Fort Lauderdale Asset Protection

Even with story after story about people losing everything, Fort Lauderdale residents are still failing to plan for the protection of their assets.  It is imperative that you retain a Fort Lauderdale estate planning attorney to work with you on your asset protection plan, but in the meantime you should at least follow the eight steps below and assure that your family and your assets have some basic form of protection.

Step 1 – Designate a financial power of attorney.

A financial power of attorney acts as an agent and handles your financial affairs if and when you become incapacitated.  This person can pay your bills, file your taxes, and manage important accounts, such as investment, retirement, and life insurance.  If you fail to formally name a financial power of attorney in place, your family would have to get court permission to step in which will cost them precious time and money.

Step 2 – Designate a health care surrogate.

A health care surrogate is fundamentally a power of attorney for your personal heath and well being.  This person will make health care decisions for you when you are unable to do so and will make certain that your living will is executed properly, so that the end-of-life measures that you choose are carried out as you requested.  At the same time that you are designating your health care surrogate, you should also be preparing and signing your living will.

Step 3 – Calculate your net worth.

Start by listing all of your assets and their current market value.  Then, make a separate list of any major outstanding liabilities such as the balance on your mortgage, credit cards, or car loans.  Subtract the total liabilities from the total assets and you will have your net worth.  Keep this figure handy when speaking with your estate planning attorney and discussing your asset protection plan.

Step 4 – Review your beneficiaries.

Be certain that you review the beneficiary forms on file for all of your bank accounts, retirement accounts, and life insurance policies.  These forms will determine who inherits most of your assets.  If your spouse is listed as the beneficiary on any of these accounts, you should list your children as contingent beneficiaries in case anything should happen to your spouse.

Step 5 – Write a will, or update the one you have.

If you don’t have a will, you will have no control over the way your assets are divided after you are gone.  Without a formal estate plan, the government, the probate attorney, and the funeral home will divide your money up and there will be little left for your family and friends.  If you have a basic will, but you have had a major life change since drafting it (such as marriage, divorce, birth of a child, or death of an immediate family member), the dividing up of your estate could get very messy.  To protect the future wealth of your family further, you should talk to your estate planning attorney about the implementation of various trusts and tax shelters that may be available to you.

Step 6 – Plan for state estate taxes.

In 2011, there is a chance that your estate could be doubly taxed.  The federal estate tax is scheduled to completely disappear in 2010, but at that time the provisions of the Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act will sunset and the estate tax, along with the Florida estate tax, will come back on January 1, 2011.  The year 2010 will be an “uncapped” year in that the EGTRRA will no longer offer protection to those individuals with a net worth of under $1 million.

Step 7 – Title your assets correctly.

Failing to title your assets correctly may defeat any specific intentions you have when forming your asset protection plan.  If you are uncertain of how to title your assets in a way to guarantee your desired result, you should contact your estate planning attorney and request a consultation.

Step 8 – Be generous.

Any person can donate up to $13,000 per year in cash, stock, or other property to any other person or entity without worrying about the implications of any gift or estate taxes.  An individual is also permitted to pay any other individual’s college or private school tuition, provided that the check is sent directly to the school.  The same is true for medical expenses, as long as the check is sent directly to the health care provider.  These donations are in addition to the $13,000 yearly donation.  Taxpayers also have the opportunity to donate up to $1 million in a single lifetime donation and receive a one-time gift tax exclusion.

While these eight steps will provide you with some very basic asset protection, for a true and complete asset protection plan, please contact your Fort Lauderdale asset protection firm and let us work together to create a plan for your future and the financial future of your family for generations to come.

Our Fort Lauderdale law firm specializes in asset protection.  For every dollar, asset, and achievement earned by an individual, there are dozens of possible creditors, scam artists, and taxes trying to take them away.  We use a combination of estate planning, real estate law, family law, and corporate formation in order to preserve our clients’ assets during their lives and for generations to come. For more information, please contact the Fort Lauderdale asset protection law firm of Wild Felice & Partners, P.A. at 954-944-2855 or via email at info@wfplaw.com.

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