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Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Part III of IV Parts: Five Keys CPA’s Should Know to Avoid Probate (and Trust) Problems & Litigation

Fees – Executor, Attorney, CPA and Investment Advisors

Nothing seems to quite focus the mind like a discussion of professional fees. From the client’s perspective administering an estate can be an exercise in drudgery for the fiduciary and the decedent’s family members or beneficiaries.  There are often long periods of time when nothing much seems to be happening, yet sometimes the clients and the family perceive that substantial fees are being incurred.  Often, significant taxes must be paid or set aside. Plus, there is real work to be done by the fiduciary.


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Thursday, June 28, 2018

Part II of IV Parts: Five Keys CPA’s Should Know to Avoid Probate (and Trust) Problems & Litigation

Careful Asset Review

CPAs are generally very good at identifying a client’s assets and categorizing them according to criteria that is important to the CPA, which typically means understanding the income tax issues with regard to the decedent’s assets.  In this instance, the review of the estate’s assets should focus on transfer issues that arise in estate administrations as well as identifying issues regarding income tax and capital gains and losses. Some examples of important questions in this regard: Are there securities in the estate; Were they titled in the name of the decedent?; Was there a designation of beneficiary or an “In Trust For” or “Pay on Death” on the account?; Were they titled jointly with rights of survivorship?;  If there are marketable securities, how were they titled at the date of death?; and  How will basis be determined (stepped-up at date of death or not)?; Will there be long term capital gains, or short-term losses or the counterpoint to each of those?; Before securities are sold or liquidated, the fiduciary should make a careful analysis as to who may bear a tax penalty and who may obtain a tax favorable treatment.  In some cases, depending on the assets, the titling, or the terms of a trust, one beneficiary may obtain a significantly more favorable treatment than another.  The really important point here is to simply consider this prior to making any changes in positions.  It is also important to consider all these factors before allowing too much time to pass.  How much time is too much time?  Generally, the test will be whether it was reasonable under the circumstances for the fiduciary to act or not. We’ll discuss in more detail below.


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Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Part I of IV Parts: Five Keys CPA’s Should Know to Avoid Probate (and Trust) Problems & Litigation

Sooner or later every CPA will have clients or members of a client’s family that will require either a probate administration, or a trust administration or both. In many cases, the probate and trust administration process may be uneventful, and everything will go smoothly for the clients and the family.  When that is the case, that’s great!  However, there is a new reality emerging in probate and trust administrations in Florida and around the country, which is increased litigation.  In some cases, it may be fair to say that we are seeing some very aggressive instances of law suits and litigation.  The purpose of this article is to provide some suggestions to help identify issues before things become unmanageable, and hopefully to mitigate or protect our clients from the possibility of costly litigation.


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Thursday, March 15, 2018

Nuts and Bolts of Florida Probate

Many Florida residents have heard or experienced horror stories regarding the probate administration process in Florida. Although having to open a probate is not necessarily the worst-case scenario, it can quickly become overwhelming for the beneficiaries and the Personal Representative of the estate. While each probate administration will vary based on the unique facts and circumstances, this article will attempt to demystify the probate process by providing an overview of the steps involved in a formal probate administration in Florida.


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Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Top Five Traps to Avoid When Acting as a Fiduciary

Let’s face it, not all family members see eye-to-eye on all issues, and any probate attorney will tell you that underlying issues between family members usually do not get better after the death of a loved one. In fact, issues among family members often get worse when there is real money at stake. Even families with amicable relationships can become adversarial due to issues which arise in a probate or trust administration. An experienced probate attorney will be able to provide guidance to a Personal Representative or Trustee by anticipating and mitigating potential and perhaps even some inevitable disagreements among beneficiaries.


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Thursday, February 15, 2018

Top Five Non-Tax Reasons Why You Need an Estate Plan

At the end of last year, President Trump signed into law The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which is one of the most significant pieces of tax legislation that we have seen in our county over the past few decades. The new law doubles the basic exclusion amount for estate and generation skipping transfer tax, which will be a staggering $11,180,000 (approximately) per person in 2018. Of course, what Congress can giveth, Congress can taketh, and the exclusion amount will revert to $6,000,000 (approximately) after the end of 2025.


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Thursday, February 1, 2018

Top Five Traps to Avoid in Estate and Trust Litigation

Let’s face it, not all family members see eye-to-eye on all issues, and any probate attorney will tell you that underlying issues between family members usually do not get better after the death of a loved one. In fact, issues among family members often get worse when there is real money at stake.  Even families with amicable relationships can become adversarial due to issues which arise in a probate or trust administration. An experienced probate attorney will be able to provide guidance to a Personal Representative or Trustee by anticipating and mitigating potential and perhaps even some inevitable disagreements among beneficiaries.


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Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Trump Tax Reform Update #7

Just prior to Christmas, President Trump signed into law the most significant federal tax legislation in over thirty years.  It is important to note that the Tax and Jobs Act of 2017 does not repeal the federal estate tax.  However, the new law does provide a temporary opportunity for anyone who dies prior to the end of 2025.  As a result of this temporary opportunity, over the next few months, many taxpayers will be utilizing strategies to advance their estate planning goals by exploiting the new tax legislation’s generous terms.


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Monday, December 4, 2017

Trump Tax Reform Update #6

Readers of our updates will recall that months ago we predicted the Republican congress would likely use reconciliation to pass tax reform/tax cuts. Clearly the recent senate budget vote sets up precisely this scenario. In late September, the senate agreed on draft a budget that would allow for $1.5 million in tax cuts over the next decade. Ways & Means Chairman, Kevin Brady (R-Tx) said he will release the text of a tax bill as soon as the budget is "signed, sealed and delivered." It is widely expected that a mark-up will soon follow.


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Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Does a petition filed under Fla. Stat. 736.1005 require notice to all qualified beneficiaries?

In re Guardianship of Bloom, No. 2D16-2985, 2017 WL 2270124 (Fla. 2nd DCA May 24, 2017), after a lengthy period of litigation involving the guardianship, the estate, and the trust of the decedent, the decedent’s nephew filed for recovery of his attorney’s fees pursuant to Fla. 736.1005. The Second District Court of Appeals noted the ambiguities regarding the notice requirements under the fee recovery statute and clarified that all interested parties must be served with notice of the fee request simultaneously with the filing of the request with the court.


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Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Can an “estate” be named as a party to a litigation?

In Spradley v. Spradley, 42 Fla. L. Weekly D549 (Fla. 2nd DCA March 8, 2017), a pro se prisoner filed a claim against his mother’s “estate,” claiming that his brothers had converted his property. The Second District Court confirmed that the personal representative, rather than the estate should have been named as the defendant. However, the trial court, rather than dismissing the claim entirely, should have allowed the plaintiff to amend his claim.


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