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Estate planning myths are easily deflated by getting the facts

Estate planning is an important task for most Florida residents, although many of them do not get around to starting or completing that task. The process is designed to protect one's assets while alive, provide for financial survival if one becomes incapacitated, and to distribute assets to the desired loved ones and/or organizations upon death. Other benefits of estate planning include health care proxies and powers that make it easier for one's health care to be directed by a loved one and for instructions to medical providers.

Some common myths regarding persist and influence people who may be considering estate planning. One myth is that it is all right to put off the process until later in life. Actually, some important benefits can be appreciated by early planning. For example, a married couple can provide for the financial and personal care of their minor children if an unexpected tragedy occurs. Although thinking about such an eventuality is offensive and fearful to most of us, nonetheless if it happened it would be a greater problem with no will and no provisions for a guardian of the children.

Old protocols preclude medical cannabis from Veterans' benefits

Florida has a large population of military veterans. When Veterans' benefits become a part of the public discourse, there is usually wide interest among this state's former military members. Sometimes, however, legislation is proposed that helps the public in general but neglects addressing the special needs of veterans.

One such bill, the States Act, was introduced in the U.S. Congress recently. It protects the public from federal intervention in each state's right to independently regulate the research and use of medical cannabis. The bill is receiving bipartisan support; it would protect millions of citizens from federal prosecution under the Controlled Substances Act. It does not, however,  mention the nine million veterans who rely on the federal Veterans' Health Administration for medical services.

Estate planning for military families

Estate planning is important for everyone nearing retirement age or looking to prepare for the final decades of life. However, as part of a military family, there are special considerations to take into account when making arrangements for your future asset distribution.

It is essential to plan ahead for your post-military life in retirement, as well as your end-of-life wishes in terms of elder law. A comprehensive estate plan includes all of these factors. Here are some particular issues to keep in mind as you head toward military retirement and beyond.

Estate planning regarding the family home can prevent discord

A majority of Americans, including here in Florida, do not have a will or basic estate planning essentials. Part of the reason is the apparent urban legend that says estate planning is solely for those wealthy individuals who have substantial assets. Many people, however, forget about their family home, which can be a significant asset if the mortgage is paid down or paid off. In that event, estate planning can prevent the common discord that sometimes occurs between heirs after the parent or family member dies.

Checking accounts, investment accounts and the like have a clarity about them that makes them subject to an equal division among the heirs, at least in many cases. The home, however, usually ends up being the focus of any dissension in the family that may exist when the owner dies without estate planning. Therefore, when one meets with an estate planning attorney, one topic of importance will be what happens to the house when the owner dies.

Elder law planning allows for control over post-retirement years

Elder law planning in Florida is a vital concern to most persons approaching their retirement years. It is a subject that is best addressed as early as possible. Adequate advance planning can allow for maximum protection against a less-than-optimal experience in one's later years. To have the most control over one's life and to assure that the most trusted family members or friends are given authority in the event of incapacity, elder law planning is the best way to prepare.

Elder law planning will prepare for potential periods of disability or illness that may entail an incapacity to act on one's behalf. In that event, the individual will want to assure that he or she may stay in the family home for as long as possible. This can be done by advance planning in cooperation with an elder law attorney and, if necessary, with the assistance of a qualified financial planning expert. Family members can participate in devising a plan to suit in-home care if it becomes necessary. 

Tax savings is one of many potential benefits of estate planning

Florida residents pay attention to tax issues, and like people elsewhere, they tend to believe that tax planning is the main reason for making an estate plan. The recent Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 continued the trend in recent years to increase the exemptions available under the federal estate taxes. Most people will therefore have no federal estate tax burden going forward once the new law becomes effective. Some people believe that this fact eliminates the need for estate planning but that is simply untrue.

There have always been many other reasons for the need to prepare an estate plan. An estate plan serves some basic purposes, including providing assurances that one's assets will be distributed as desired. It also assures that the estate will maximize the economy of its efforts and keep a lid on overall costs.

Can Social Security provide for my loved ones when I’m gone?

You may think of Social Security as something that only provides for you in retirement. However, if you die prematurely, Social Security can also function as a sort of life insurance policy for you loved ones. In fact, the benefits can be significant.

In today’s post, we examine the basics of the so-called survivor benefits under the Social Security program:

Making a will in Florida

Thinking about estate planning in advance can help preserve your assets and reduce the burden on your heirs. Making a valid will is often the first step you need to ensure a distribution of your property that accords with your wishes.

In the absence of a will, probate court will distribute your assets in accordance with Florida's intestacy provisions

Making your parenting plan work for the whole family

Florida readers may know that a divorce can be most difficult for the youngest members of the family. Children often bear the emotional brunt of this decision, and while this transition will be complex, it is still possible to make this time of transition easier for every member of the family. 

One of the ways that you can do this is by keeping your custody decisions out of the hands of the court. By opting not to litigate, you and your soon-to-be-ex-spouse can work on a parenting plan that will allow your children to thrive, even long after your divorce is final. This option allows you to factor in considerations for needs and issues that may be unique to your family.

Asset distribution does not have to be a battle

Divorce is never an easy process, as two spouses essentially have to untangle their lives both emotionally and financially. This can be challenging whether you have been married for five years or 50 years.

Fortunately, just because you are going through divorce in Florida does not mean you and your spouse have to duplicate the rancorous battles you may see on TV. The simplest way of dealing with divorce -- particularly asset distribution -- is to figure out how to split assets between yourselves.

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