Port St. Lucie Probate Litigation

Who Can Prepare Wills, Trusts and Estate Plans in Port St. Lucie?

The law firm of Dean, Mead, Minton & Zwemer provides estate planning, administration and business succession planning services for businesses and individuals in and around Port St. Lucie, Florida. For more than 30 years, we have handled the most complex to the simplest of estates by assisting clients with the preparation of their wills, revocable and irrevocable trusts, and estate and trust administration matters.

The attorneys on our team often advise our clients on handling matters that involve:

  • Preserving wealth for future generations;
  • Federal estate, gift and generation-skipping tax planning;
  • Business succession planning;
  • Trust and estate litigation; and
  • Probate and trust administration.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs):

1.      How Can I Avoid Probate?

In order to avoid probate, there are important documents that need to be in place prior to death. In some instances, there are simple yet effective ways to avoid probate court. We recommend to our clients they consider the following:

  • Setting up and funding a revocable trust;
  • Converting bank accounts and retirement accounts to payable-on-death accounts;
  • Holding all titles with joint ownership; and
  • Gifting prior to death.

Probate is a legal process to validate a will, identify and gather a deceased person’s assets, settle any financial obligations (debts or taxes), and distribute any remaining property to beneficiaries. If there is no will upon death, then a court-appointed personal representative (typically the closet capable relative) will be responsible for handling the process.

 2.      Do I Need a Will or Trust?

Similar objectives may be accomplished with a will (last will and testament) and a revocable trust. To determine whether you need a will, trust, or both, several questions must be considered such as:

  1. Are you married?
  2. Do you have children?
  3. What is the nature of your assets? and,
  4. Where are your assets located?

 A will is typically thought of as a means by which to leave instructions for the distribution of assets upon death. However, a will may be used for much more, including:

a) Naming a personal representative;

b) Providing instructions for the payment of debts and taxes; and

c) Providing for pets.

A will may also serve as a backup to a revocable trust.

A trust allows for the legal transfer of property, whether real estate or personal property, to loved ones upon death. Setting up a trust has many benefits. It helps to:

  1. Reduce/avoid taxes;
  2. Avoid probate;
  3. Allow for restrictions and conditions to be placed on monetary distributions; and
  4. Set aside funds for educational purposes and charities.

Estate planning lawyers draft wills and trust documents and can offer insight to individual situations. While there are many simplified wills available on the internet, having an attorney’s guidance and recommendations is advisable in situations where a spouse, child(ren) and assets are at stake.

3.      How Do I Protect My Assets from Creditors?

Individuals and business entities may protect their assets from creditors and civil judgments through asset protection planning – a series of legal techniques and strategies. A few common tactics include:

  1. Creating a will;
  2. Setting up an irrevocable trust;
  3. Purchasing adequate life insurance; and
  4. Transferring ownership of assets.

In Florida, homestead exemptions can be used as a safe haven from creditors in the case of bankruptcy. To best determine what strategies are best for you or your business, talk to an estate planning lawyer who is experienced in asset protection planning.

4.      How Can I Plan Ahead to Avoid Disputes Over Inheritance?

Anticipating inheritance conflict is beneficial to avoiding it in the long run. It’s been our experience that when estate affairs are in order through proper planning, family disputes are minimized.

5.      Does Florida Impose an Estate Tax? How Much Money Can I Gift without Tax Implications?

While Florida does not impose an estate tax, federal estate taxes may apply to estates valuing more than $5.49 million. The same amount applies to lifetime gift and generation-skipping transfer tax exemptions. Additionally, a couple may combine their lifetime exemptions permitting a combined estate to gift $10.98 million.

Annually, individuals may gift up to $14,000 tax free, and married couples may gift up to $28,000 per year, without affecting the lifetime exemptions for the individual or spouse. There are other scenarios to consider as they relate to gift and estate taxes. You’ll want to look at scenarios such as being a U.S. citizen vs. non-citizen, or being a Florida resident vs. non-resident. You’ll also want to consider whether all the accounts are in Florida or in another state. To determine the best methods to eliminate or minimize gift and estate taxes, we recommend that you discuss individual situations with an estate planning attorney.

6.      Who Will Care for My Kids if I Die?

It’s important for parents of young children to set up wills and trusts to specify their choice of personal guardian(s). Careful planning and forethought gives peace of mind and direction for the care of your children in the event that something happens to you. In most cases, the court assumes the surviving parent is capable of serving as the guardian.