Where will your home pass?

Have you ever wondered who would get your house at your death? I recently talked with a widowed client whose wife died about ten years ago. He wanted us to help him get his wife’s house (their home) into his name. For some reason, when the house was purchased, it was only titled in his wife’s name.

This process should be pretty straightforward. We petition the court to determine that the house was his wife’s homestead so that it can pass to my client. Easy, right? Well, I asked an innocent question (one that needed to be asked) and the result changed drastically. My question was “did your wife have any children?” He said yes, which lead to my next question “are they your children as well?”  He told me that they were not his children, and in fact, he did not know where they were.

Unfortunately, his wife died without a Last Will, which is called dying intestate. Under the Florida Statutes, his wife’s home will pass so that my client will get a life estate interest in the house and the remainder will pass to her children. This is, of course, quite different from what he expected and likely what his wife would have wanted. No doubt that his wife would have wanted and/or expected that their house would have passed solely to her husband at her death.

This rule is premised on the idea that if someone has a home in their individual name, they’d probably leave it to both their spouse and children, specifically if the children were from a different relationship. If that person did not have a Last Will, then the State will make this devise happen by Statute.

How could this have been avoided? Had the decedent either (i) titled the home in joint ownership with right of survivorship, or (ii) made a valid Last Will, the house would have passed to her husband. Interestingly, though, if someone dies with a Last Will that leaves his house to his wife, but has minor children, his wife and minor children will “share” the house regardless of the language from the Last Will.

Confused? Don’t worry. We are here to help. If you want certainty in the disposition of your home, and your other assets for that matter, feel free to give me a call. I love this stuff!


Looking for an easy New Years Resolution?

Each year, many of us make a New Year’s Resolution – maybe it’s to get fit, lose weight, spend time with family. These are all worthwhile but the busyness of daily life seems to get in the way of us actually accomplishing our resolution. So when thinking about this over our extended holiday vacation, I realized that perhaps setting mini-resolutions may be a better way to go. After all, if you set a first goal or resolution that is manageable, maybe others will follow.

So, I have an “easy” one to suggest. If you have not reviewed your estate plan in some time, why don’t you schedule time to review it at home? I seem to be governed by my calendar, and so it would make sense to me that I would block time off maybe one hour to review my documents. What am I doing I’m reviewing? I look at the following:

  • The names of my children’s guardians. Are they still a good fit to raise our girls if my wife and I are gone?
  • The names of my children’s trustee. Are the trustees able to make sound financial decisions based on my guidance (e.g., exercising discretion to make distributions and selecting an investment portfolio)?
  • The time(s) when my children will get funds from their trusts. Am I still comfortable with my children getting control of funds at the predetermined ages in my trust?
  • The names of those who will assist my wife and me if we are incapacitated.  Do these individuals have the time necessary to pay our bills and make medical decisions?

In effect, I like to review the “who” and the “how” of our planning. Boiling it down to these two simple areas makes my review very manageable. You don’t have to pay us to help you with this review, but we certainly welcome the opportunity to visit with you.

With that New Year’s Resolution checked off, I can now go on to the next one!

2015 Annual Reports are Due!

If you are a business owner, then this Alert is for you.  If you are not, please forward this to your friends who are business owners. Failing to take the following action will result in a late fee assessed against the business by the State of Florida that cannot be waived.

During January each year, the State sends emails to business entities registered in the State that reminds them to file annual reports by May 1st of that year (unless the business is a not-for-profit).  Unfortunately, some email addresses change over time or are invalid, which means that many businesses will not receive this reminder.

Failing to file an annual report on a timely basis will result in a business being administratively dissolved by the State, or at a minimum, require the payments of expensive reinstatement and/or late fees.  With the annual report, a filing fee must be submitted.

The filing fees are as follows:

Filed by May 1      Filed after May 1
·         For profit corporation:               $150.00                   $550.00

·         Limited partnership:                   $500.00                  $900.00

·         Limited liability company:            $138.75                  $538.75

Information on filing an annual report can be obtained at www.sunbiz.org.  In fact, you can submit the annual report and pay the filing fee on-line. To do this, you will need the document number assigned to the business by the State.  This number is located in the State’s email, or if you do not receive an email, you can locate the number by searching the sunbiz website for your business record.  Feel free to give our office a call if you would like us to walk you through the filing process FREE OF CHARGE.  You can also follow the State’s step-by-step instructions here.

Also, do not forget that the act of filing an annual report does not negate the responsibility of businesses from following all statutory requirements to maintain those businesses, such as holding annual shareholder and board meetings (for corporations).

Finally, for profit companies send out emails about the annual report requirement.  They collect email addresses from the State’s website and are soliciting businesses.  These are THIRD party solicitations not associated with the State – you can file your report on-line without going through any of these companies.