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Understanding how a trust works

When a Florida resident creates a trust, there are three parties that are central to the document. The first party is the person who creates the trust who is referred to as the grantor. This person names a trustee to carry out provisions of the trust, and in some cases, the grantor can act as the trustee. Beneficiaries are the third party to a trust, and they are the people or entities who receive distributions from the trust.

In some cases, there may be more than one beneficiary. Typically, the grantor names a primary beneficiary such as a spouse or another close family member. It is possible that there is more than one primary beneficiary. A secondary beneficiary would receive property from a trust if the primary beneficiary is already deceased or otherwise unable to receive the property. It may also be a good idea to name a trust itself as a secondary beneficiary to certain assets

What could keep driverless cars off of the road

Florida residents may imagine a day when they can get into a car that drives itself. Companies such as Google, Apple and GM have invested time and money into driverless car technology. Intel thinks that self-driving vehicles could create an industry worth $7 trillion by 2050. They could cut down on the nearly 100 people who are killed in the United States each day on the road.

It is believed that 94 percent of car crashes are due to human error. An autonomous vehicle may be safer because it would not operate while impaired or while using a cellphone. Since autonomous vehicles can communicate with each other, it may be possible to put more cars on the road while still reducing the amount of time that people spend stuck in traffic.

How trusts can be a useful part of an estate plan

Florida residents who are creating an estate plan may assume that trusts are only useful for people who have substantial assets. However, there are a number of different types of trusts that can protect people and assets in many different ways. One of the simplest types of trusts is known as a Totten trust. This is used for assets such as bank accounts but not for real property such as a home. Creating a Totten trust may be no more complicated than filling out a beneficiary designation form.

However, most trusts are more complex. An asset protection trust can help protect assets from creditors, but since it is a type of trust that is not allowed in Florida, it would need to be set up in another state. This could still be a risky move because the asset could be vulnerable to a court challenge by the creditor. A more certain type of protection is the bypass trust. This trust helps reduce taxes for married couples by passing some assets tax-free to the surviving spouse.

IIHS report blames improving economy for crash fatality increase

Florida roads have become more dangerous even with technological safety features in new vehicles, according to a study. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety looked at the accident records of the various cars, pickup trucks and SUVs sold in the United States, and the nonprofit organization found that road fatalities are increasing around the country even among the drivers of newer vehicles equipped with sophisticated crash avoidance systems.

The IIHS reports that the driver death rate per million registered vehicle years for 2014 models was actually higher than it was for 2011 models, and these figures are expected to fall only slightly, if at all, over the next few years. Many road safety experts believe that increased road deaths are the result of lower energy prices and an economy that continues to create jobs. They say that these factors have prompted more Americans to take to the roads, and the higher accident and fatality figures are the inevitable consequence of this increased traffic congestion.

Majority of business owners forego estate planning

Business owners in Florida may be leaving themselves and their families at risk due to a lack of basic estate planning. A survey by Bloomwell showed that a sizable number of entrepreneurs had not prepared one or more of the critical documents needed for an orderly succession plan. Owners are often careful to consider what can go wrong when it comes to regional markets, supply lines and the customer base, but what happens when the primary decision maker is unable to lead the company for some reason?

Succession is often thought of as a concern for the elderly entrepreneur. It could be a set of documents that direct liquidation and disbursement of business assets to heirs, or it could be complicated estate planning involving a living trust, financial power of attorney and other documents. At the least, it addresses what happens to the business in case the owner dies or is incapacitated for a length of time.

Crash data shows that lower speed limits save lives

The state of Florida has set speed limits at 70 mph on interstates, 65 mph on rural divided highways with four lanes and 60 mph on other state highways. While frantic commuters and long-distance truck drivers may approve of these measures, most road safety groups would prefer speed limits to be set lower. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety studied the impact that rising speed limits have had on traffic accident fatality rates over the last 20 years, and the nonprofit group concluded that road deaths increase by 4 percent for every 5 mph that these limits are increased.

Setting speed limits has generally been left up to the states, but Congress took action in 1973 after an oil embargo threatened the country's energy supply. Lawmakers established a national limit of 55 mph to conserve fuel, and they made sure that the states would comply by threatening to withdraw crucial highway funds if they refused. While energy saving may have been the goal of the law, its most notable achievement was a dramatic reduction in road deaths.

Duties of the trustee for an ILIT

Taxes can eat up a chunk of an estate before any distribution of assets to beneficiaries. Florida residents looking to ensure their beneficiaries receive all or most of the assets left to them will want to consider the many trust vehicles. These have typically been designed for the purposes of protecting the decedent's wishes and protecting the estate from legal challenges. However, each type has certain requirements. A most important need in setting up an irrevocable life insurance trust is ensuring a responsible trustee understands the responsibilities.

An irrevocable trust holding one or more life insurance policies requires that some assets are available to pay premiums and that premiums are paid on time. This means the trustee will have to keep a separate account for assets owned by the ILIT and document any movement of these funds, including as they are used to pay premiums. There may be a need to fund the trust periodically to ensure premium payments. This will create more duties for the trustee.

IIHS testing reveals safety flaw in Tesla Model S

Florida residents have likely heard about the impressive safety features fitted to Tesla's range-topping Model S. The luxury sedan has been called the safest car to ever go on sale in the United States, but it failed to impress testers from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety when it was put through its paces in a series of grueling accident simulations. The IIHS evaluated six full-sized sedans, and the Tesla Model S was one of three that failed to earn a coveted place on the nonprofit organization's safest cars list.

The Ford Taurus and Chevrolet Impala also failed to win a place on the list of the safest cars sold in America. The IIHS says that the shortcomings of all three cars were exposed during what the organization refers to as the small overlap front test. This test simulates the kind of damage caused when the front driver's side corner of a vehicle strikes an object such as a utility pole or tree.

Why unmarried partners might need estate plans

There are a number of reasons that unmarried couples living together in Florida might want to create an estate plan. Without the proper documents in place, if one person is injured or ill and becomes incapacitated, the other partner is not legally entitled to make medical decisions. If one person dies, the other partner may not be entitled to any of the couple's shared possessions because if there is no estate plan, the state distributes assets to the next of kin.

Partners can discuss their preferences about issues such as end-of-life care and organ donation and then draw up health care powers of attorney that permit them to make these decisions for one another. If one person owns a home, it may be necessary to add the other person to the title or otherwise make arrangements for the other person to inherit the home. The same is true of other assets.

Steps to take after a car accident

A car accident can happen on a Florida road in the blink of an eye, and in most cases, drivers have little or no time to prepare for one. However, there are a few steps that motorists might find it advisable to take in the immediate aftermath, especially if they were not at fault for the collision.

If there are any injuries, paramedics should be called if possible. A call to the police might be in order as well. Injured people should not be moved unless it is necessary, but the vehicles involved should be driven or pushed to the side of the road to avoid further collisions and traffic jams. It is of utmost importance to get certain information from the other driver, especially one who is obviously at fault. This would include his or her name and phone number, the insurer's name and the insurance policy number. If there were any eyewitnesses, their contact information should be obtained as well. Most people travel with their cellphones, so it should be relatively easy to take photographs of the other car's license plate as well as of the accident scene.

VanNess & VanNess, P.A.