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South Florida


Adding Someone To Your Bank Account For Convenience Can Cause BIG Problems


STOP, COLLABORATE AND LISTEN- think twice before adding someone to a bank account.  

In South Florida it is common for aging parents to 'add' their children, caregiver, or trusted individual on his/her personal account. A typical reason to add someone to a bank account in Florida is so that person can have access to the funds for the original owners benefit. By setting up the account this way, it will make it more convenient during the owner's lifetime to assist in managing the bank accounts and paying bills.

An account owner’s Last Will & Testament or Trust will not prevent this presumption from arising, and the financial institution has no duty to inform the account owner of this presumption.

However, adding someone to a Florida bank account becomes somewhat inconvenient upon the original owner's death. Setting up Florida bank accounts in this manner can lead to expensive litigation between the original owner's heirs to determine the survivorship rights in these joint accounts. Intent will be questioned in addition to undue influence and fraud.

Under Florida Statute Section 655.79, unless expressly stated otherwise in contract, agreement or signature card executed in connection with the relevant account, any account that is titled in the names of two or more persons creates a presumption that all ownership rights in the account automatically pass to the surviving owners upon the death of any owner.  

There are no explicit words that are required for this presumption- just the fact that there are two or more owners.  An account owner's Last Will & Testament or Trust will not prevent this presumption from arising, and the financial institution has no duty to inform the account owner of this presumption. With that said, the surviving owner can simply walk into the bank after the original owners death and withdraw all of the funds as their own!

Good news, there are alternatives available to making an account a joint account. They allow flexibility and also allow the owner to revoke these designations within his/her lifetime:

Alternative #1- "DPOA"

Appoint someone to act as his/her agent under a Durable Power of Attorney

Alternative #2- "POD"

Create a 'pay on death account' where the owner can designate a beneficiary to receive the account upon his/her death

Alternative #3- "ITF"

Create a Totten Trust where the owner maintains complete control over the account during their lifetime, but all rights pass to a beneficiary who is designated 'in trust for'

If you live in Miami-Dade, Broward, or Palm Beach county contact an experienced estate-planning attorney at The Hershey Law Firm, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, at (954) 303-9468 to discuss your estate planning needs.


You Can’t Predict The Future, But You Can Plan For It.




Who Needs to Know About Your Living Will?

“What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.” Some things are better left unknown for those who were not involved.  That saying does not ring true for estate planning. In Florida, if you have decided to prepare for your passing and plan to have a living will drafted, who should know?

A living will is pointless if no one knows that it exists. You should be proud of yourself for not procrastinating and properly planning. However, if the appropriate parties are unaware of the existence of the living will, it’s just as good as never being drafted at all.

In order for loved ones and physicians to know your decisions concerning medical treatments in South Florida you will need to follow these 5 steps to create an effective living will.

A living will is pointless if no one knows that it exists.

(1)Appoint a health care agent: Appoint someone as your healthcare agent with a durable power of attorney known as a Designation of Health Care Surrogate.  Your agent will have the legal authority to make health care decisions for you if you are no longer able to speak for yourself.

(2) Attach a signed HIPAA release form: You must provide your health care provider with a signed HIPAA release form so that he can discuss your medical information with your agent. It is suggested to provide a release form to all of your physicians and insurance carrier.

(3) Draft Instructions for health care:  Write instructions for your future health care outlining your wishes about life sustaining medical treatment in the event you can no longer speak for yourself. Your agent will be dictated to implement your written instructions.

(4) Revise: Written instructions must be absolutely clear to be enforceable.  Your written instructions must clearly answer the question about life-sustaining care.

(5) Notify your attending physician: Once your living will is drafted, it’s your responsibility to notify your physician that you have one. It is also important to discuss your health care desires with your physician. He or she is likely to honor requests that have been communicated to him or her directly.

Take charge of your last living decisions and plan ahead! An experienced South Florida estate-planning attorney will help ensure that the actual instructions for your wishes are stated accurately. For more information on successful Florida estate planning, please contact The Hershey Law Firm PA at (954) 303-9468 to schedule your free consultation.



Women Don’t Understand the Need and Importance of Estate Planning

Women today are not only in charge of running the household, but a majority of them are highly educated with masters and doctorate degrees. Some own their own businesses and others manage and oversee businesses of others. However, women still fall victim to thinking their husbands will take care of financial and estate planning needs for the household. Usually, that’s not the case.

Potential concerns for a Fort Lauderdale, Florida married woman in her late 30’s:

Rachel, a married woman has 1 young child from her first marriage and 2 young children from her second marriage. She owns 50% of a local South Florida business recently appraised for several million dollars. Rachel is concerned about disputes with her business partner. To top it all, she is in the process of a divorce with her second husband.

At this time, Rachel has no will or trust in place. She is a woman, getting divorced, with children different marriages, a multi-million dollar business, an estate possibly  subject to estate taxation, and problems with a business partner. The urgency and need to consult with an estate planning/asset protection attorney is huge. She needs to start planning now to avoid losing all that she has worked for!

Consequences for Rachel not having a will or trust in place:

Under Florida law of intestacy (meaning no estate planning in place), Rachel’s ownership interest in the business would be divided as follows: ½ to her ex- husband and ½ divided equally among her 3 children. All other assets (besides business ownership) would be divided the same way.

Without a will or trust, the assets her minor children would inherit will be subject to court supervised guardianship. This includes additional expenses that would not be applied if proper estate planning were in place. There will be fees for the guardian, attorney for the guardian, and the court will have to approve all expenditures. Worst of all, all assets inherited by each child will be turned over to the child at age 18 to do with whatever they please. 

With proper planning, assets for minors can be placed in a trust and you can direct (from the grave), how and when the child will receive their assets. For example, you may want to give ¼ of the assets to the child when they enter college, give another ¼ to the child when they graduate, then give the remaining ½ when they turn 25 or 30 years of age. You hope that at that time they will be responsible with their inheritance.

With respect to Rachel, her children and ex-husband would become partners in the business. The court appointed guardian would become a new partner in the business with respect to her minor children’s interest.

Without a will or trust, the assets her minor children would inherit will be subject to court supervised guardianship.

Rachel currently has a life insurance policy. Life insurance is an extremely useful tool in estate planning to help properly provide for your children’s needs you’re your death. Rachel would have to make sure that it was payable upon her to death to her children and not to her ex-husband. If the beneficiary information is not updated and changed, an ex-spouse can receive a nice chunk of change upon your passing.  Pretty sure no one would want that to happen!

Furthermore, Rachel has no planning in place in case she was unable to make financial or medical decisions for herself.  If she were to get into an accident, and was unable to make an emergency medical decision, and she had a health care surrogate drafted, that person could act on her behalf for medical decisions. If,by chance, she falls into a vegetative state and does not wish for her life to be prolonged, she would need to prepare a living will that clearly outlines her final wishes.

Rachel’s action plan to prepare her estate accordingly:

(1) Review all of her beneficiary designations and change them to someone other then her ex-husband.

(2) Prepare a will that will identify who she wants to care for her minor children

(3) Look over her life insurance policy and meet with a representative to see if she has enough coverage to care for her children.

(4) Prepare a trust so her assets can avoid probate.

(5) Prepare a living will, healthcare surrogate, durable power of attorney

(6) Make sure she has a buy-sell agreement with her business partner

(7) Make sure she has a business continuity plan to provide for continuation of the business in the event of her death or disability

Contact an experienced estate planning/asset protection attorney at The Hershey Law Firm, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, at (954) 303-9468 to discuss your estate planning needs.