a comprehensive plan to protect your family members from tax burdens.

Contact us to learn more about how we can help you and your loved ones with estate planning.

Elder Law & Medicaid FAQs

There comes a time in most people’s lives when they need long-term care, despite its exceedingly high costs. Medicaid planning involves identifying opportunities to preserve hard-earned assets when an individual, spouse or parent needs full-time nursing care.

As part of long-term care planning, medicaid planning is a strategy that allocates how funds will be used to support a healthy spouse in case of a married couple or be set aside to supplement an individual’s family at death.

A Florida medicaid attorney can help with the two stages of medicaid planning:

  • Advanced planning: This involves the transferring of assets five years or more before nursing home admission is anticipated. Through careful estate planning, these assets can be used for the care of an individual or couple for the remainder of their lives and can be inherited by children or heirs after death.
  • Planning just before nursing home admission: While advanced planning is always recommended, it’s not always possible for every individual. With this type of planning, a Florida medicaid attorney will transfer assets at or around the time of nursing home admission, before the Medicaid application.


Assets transferred within five years of application incur a penalty, meaning that medicaid will not pay for nursing care for a period of time. During this period, non-gifted assets are used to pay for nursing care until medicaid can cover the bills to ensure that care remains uninterrupted.

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The cost of long-term nursing home care in Florida continues to increase. Many people believe they have too many assets to qualify for government assistance – but they are often wrong. Sadly, people pay out-of-pocket for their long-term care until they lose their home and life savings.

But with careful medicaid planning, you may be able to receive the financial help to cover the cost of nursing home care. Medicaid planning is the use of legal tools and techniques to help individuals qualify for medicaid benefits. The cost to hire a medicaid planning attorney is an investment in retaining your assets while qualifying for the benefits you are entitled to. 

It’s helpful to look at the cost of a medicaid planning attorney in terms of value provided instead of cash spent. The process of applying for and receiving medicaid benefits is extremely difficult and time-consuming for the applicant. Severe penalties can be imposed on individuals that make improper gifts or are over the asset limit, including denial of benefits.

However, with appropriate planning, we can help you become eligible for medicaid while still protecting the nest egg that you’ve built over your lifetime.

Contact us to learn more about how we can help you and your loved ones with medicaid planning.

Under normal circumstances, it’s generally advisable to hire a medicaid planning attorney at least five years before you begin retirement. It can be a complex process when an individual’s monthly income or assets exceed financial eligibility limits. 

Another complicating factor is when one spouse requires long-term care, but the other can still live independently.

While incomes and assets can be converted into non-countable assets, these transactions take time and require both legal and financial expertise. Figuring out how to divide and transfer these assets is a common challenge solved with an attorney’s help.

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No one should apply for medicaid until they have a proper plan in place to qualify. Applying too early may cause a longer wait to qualify than necessary, while applying too late may require having to fork out sums of money to pay for the care you may never have needed to spend money on. 

Moreover, not having your assets structured properly may result in a denied application. Hiring a Florida medicaid planning attorney ensures your application is followed correctly in accordance with the law, speeds up the process, and reduces administrative stress.

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There’s often a misinformed panic around losing assets or having to sell one’s home. The state of Florida assesses a person’s income and countable assets to determine their financial eligibility to qualify for medicaid.

Countable assets include:

  • Certificates of deposit
  • Stocks, bonds, and retirement accounts
  • Checking and savings accounts
  • Non-homestead real estate
  • Annuities
  • Secondary vehicles
  • Cash value of life insurance if it exceeds $2500


Non-countable assets include:

  • A primary home and vehicle
  • Income-producing properties
  • Pre-purchased funeral plans
  • Personal property and household belongings
  • Life insurance policies with no cash value
  • Up to $1,500 in cash set aside for burial


Contact us to learn more about how we can help you and your loved ones with medicaid planning.

Your home may be considered a homestead under Florida law and an excluded asset for medicaid qualification.

In the event of death, an attorney can ensure your estate plan is properly structured to protect your homestead from Medicaid recovery, meaning that it won’t be used to pay for healthcare costs.

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There are various factors that influence the cost of hiring a medicaid planning attorney in Florida, such as;

  • Marital status
  • The applicant’s age
  • A spouse’s and children’s age and health statutes
  • The applicants’ financial status in terms of assets and income
  • The urgency of the application
  • Receiving gifts in the form of assets
  • The existence of estate planning documents


Contact us to learn more about how we can help you and your loved ones with medicaid planning.

When it comes to medicaid appeals, the proper handling of responses is crucial to preserving appeal rights. Many a time, the denial of claims by medicare and medicaid in pre-and post-payments may be inaccurate. 

A medicaid attorney will assess if the appeal denial is erroneous and take the correct legal action to ensure the litigation process is properly executed.

Contact us to learn more about how we can help you and your loved ones with medicaid planning.

Someone who has too many assets to be eligible for medicaid can consult a medicaid planning attorney for advice and guidance. With careful medicaid planning, you may be able to receive the financial help you need without losing your assets. 

Many people mistakenly believe they have too many assets such as their home equity or retirement accounts to qualify for government assistance, so they pay out-of-pocket for their long-term care until their savings are gone.

Medicaid planning is long-term care planning as part of your Estate Plan. The goal of medicaid planning is to manage your financial eligibility and to preserve as many assets as possible so that you can qualify for medicaid as quickly as possible.

Contact us to learn more about how we can help you and your loved ones with medicaid planning.

Special Needs Trusts FAQs

In order for someone to qualify for SSI or medicare, there is a limit to how much they can have in the bank. An inheritance, or large sum payment, can disrupt this balance and jeopardize their benefits. A special needs trust ensures this does not happen.

Instead of transferring inheritance directly to a beneficiary (aka your loved one with special needs), the money will be transferred into a special needs trust with a designated trustee. The trustee will manage the funds on behalf of the beneficiary. And since your loved one will never have direct control over the money, medicare and SSI administrators will not consider these funds when determining eligibility for benefits. 

The trust ends when all the funds are spent or when the beneficiary passes away.

Contact us to learn more about how we can help you and your loved ones with special needs planning.

While the trustee cannot give any money directly to your beneficiary, they can use the money to pay for a number of goods or services, including (but not limited to):

  • Personal care and home health assistance
  • Out-of-pocket medical or dental costs
  • Vacations and recreational activities
  • Education and training
  • Vehicles
  • Home furnishings
  • Clothes and other belongings


A Special Needs Trust can be incredibly valuable when planning for your loved ones’ future.
Contact us to learn more about how we can help you and your loved ones with special needs planning.

Parents of a special needs child have different long-term planning concerns. Naming your child as the beneficiary of your IRA is one option for providing for their future financial needs. 

However, while this can offer certain advantages, such as the ability to spread out payments, there are also serious disadvantages. 

  • Rather than being subject to the standard 10-year time limit, payments to a child with a disability may be stretched out throughout their lifetime. 
  • Periodic payments help manage assets and ensure the child has funds to meet future financial needs. 
  • Periodic payments offer tax benefits. It allows tax payments to be spread out and can help take advantage of potentially lower future rates. 


Unfortunately, there is one major disadvantage of using an IRA to provide for a child with a disability. As it is considered a source of income, it could impact their rights to other important benefits.     

A special needs trust (SNT) is an important estate planning tool for parents who have a child with a disability. Referred to also as a supplemental needs trust under section 732.2025 (8) of the Florida Statutes, it provides many of the same benefits as naming your child a beneficiary of your IRA. However, it also offers better protections: 

  • You can still spread out disbursements
  • It avoids lump sum tax payments
  • It does not impact your child’s rights to government aid or other benefits.  


There are a variety of programs available that help offset the cost of food, shelter, transportation, and medical care for a child with a disability. By not interfering with their eligibility for these benefits, a special needs trust allows you to provide for ‘extras’ that would not otherwise be covered. This helps in ensuring an overall better quality of life.

Contact us to learn more about how we can help you and your loved ones with special needs planning.

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