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

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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.

 

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A Verbal Contract Isn't Worth The Paper It's Written On

Before smartphones and email, a phone call to speak with someone directly was the fastest form of communication. It was much faster then writing a letter, mailing the letter, and then impatiently waiting for the response. By the time you got a response, you might have forgotten the question asked or the question was no longer relevant.

Life moves so fast that our generation expects an immediate response to an email and text. If we don't respond immediately, we might cause a boyfriend/girlfriend to start 'wondering' why you didn't respond (which is grounds for a lot of pointless arguments).  You might lose a potential client if you don't respond immediately. They might assume you are not interested in their business or that you are too busy. The potential client will quickly move onto the next person hoping to gain the immediate attention they are seeking. 

Luckily, people still enjoy face-to-face communication. A lot of business takes place after hours over happy hour drinks and dinner.  If you verbally agree to working with someone over drinks, what are the chances one person might back out of the agreement the next day? With drinks flowing, people are more willing to enter into agreements.  Once they are sober, they might question that agreement and pretend it never existed. In the words of Jaime Foxx,  " blame it on the a a a a a alcohol"

You should never leave your affairs up to chance. Leaving specific and detailed instructions in your will or trust can help solve complications down the line

Well, the good thing is, it was only a verbal agreement. The bad thing is, it was only a verbal agreement.

When it comes to estate planning, many people make the common mistake of assuming their loved ones will honor their true wishes, as expressed verbally.  You should never leave your affairs up to chance. Leaving specific and detailed instructions in your will or trust can help solve complications down the line. There will be no question as to what your wishes are if they are clearly stated on paper.

In South Florida, there are a number of vehicles used with estate planning to protect both your assets and your wishes at your time of death. These documents will take away the possible 'he-said-she said' verbal agreements prior to your passing.

Revocable Trust(living trust): Allows you to control and manage assets in your trust while you are alive.

Living Will and Healthcare Surrogate- Will allow you to designate who will make medical decisions when you are unable to do so yourself.

Assignment of Property: Assign your property into your trust (real and personal property) to protect your assets.

Durable Power of Attorney: Designate and authorize someone to legally act on your behalf in the event you become incapacitated.

Last Will and Testament: Used upon death to distribute property to beneficiaries, specify last wishes, and name guardians for minor children.

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.

 

 

 

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PROCRASTION: THE ABILITY TO WITHSTAND THE URGE TO DO ANYTHING PRODUCTIVE.

Being a 'pro' at anything is something to be proud of. That means you are very talented. If you are an athlete, you would want to be a pro-athlete.  When it comes to estate planning, it is not an advantage if you have retained and maintain a 'pro' status when it comes to procrastinating.

To say you never procrastinate, is a lie.  Don't kid yourself. Everyone has fallen victim to the 'dark playground'. After all, the fact that you are reading this article means you are currently in the 'dark playground' and avoiding doing things that are actually on your 'to do list' (which I kindly appreciate and in this instance, I am more than happy to see that you are procrastinating)

Stop being a ‘pro’crastinor and be ‘pro’active when it comes to your estate planning. There is no guarantee there will be a tomorrow, so prepare today.

When it comes to estate planning, procrastinating should never be an option. It eventually causes family fighting and the chance of losing a portion of your estate to creditors. 

Great example of how procrastinating can cause more problems than expected.

Sonny Bono, passed away at the age of 62 due to complications from injuries sustained in a skiing accident. At the time of his death, Bono passed away with no estate planning, not even a simple will.  Fights ensued, due to the fact Bono had multiple marriages and children from each of those marriages. Even worse, at the time of his death, a secret love child surfaced wanting a piece of Bono's estate.

If Bono had not procrastinated and prepared his estate planning documents, he could have clearly stated who would and who would not receive from his estate (including a statement excluding any possible 'love children').

Stop being a 'pro'crastinor and be 'pro'active when it comes to your estate planning. There is no guarantee there will be a tomorrow, so prepare today.

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.

 

 

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My Future Ex-Spouse Deserves NOTHING!

First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes divorce? If you realized that you never should have gotten married before having children, we salute you. However, most people marry, have children, then have an UH-OH moment and divorce. 

While in the process of getting divorced, you wish for your future ex-spouse to receive nothing! After all, you feel they don't deserve anything. What more is there to say?

If only you could say to your future ex-spouse, 'no soup for you' when it comes to receiving anything from your estate. If you are proactive and decide to update your estate planning documents while in the midst of the divorce process (which can take months or even years), in the State of Florida you cannot fully disinherit your spouse. The only way to leave your future ex-spouse out of your will and receive nothing is to have signed a valid prenuptial or postnuptial agreement. Otherwise, your spouse is entitled to the 'elective share'.

In Florida, the elective share to which a spouse is entitled comprises an extensive list of types of assets and property, which is detailed in Florida Statute 732.2035. The spouse is entitled to 30% of your estate through the elective share. However, if your spouse is going to take the elective share of your estate, a request must be filed within 6 months of date of service of notice of administration or within 2 years after the date of the decedent's death.  

If you are in the process of a divorce it is best to update your estate planning documents as soon as possible. Make sure your soon to be ex-spouse does not benefit more then allowed by the State of Florida. Also, do not forget to change any beneficiary designations that list your spouse to receive on anypay on death accounts (ie. life insurance policy, retirement accounts, investments, etc.)

The only way to leave your future ex-spouse out of your will and receive nothing is to have signed a valid prenuptial or postnuptial agreement. Otherwise, your spouse is entitled to the ‘elective share’.

Once you are officially divorced, do not forget to update your will or trust yet again. You should remove any language regarding your ex-spouse from your will or trust and at this point they no longer have a legal right to receive anything from your estate.

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!


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Heroes Get Remembered, But Legends Never Die

Legend: MICHAEL JACKSON   

Estate Planning Mistake: FAILURE TO FINISH WHAT YOU START

The singer's fame and place in pop culture is so big that even though he was a human being like the rest of us, it seemed he would somehow live forever. That's partly why nearly everyone was shocked at his 2009 passing and still are today. 

Although the music legend, Michael Jackson, did so many things right in the music industry, one thing he failed to do right was his estate planning. One major lesson that can be learned from Michael Jackson's estate is: FAILING TO FINISH WHAT YOU START

Michael Jackson created a trust, but never fully funded it, which defeated a primary purpose of having a trust. This caused a lot of fighting within his family. His estate was made public when filed with the probate court and all secrets were let out for the world to see.

If you never place the items you wish to keep protected into the safe, and someone robs your house, your assets are not protected.

Why would someone want a revocable trust?

What is a revocable trust?

A legal document that allows you to state your final wishes. In Florida, you can state who will receive and who will not receive from your estate. You are able to retain control of your assets during your lifetime and place stipulations on those who are to receive from your estate after your passing.  

What are the benefits of a revocable trust in Florida?

(1)Keep assets out of the probate court. Eliminates court fee and attorney's fees

(2)No delays and hassles associated with the probate process

(3)Private document. No one will ever have access to your financial information or who benefited from your estate.

How do you 'fund' a trust in Florida?

A trust is only as valuable as the assets that 'fund' it. If the trust is not funded, the trust is nothing more then a sheet of paper. Funding a trust simply means transferring property into the trust as well as retitling bank accounts, real estate and investments. 

For example, you purchase a safe that is fireproof, waterproof, and is drilled into the ground so a burglar cannot remove it easily from the home. If you never place the items you wish to keep protected into the safe, and someone robs your house, your assets are not protected. They were never placed in the safe. Same is true if you don't fund the trust with your assets. They will have to go through probate if not properly placed in your trust.

If you go through the effort of drafting a trust, make sure you complete the process and fully fund it. Last thing you want to do is pass away with a trust, and not get the full benefits of a trust.

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.

 

 

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Beneficiary Designations: More Important Than You May Think

In Florida, one of the simplest ways to ensure someone receives your assets, is to name a specific person as a designated beneficiary on your accounts. By law, beneficiaries (individuals or institutions) you designate for an account will receive assets in that account upon your death (avoiding probate).

What type of accounts allow a beneficiary designation?  

·      Retirement Accounts

·      Life Insurance policies

·      Annuities

In South Florida, it is important to name both a primary beneficiary and contingent beneficiary. The contingent beneficiary will receive the assets if the primary beneficiary predeceases you.

What type of account does not include a beneficiary designation?

Brokerage accounts do not include beneficiary designations, but you can complete a Transfer on Death (TOD) agreement to designate how your assets should be distributed.

It is important to review your beneficiary designation regularly, especially when there is a life changing event (marriage, divorce, birth of a child, or death of a spouse)

You must complete a separate TOD agreement for each single or joint account you have. A TOD agreement assigns beneficiaries, which helps you avoid the costs, delays and publicity of probate. Without the designation assigned to the account, the account would be subject to probate.

It is important to review your beneficiary designation regularly, especially when there is a life changing event (marriage, divorce, birth of a child, or death of a spouse). If you do not update your account beneficiaries, your assets could be inherited by someone you no longer wish to receive (ie. ex-spouse)

Keep in mind beneficiary designations trump what ever is stated in a will or trust. However, the will or trust can help direct how the funds will be distributed to the intended beneficiary. For instance, you might have a child who you do not trust with money, the will or trust will give instructions on how the money will be distributed to the child over a period of time so they don't spend all the money at once.

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.



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Let's Talk About Wills Baby

Let's Talk About Wills Baby. Let's Talk About Your Money. Let's Talk About All The Good Things and The Bad Things That Could Be. Let's Talk About Wills.

Ok, now stop singing and let's get serious.

What are the benefits of a will?

·      Easy to establish

·      Less expensive to establish

·      Governs the distribution of your assets upon your death

·      States who will be the guardian of your minor children or special needs children

·      States your wishes to be buried or cremated

·      Ability to be updated/amended at any time

It does not govern assets held jointly or those that you designate a beneficiary

What are things to consider with a will? 

·      Must go through probate

·      Does not address incapacity

A will is your strategy for distributing your assets upon your death. It applies only to assets that are held in your individual name. It does not govern assets held jointly or those that you designate a beneficiary. A will does not prevent probate. When you die,  the Judge reviews the will to determine if it is valid. Once the will is validated, the Judge will grant powers to the executor to collect and manage your assets and distribute your property to beneficiaries after creditors and taxes are paid. Make sure you pick someone you trust to carry out your final wishes.

One thing to keep in mind, a will is the only documents that can designate guardians whether it’s for a minor child or a special needs child.

A will does not address incapacity issues. In addition to having a will, everyone should have his or her advanced directives. That includes your Durable Power of Attorney, Healthcare Surrogate and Living Will. Those 3 documents specifically address incapacity.

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!

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Does a Durable Power of Attorney Last Forever?

Does a Durable Power of Attorney Last Forever?

Simply stated: Nothing Lasts Forever

What is a Durable Power of Attorney?

A Durable Power of Attorney is a document that grants a designated person to manage your financial affairs either immediately or in the future should you become unable to do so yourself. The designated person will have the power to buy and sell real estate, open and close bank accounts, file tax returns, etc. The word 'durable' allows the power to continue even after you become incapacitated.

Beware: A durable power of attorney is only effective while the principal is alive. Once that person dies, the durable power of attorney dies with them.  Therefore, you will not be able to use a Durable Power of Attorney to sell the home of a deceased person nor are you able to close financial accounts owned by the decedent.

What document is used once you die?

Once someone dies, it is important to have a Last Will & Testament. The Will names someone who can act as the personal representative/executor of the decedent's estate who will be responsible for administering the estate. After debts are paid, the personal representative is also responsible for distributing assets to the beneficiaries listed in the will.

Therefore, you will not be able to use a Durable Power of Attorney to sell the home of a deceased person nor are you able to close financial accounts owned by the decedent.

So if you are thinking of planning ahead and preparing your estate planning portfolio, make sure it includes documents that will be used while you are alive as well as when you are gone. Everyone should have a Durable Power of Attorney as well as a Last Will & Testament.

If you live in Miami-Dade, Broward, or Palm Beach 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.

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Why We Procrastinate About Estate Planning

A lot of people have not participated in any meaningful estate planning. Most people will admit that it is something they need to do, but keep putting it off. What is the reason?

Listed below are some common reasons why we procrastinate about estate planning:

 (1) It is expensive

The reality is, most people do not have extra money lying around these days. However, not doing anything can end up costing your loved ones much more than it would cost you to plan now.

If you own assets in your name and you become incapacitated due to illness or injury, you (your assets and your care) will likely be placed in a court guardianship. This is not free. All costs (attorney fees, accounting fees, court costs, etc) will be paid from your assets and your family will probably have to ask the court for an allowance if they need money for living expenses.

This process does not replace probate when you die; your family will have to go through the court system again, and that means more expenses and less for your family. Your assets will be distributed according to Florida law, which probably won't be what you would have wanted.

Estate planning does not have to be expensive. You can start off with a simple will and then later upgrade to a trust when you can afford it.

 (2) " I do not own enough"

Estate planning is not just for the wealthy. In fact, costs for a court guardianship and probate usually take a higher percentage from smaller estates (which can least afford it) than from larger ones.  Even if you own a small amount, you would prefer to see it go to your loved ones than to courts and attorneys.

 (3) " I am not old enough"

Estate planning is important for everyone (ages 18-100).  Young people seem to think they are going to live forever. The reality is, that any of us, at any age, can become incapacitated or die due to an illness, injury, accident, or random act of violence. (Just read the newspaper or watch the evening news, you will see random acts of violence on a daily basis)

Estate planning does not have to be expensive. You can start off with a simple will and then later upgrade to a trust when you can afford it.

 (4) It is too confusing. I do not know what to do:

Attorneys are called ' counselors at law' for a reason. An experienced estate planning attorney knows what other families have been through, knows what has worked well, and what has not. An experienced attorney can help you understand the process and make challenging decisions easier.

 So why do we need estate planning?

·       To make sure our assets will go the people we want to have them with the least amount of delay, hassle and expense

·       To keep our families from having to deal with the courts if we become incapacitated and when we die

·       Let our families know that we care about them, that we want to provide for them and protect them.

·       We do it for love--but the huge benefit of estate planning: PEACE OF MIND

 

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!

 

 

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Schools Out For Summer

Schools Out For Summer. If you are able to say that without singing Alice Cooper's version, you are a better man than I.

It is the three (3) months of the year that college kids get into a little (or a lot) of trouble. No real responsibilities, young summer love, and lots of traveling.

Since you can't stop your 'children' from making bad decisions, make sure they are prepared in case they do.

If you have 'children' between the ages of 18 and 24 make sure they have a Durable Power of Attorney, Healthcare Surrogate and Living Will prepared in case of an emergency. Without these documents, parents and loved ones are helpless.

Durable Power of Attorney:

Name someone to manage your financial affairs either immediately or in the future should you lack the capacity to do so yourself.

Healthcare Surrogate:

Name someone to make medical decisions on your behalf if you are unable to make them yourself.

Since you can’t stop your ‘children’ from making bad decisions, make sure they are prepared in case they do.

Living Will:

Document that will state how and if you want to prolong your life if you fall into a vegetative state. 

If you live in Miami-Dade, Broward, or Palm Beach 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.


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Digital Assets: Why They Need to Be Part of Your Estate Plan

What’s going to happen to your Facebook account when you die? Or all the songs you’ve downloaded from iTunes? 

As digital assets become more common for all of us, it is important to incorporate them into estate plans. Unfortunately, that is not always easy to do.

The average person has roughly $35,000 worth of assets stored on digital devices. That value includes purchased movies, books, music and games as well as personal memories, communications, personal records, hobbies and career information. More than 1/2 of the digital assets stored would be impossible to recreate, re-download or repurchase.

Unfortunately, those assets are increasingly at risk of being lost when the account owner dies. Many digital accounts are subject to complicated terms of service agreements, which can often make it difficult or impossible for surviving loved ones to access them. Additionally, state and federal laws could put friends and relatives who try to log on to your accounts at risk of violating anti-hacking and privacy statutes.

The average person has roughly $35,000 worth of assets stored on digital devices.

Initiatives are under way to put more consumer-friendly laws in place regarding digital assets. Until then, though, it’s important to incorporate detailed directions and information surrounding your digital assets into your estate plan. Here are four steps to take now: 

STEP 1: TAKE A DIGITIAL INVENTORY

Complete an annual review of all your online accounts and subscriptions and then prepare a list.

·       Examples: Computing hardware: computers, external hard drives or flash drives, tablets, smartphones, digital music players, e-readers, digital cameras, and other digital devices.

·       Any information or data that is stored electronically, whether stored online, in the cloud, or on a physical device.

·       Any online accounts, such as email and communications accounts, social media accounts, shopping accounts, photo and video sharing accounts, video gaming accounts, online storage accounts, and website blogs that you may manage. 

·       Domain Names 

·       Intellectual property, including copyrighted materials, trademarks, and any code you may have written and own.

STEP 2: DECIDE WHAT YOU WANT DONE WITH YOUR DIGITAL ASSETS

What do you want to happen to these assets? You might want some to be archived and saved, others you may want deleted or erased. Possibly you may want to transfer accounts to family members or friends.

STEP 3: GATHER YOUR PASSWORDS AND STORE IN SECURE BUT ACCESSIBLE LOCATION:

Make a list of all your passwords and keep it in a safe place. Include a copy in your estate-planning portfolio. Make sure your spouse and children are aware or your plan and how to access it.

STEP 4: BE SPECIFIC:

Make sure your durable power of attorney includes specific provisions authorizing someone you trust to deal with your digital assets and online accounts. Your will or trust will have similar provisions to allow loved ones to deal with those assets after your death.

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.

 

 

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When The Parents Are Away, The Children Will Play

You finally have a week's vacation and you and your husband have decided that you do not feel like going to Disney World with your children yet again. As much as you love your children, sometimes you just need to get away from them. You are ready to disconnect from technology, spend quality time with each other, eat at a restaurant that does not include a meal of macaroni and cheese and french fries.  Maybe all you need is a few days of laying on the beach reading trash magazines and drinking margaritas. No shame there.

Although you are away from your children, as a parent you will always be wondering if they are okay while you are away. Maybe you left them with your parents. No fears, right? After all, your parents raised you and you survived.  Grandparents will let their grandchildren get away with much more than they would with their own children. They will let them stay up late, eat candy at all hours of the day, jump on the beds and just go crazy.

Before leaving on a vacation or an extended work trip, it is so important to prepare a Medical Power of Attorney for your minor children.

What happens when that crazy turns into UH-OH. That UH-OH might lead to an emergency room visit for stitches or even worse, broken bones.  If you, the parent, are not here to make medical decisions for your children, who can make those decisions when you are out of town?

Before leaving on a vacation or an extended work trip, it is so important to prepare a Medical Power of Attorney for your minor children. Whether your children are staying with your parents, your brother or sister, or even the neighbors, this document should be in place.  

The Medical Power of Attorney can be valid for as long as your trip or up until your child reaches the age of 18. The decision is completely up to you. It will be a short list that is sufficient enough to allow the adult watching your children to be able to make medical decisions for your children if something happens while you are out of town.

If you live in Miami-Dade, Broward, or Palm Beach 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.

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