The Coleman Law Firm, PLLC, with offices in Jacksonville, Florida and Palm Coast, Florida offers estate planning lawyers, elder law attorneys, and a probate law firm with a practice restricted to the areas of estate planning, wills and trusts, elder law and Medicaid planning, special needs trusts, Florida estate taxes, business succession planning, small business law, wealth preservation and asset protection planning, charitable planning, Florida probate law and trust administration, as well as guardianship for incapacitated adults and guardianship for the property of a minor child. We are participating attorneys in the AARP Legal Services Network for estate planning, wills and trusts, elder law, Medicaid planning, probate and guardianship. You can reach us toll free at 1-888-492-2468.
What is the attorney’s role in the estate planning process?
FLORIDA ESTATE PLANNING
We believe the proper definition of estate planning is to control your assets while you are alive, protect your assets for the benefit of your family and loved ones, provide for the management of your assets and your own personal care in the event of an incapacity, and to see that upon death your assets pass to the people you want to receive them, in the manner that you want, at the time you want, with the least possible cost for Federal or Florida estate taxes and professional fees for probate attorneys and lawyers, and other professionals.
The mission of the Jacksonville estate planning, asset protection, probate and elder law lawyer and attorney at The Coleman Law Firm when planning an estate is to strive for our clients to achieve their estate planning goals and objectives consistent with that definition of estate planning.
We implement that mission when planning an estate by engaging our clients in comprehensive estate planning where our first objective is to gain a full understanding of your needs, desires, goals, and objectives, as well as your fears and concerns, as it relates to your family, your estate planning – whether you need a will or a complex trust, Federal and Florida estate tax laws, so that we can assist you in determining what legal documents, last wills and testament, revocable living trusts in Florida, durable powers of attorney, health care powers of attorney, and other estate planning documents will be needed to achieve your estate planning objectives. Our focus is not exclusively on the passage of wealth at death as provided by Florida law, but when planning an estate we include consideration of lifetime gifting (and the Federal gift tax), estate planning needs and concerns to plan for incapacity, elder law concerns for long term care and Medicaid planning, for special needs planning, and for protecting assets during your lifetime, as well as end of life decisions involving living wills and other advance directives, so the value of your assets and the wealth you have accumulated in your estate will be available for your benefit and the benefit of your family and loved ones.
As an experienced Jacksonville estate planning attorney, we initiate our professional attorney-client relationship with our estate planning clients by seeking to understand your individual circumstances, your family members and relationships, and your estate planning goals and objectives, as well as your fears and concerns about wills, trusts and probate, the laws of probate, incapacity,Florida guardianship law, long term care planning, Medicaid planning, VA pension benefits, estate taxes, and other related matters. We want to know and understand your individual family members, their strengths, their weaknesses, their talents, their needs and their desires. Only by truly understanding the dynamics of your family can we then identify and help you understand the various options under the applicable estate planning laws that are appropriate and available to deal with the specific estate planning circumstances that are unique to you and your family members.
After we have gained an understanding of your needs and desires, and you have learned about the advantages and disadvantages of the various estate planning tools and techniques to avoid probate, why you need a will, or why you need a trust, how living trusts work in Florida, and other options that are available under Florida estate planning law for you to achieve your estate planning goals and objectives, and deal with your fears and concerns, we then, together with you, design an estate plan that is specifically tailored to help you accomplish the purposes for which you initiated the estate planning process.
The Estate Planning Process
Our process for planning an estate begins with an examination of your needs for advance directives that are appropriate for your circumstances. Advance directives include Florida durable powers of attorney, designations of health care powers (health care power of attorney), declaration of preneed guardians, and Florida living wills. We’ll explain the difference between a living will and a living trust and the differences between a basic will, a complex will with testamentary trusts, or a living trust, as the basis for planning your estate. From there we proceed to evaluate your potential needs for incapacity and for long term care planning, issues dealing with elder law, and whether your objectives can best be met with irrevocable trusts, revocable living trusts, life estate deeds, enhanced life estate deeds (lady bird deeds), or other appropriate planning techniques that work for you within the estate planning laws in Florida. We examine federal and Florida estate tax issues, as well as income tax planning issues. We then develop a blueprint for the Florida wills and trusts, and other appropriate ancillary estate planning documents, such as a power of attorney, that will be needed to accomplish the efficient transfer of wealth at death through avoiding probate, the protection of your assets during your lifetime, and the care and the management of your assets in the event of your disability or incapacity.
If you have a family member or loved one who has special needs as a result of mental, emotional or physical disabilities, we will help you understand the benefits, and requirements, of special needs trusts so that you can help provide meaningful support for that family member without losing any of the public benefits to which they are or may be entitled. We will then prepare for you special needs trusts documents that will effectively provide the support you want for your loved one, without causing a loss of the public benefits. We also will provide guidance and instruction on the proper administration of such trusts, or help you find the appropriate institutional trustee for the special needs trusts.
At each stage of the estate planning process we always take into consideration the income tax implications, avoiding the estate tax, in every will and trust, and for every aspect of your estate plan, as well as the asset protection and wealth preservation elements of every plan. There is little benefit to having a great estate plan, if all of your assets can be lost to creditors because your assets were not properly titled or structured to legally protect them against creditor claims. We help you evaluate the opportunities for long term asset protection planning for the next generation, or successive generations, as well as generational planning to minimize taxes through successive generations.
We also help you identify strategies for life insurance and more complex estate planning where that is appropriate. We help our clients evaluate options for charitable planning from the perspective of income tax savings, as well as major philanthropy through private foundations, charitable trusts, donor advised funds, or supporting organizations.
Our estate planning documents, the last will and testament or living trust, are designed to achieve all of the estate planning, asset protection, special needs, or other objectives that have been incorporated into each client’s estate plan. Each Florida legal document, whether basic will, complex will, revocable or irrevocable trust, is tailored to meet the specific requirements of your unique circumstances. The Florida wills and trusts documents that we prepare for you are so unique and specific to you and your estate planning goals and objectives, that we copyright each one of them.
If you need legal advice to plan for your potential incapacity, for long term care, for asset protection, for income and estate tax savings, for wills and irrevocable or revocable trusts, or for someone in your family who has special needs planning, please contact the Jacksonville estate planning, probate, elder law, guardianship and asset protection lawyers and attorneys at The Coleman Law Firm so that we can put our 30+ years of experience to work to help you design and implement a plan that meets your unique needs and helps you avoid probate and avoid estate taxes (avoiding the death tax).
In the following paragraphs, we will discuss briefly several of the major topics providing legal information about Florida law included in this website. There is a more detailed discussion of each topic on the pages that follow.
Thank you for visiting with us and if you have any questions or if we can provide you additional information, please be sure to let us know.
FLORIDA ADVANCE DIRECTIVES
Advance directives include several different documents that are all designed to provide for some aspect of your care in the event of your absence or incapacity and includes end of life decisions and planning with living wills.
The most common of these documents is the durable power of attorney, which is a document that allows you to designate the person or persons who you want to handle your business and financial affairs in the event of your absence or incapacity. You should expect your durable power of attorney to be drafted to deal with your specific circumstances. It should not be a one size fits all, cookie-cutter document. The new Florida Power of Attorney statute that became effective October 1, 2011 dictates that several options be explained to you so that you understand what rights you can delegate and what are some of the concerns with the delegation of certain rights.
If both you and your spouse are in your first marriage, of long term duration, and you have one set of common children, your durable power of attorney most likely should be different from the power of attorney for someone who is in their second or third marriage, as is their spouse, and you have children from a previous marriage, your spouse has children from a previous marriage, perhaps you have children together, and you want your assets to be available for your spouse’s support and comfort after your death, but you want your assets to go to your children after your spouse’s death. A Florida specific power of attorney can include provisions to allow your attorney in fact to change your last will and testament or your revocable living trust, to change beneficiary designations for life insurance policies or retirement plans; or your Florida durable specific power of attorney can exclude those provisions, and include others.
Your power of attorney can be drafted to include provisions for providing for the care of pets, or for the operation of a business or farm, or any other specific circumstance you want covered. The more complete and specific a power of attorney is drafted, the more likely it is that it will serve the purpose you intended. As you review the related section of this website dealing with Power of Attorney law, keep in mind that you have the right to a power of attorney that is designed to be as comprehensive or as limited as you want it to be. That is a responsibility your estate planning lawyer should provide.
Other advance directives include the Designation of Health Care Surrogate, the Declaration of Pre-Need Guardian, and the Living Will. Again, though there are statutory forms for each of these documents, your advance directive should be designed to accomplish your specific desires or deal with your unique concerns. Even the living will, made famous by the Terry Schiavo case, can be annotated to provide coverage of things that may be more important to you than to other people. In many, perhaps most cases, the Florida statutory forms are satisfactory and legally sufficient.
JACKSONVILLE MEDICAID PLANNING AND VA BENEFITS FOR NURSING HOMES
As elder law attorneys, we assist many clients with the process of planning, applying for, and qualifying for Medicaid benefits in Florida for nursing home care (Medicare does not pay for nursing home care beyond a certain specified limit, usually about 100 days), and veterans benefits for nursing homes, to help pay for nursing home costs for loved ones who find skilled nursing home care a necessity. We are experienced elder law attorneys and thoroughly familiar with the Florida Medicaid eligibility requirements.
As a Jacksonville Medicaid planning, Veterans benefits, and Florida elder law attorney, we engage in a process that includes carefully designed and implemented Medicaid spend down plans to preserve the family’s assets to the extent legally possible, while ensuring that the family member who is institutionalized has proper care at all times. We also prepare and file the Florida Medicaid application, and the applications for VA benefits for nursing homes and assisted living facilities. In many cases, the assistance of a qualified Medicaid planning attorney or VA benefits and elder law attorney in Jacksonville, can help preserve substantial financial assets, including the Florida homestead, of the nursing home resident, and their spouse, through effective long term care planning. Residents of Florida should not sell or transfer their Florida homestead because of nursing home care without first consulting with an experienced elder law and medicaid planning attorney.
The rules of Medicaid planning in Jacksonville, and throughout Florida, may require the use of a qualified income trust, sometimes called a Miller trust or a QIT. Only Florida lawyers can legally draft a trust document in Florida. A Medicaid qualified income trust is a trust that is used to shield income above the level allowed by Florida Medicaid rules for eligibility for Medicaid benefits, so that the skilled nursing home resident is eligible to receive Medicaid benefits despite their income level exceeding the allowable income limit. As experienced elder law attorneys, we provide our clients with very detailed directions for the proper use and maintenance of the qualified income trust, to comply with all Florida laws and Medicaid rules governing the administration of a qualified income trust. Because we understand the urgency often associated with obtaining a qualified income trust, we will make every effort to ensure that the qualified income trust for your family member is completed within as little as 48 hours, if necessary.
There is also a Medicaid asset limit that must be met to comply with the Florida Medicaid eligibility requirements.
The Medicaid eligibility requirements and the rules for eligibility for VA benefits are different. For a veteran seeking assisted living benefits or VA benefits for a nursing home in Florida, it is critical that the planning for the two different benefits programs be coordinated so that actions taken with respect to qualifying for VA benefit eligibility will not make the veteran ineligible for Medicaid benefits for nursing homes in Florida. A Florida elder law attorney is critical in the planning process to avoid disqualification for one type of benefits in the process of qualifying for the other type of benefits. Often the first meaningful issue that an incapacitated elder person who has met the medical qualifications for Medicaid nursing home benefits will have is to find a nuring home in the Northeast Florida area with space for a resident who intends to use Medicaid as their payment for the nursing home care.
For more information or legal advice about from an elder law attorney, about Medicaid planning, Medicaid eligibility requirements, VA benefits, or applying for veterans benefits, or filing an application for Medicaid in Florida, please contact your Jacksonville elder law attorney at the Coleman Law Firm at (904) 448-1969 [toll free at 888-492-2468] or email us at Info@TheColemanLawFirm.net.
FLORIDA WILLS AND TRUSTS
We will discuss with you why you need a will or why you need a trust. We will help you understand how a will works, how a trust works, and what happens in the event of your disability and at your death. As discussed above with reference to advance directives, and even more so with Florida wills and trusts, you have the right to have your estate planning legal documents reflect your estate planning objectives that are unique to your needs and that deal with the estate planning issues involved in your specifically designed estate plan. Your family, while it may share many characteristics with other families, is unique unto itself. Your estate plan should incorporate a last will and testament or revocable living trust that effectively deals with the distinctive estate planning needs, goals, objectives, dreams, desires, fears and concerns that are uniquely yours.
There are two major distinctions between an estate plan based on a last will and testament, and an estate plan based on a revocable living trust. If properly funded (meaning the transfer or re-titling of assets), the revocable trust (1) allows for more effective planning for the management of your estate in the event of your incapacity, and (2) may allow one to avoid probate. You must probate wills and wills must be written in accordance with the Florida probate code. A more detailed explanation of Florida Wills and wills in general can be found in the section of our website entitled “Do You Have A Will?”
A discussion of the Revocable Living Trusts in Florida, and how to avoid probate in Florida is in the section bearing that same title. Both Florida probate administration and Florida trust administration are discussed more completely in separate sections of this website entitled Probate in Florida , and Trust Administration. There also is a more detailed discussion of Probate Litigation in Florida and Trust Litigation in Florida to further develop the comparison of using a Florida will based plan or a living trust based plan, especially where you own multiple parcels of real estate in multiple states.
Basic estate planning is focused on the use of a last will and testament or revocable living trust as the foundation for planning your estate. If you have accumulated a larger estate that may be subject to Federal or Florida estates taxes, it is necessary to consider more sophisticated estate planning tools, both because of the potential impact of Federal estate taxes, the desire to avoid the death tax, Florida estate taxes, and the need to provide additional structure or control over the distribution of your estate assets. When more sophisticated estate tax planning is appropriate or desirable, there are a number of different trusts and other tax planning techniques that may be appropriate for your Florida estate planning so that you can avoid probate and avoid the estate tax. You will find it beneficial to obtain legal advice from your Jacksonville estate planning attorney and asset protection lawyer at The Coleman Law Firm, to assist you in determining which of the many techniques are most appropriate for you, your family, and your circumstances.
Various types of irrevocable trusts, or non revocable trusts, are available for consideration. These include, the Florida irrevocable life insurance trust (ILIT), the private annuity trust, the qualified personal residence trust (QPRT), a Retirement Plan trust, Intentionally Defective Grantor Trust (IDGT), Grantor Retained Annuity Trust (GRAT), a Domestic Asset Protection Trust (DAPT),charitable remainder trust (CRT), charitable lead trust (CLT), and other types of Florida trusts that are used for specific purposes. For instance, if a spouse is not a U.S. citizen, it is important to consider the use of a qualified domestic trust (QDOT) to avoid unnecessary Federal estate taxation or Florida estate taxation immediately upon the death of the U.S. citizen spouse. Estate planning needs, estate tax and income tax issues, and asset protection needs should always be considered by your Jacksonville estate planning lawyer or estates attorney when doing such planning.
Other estate planning techniques can be used where there is a need that may be unrelated to Federal estate taxes or Florida estate taxes or pure estate planning objectives, such as wealth preservation and asset protection planning objectives. These techniques include family limited partnerships, limited liability companies, self cancelling installment notes, beneficiary controlled trusts, domestic asset protection trusts, premarital agreements, post-marital agreements, shareholder’s buy-sell agreements, long term care contracts, personal care contracts, and many others. Many of these estate planning techniques have benefits from an asset protection perspective as well as estate planning.
The important point to remember as you move through your estate planning process is that your estate plan should deal with your objectives, goals, desires, fears and concerns. It should be as individual as you and your family, so that your unique estate planning and asset protection needs are appropriately addressed and dealt with effectively.
If you want an estate planning attorney or estates lawyer who will help you with planning an estate in Florida with wills or trusts, and who will design an estate plan that will effectively deal with the individual circumstances involving your family and loved ones, help with avoiding probate in Florida, help you implement your estate plan so it really works, and otherwise provide you with solid legal advice about estate planning, please contact the Jacksonville, estate planning and asset protection lawyer and estate attorney at The Coleman Law Firm so that we can help you achieve your estate planning goals and objectives. Our toll free phone number is (888) 492-2468, or you may email us at Info@TheColemanLawFirm.net
FLORIDA PROBATE ADMINISTRATION
As experienced Florida probate lawyers and attorneys, we know how important it is for the probate estate administration process to be completed as required by the Florida law of probate, as soon as reasonably possible, and as efficiently as possible, regardless of whether you already are in probate and you have the need to probate a will that is simply for a Florida house probate for real estate, or if you need to know how to probate a deed for real estate in Florida, or you have an estate that is subject to the estate tax. Our Jacksonville probate lawyer and estates attorneys provide our clients with complete and timely information regarding the status and activities of each probate case. We are familiar with Florida law of probate, the Florida probate code, estates and trusts law, guardianship law, Florida probate rules, Florida probate courts, and the Florida probate court forms necessary for complying with Florida probate law.
Our Jacksonville probate lawyers and trust attorneys counsel our clients on each phase of the probate estate administration process and provide probate information and direction for each step that must be taken in the Florida probate process. We have substantial experience as a probate lawyer in Florida in a court of probate for the probate of Florida real estate and the Florida law of probate. Our Jacksonville probate lawyers, estate lawyers, and trust attorneys promptly responds to all questions that are asked, can explain to you what is probate, what is the probate code, and patiently provide our clients with a complete explanation containing all of the wills & probate information about probate and property regarding what needs to be done to comply with probate law, the Florida probate code and rules of court, and why.
Our probate attorney fees for representing you in the administration of a Florida probate estate administration will depend on the facts and circumstances of your particular case. Often our probate lawyer, trust attorney, and estate attorney, will work on a flat fee or fixed fee basis. Other times, a probate lawyer’s, trust attorney’s or estate attorney’s hourly rates are appropriate. In particular, if your Florida probate administration is for the sole purpose of a Florida real estate probate, i.e., transferring title to real property, our Fl probate lawyer usually will work with you on a fixed fee basis, so that you will know from the beginning exactly what your total costs will be for the Florida probate process. If you need legal representation in Florida for an attorney for a will in probate, for Florida probate administration to probate a Florida last will and testament, to probate Florida real estate or a house in probate, for Florida probate litigation or estate litigation, a Florida guardianship, or any other Florida probate related matter that is in the Florida probate courts, please contact The Coleman Law Firm, for your Jacksonville, Florida probate, trust or guardianship lawyers or attorneys by calling toll free (888) 492-2468 or by email to Info@TheColemanLawFirm.net
THE COLEMAN LAW FIRM
The Florida law firm’s founder, C. Randolph Coleman, has been a Florida estate planning attorney, wills and trusts, and probate lawyer for over 30 years, with his primary office in Jacksonville, Florida since 1985, is a frequent lecturer and nationally recognized speaker in the areas of estate planning, financial planning, Florida probate, and asset protection. He co-authored The New Florida Trust Code, Lorman Educational Services, (2008), Trusts for Pets: Planning for Pets Under the Florida Trust Code, The Florida Bar Continuing Education Program (2008, 2005); Asset Protection Techniques in Florida, National Business Institute (2004); and authored Family Limited Partnerships in Florida(Chapter: “The Use of Family Limited Partnerships in Estate Planning”), National Business Institute (2002); Key Issues in Estate Planning and Probate in Florida(Chapter: “Protecting the Passage of Wealth”), National Business Institute (1997);Advanced Estate Planning Techniques in Florida (Chapter: “The Use of Family Limited Partnerships in Estate Planning”) National Business Institute (1995).
Mr. Coleman was the Florida Director of Asset Protection Planning for the Florida Physicians Association from 1997 to 2006, and is a member of WealthCounsel, LLC, a national association of estate planning and wealth preservation attorneys and lawyers, and ElderCounsel, LLC, a national association of elder law attorneys.
Mr. Coleman and The Coleman Law Firm are listed in the Martindale-Hubbell® Bar Register of Pre-Eminent Lawyers, which lists only those select lawyers who have earned the A-V® Rating in the Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory and have therefore been designated by their colleagues as pre-eminent in their field. Mr. Coleman is a member of The Florida Bar, The American Bar Association, the National Association of Elder Law Attorneys, and the Academy of Florida Elder Law Attorneys . Mr. Coleman is a graduate of the Florida of (BSBA ‘72) and the University of Florida College of Law (JD, with honors ‘78), and has served on the Executive Committee of the UF College of Law Alumni Council. He was a practicing Florida certified public accountant for six years prior to entering private law practice in 1978.
Mr. Coleman is joined by associate attorneys K. Mac Bracewell and J. Kent Sausaman, both of whom earned their LLM (Master of Law) in Taxation from the University of Florida College of Law. Mr. Bracewell and Mr. Sausaman are graduates of the Cumberland School of Law. They are licensed to practice law in the courts of Florida and Alabama.