Jacksonville Family Law And Estate Planning Blog

Reasons to start estate planning right away

Florida residents are encouraged to create a comprehensive estate plan as soon as possible. This may mean creating powers of attorney in an addition to traditional plan documents such as a will. Without a power of attorney, family members or other trusted representatives may not have access to bank accounts or other assets if the owner becomes incapacitated.

If there is no power of attorney granted to an individual, it may be necessary to seek legal guardianship of an incapacitated person. The process of seeking guardianship could involve a significant investment of both time and money. Powers of attorney may be granted by anyone who is 18 and older and of sound mind at the time. By planning ahead, it may make it easier and less expensive to solve problems that may arise.

Biggest mistake in divorce is rushing ahead without right lawyer

Ending a marriage in Florida is painful enough without making it worse through inadequate planning, insufficient court representation or allowing emotions to force a person into saying or doing things that will cost them later on. An expert recently shared her thoughts on the most common mistakes people make during divorce and its related issues, including alimony, child custody and property division.

The biggest misstep someone going through a divorce can make is skimping on legal representation, according to a recent article in Forbes. In other words, the interviewed expert says, it is vital that parties in the process of divorcing rely on the counsel of attorneys experienced in the skillful handling of divorce, ideally including mediation to navigate the tricky legal issues that define the end of a marriage.

Tips for getting ready for divorce

Some Florida residents may return from the holidays ready to get a divorce in the new year. After summer vacation is also a common time for marriages to end. Even people who have not made up their minds yet can start taking steps to educate and prepare themselves in case they do decide to split up.

For example, people can review the websites for the state bar associations and courts to learn more about the process in the state. Those who are at the point of consulting attorneys can make a list of questions to ask. People will also need to organize financial documents such as tax returns, end-of-year pay stubs and credit card statements.

Do not ignore a letter from the Florida Department of Revenue

You want to have a good relationship with your child, and you want to do your part to provide for him or her. However, you have suffered some major life changes since the original child support order, and after you make your payments, you do not have enough left over to live on. 

Apparently, your child's other parent does not respect your struggles and has contacted the Florida Department of Revenue. If you have received a letter to this effect, you need to act quickly, or you could find yourself in contempt of court.

Step family members sometimes unsure of family obligations

For decades, divorces and remarriages in Florida have been expanding the size of families. With the proliferation of step relationships within families, people increasingly wonder how to divide their time and resources between biological kin and step relatives. A university researcher who manages studies of family demographics said that uncertainty about how to allocate attention and money between various stepchildren and grandchildren sometimes creates tension when paying for college or planning vacations.

The passage of time often increases questions about who should help aging stepparents. Stepchildren might wonder if they should give an elderly stepparent a ride to the doctor's office like they would for a biological parent. The sprawl of relationships formed by divorce and remarriage could provide aging people with more younger relatives to rely on for help. Stepfamilies, however, do not always enjoy deep levels of connection among members. According to a survey conducted by a university professor, adult stepchildren receive 11 percent less attention from their stepparents compared to biological parent-child relationships. Stepchildren focus time on their stepparents 13 percent less often than biological children attend to parents.

Tips for recognizing and dealing with parental alienation

Some Florida parents who are divorced might also have to deal with parental alienation, particularly if their ex-spouses were diagnosed with a personality disorder. Parental alienation involves one parent manipulating the children so they turn against the other one.

Often, it begins in subtle ways. One parent may make contemptuous or denigrating remarks about the other parent. Then the parent may say that a child cannot come for the usual visit because of being sick or having too much homework. Later, the situation escalates.

Accounting for digital assets in the afterlife

When a Florida resident or any other individual passes away, it may mean that he or she has left behind a variety of online accounts. These online properties may range from bank accounts to a Facebook or Twitter page. However, there is rarely a clear answer when it comes to how a family member or other person may access these accounts after a person has passed away.

To determine if someone can legally access a deceased person's online accounts, it may be necessary to determine what the deceased intended to do with them. If there is no record of those intentions, it may be necessary to defer to state law or the policies of the companies that hold those accounts. In most cases, the law prevents a person from accessing another person's computer or internet accounts without permission.

Going through a divorce with kids during the holidays

For Florida parents who are in the process of separating or divorcing, the holidays can be very difficult, especially for their children. As such, it is imperative that parents think about the well-being of their children when making decisions about how they will handle the holidays.

Parents should consider how they have celebrated specific holidays in the past. For example, if the family has always celebrated with one spouse's family on one day and the other one's family the next day, parents may want to consider following this tradition to provide stability for the children. However, if this simply will not work due to the separation or the divorce, this is also a good time to create new traditions with input from the children.

The importance of updating beneficiary designations

Florida residents may want to make a habit of periodically reviewing the beneficiaries on any applicable assets. While the person listed might make sense today, that may not be the case in a year, five years or 20 years later. It is possible that a parent could remarry or that a spouse listed as a beneficiary is an ex-spouse at some point in the future.

Therefore, allowing the wrong person to receive money in an IRA or similar account could completely upend estate planning goals. Since such assets go directly to the beneficiaries upon a person's death, it may not be possible to dispute the transfer. In most cases, the process of changing a beneficiary is a simple one. It generally involves providing basic information about the account to whichever entity holds it.

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Rachel Rall, Attorney at Law, P.A.
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