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Car crash fatalities reach a nine-year high

In Florida and the rest of the U.S., car crash fatalities are on the rise. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that 37,461 people died in car, motorcycle and pedestrian accidents in 2016. According to NHTSA data, the last time the number was this high was in 2007, when 41,259 people were killed.

Driver mistakes were a major factor in the increase. For example, speeding deaths rose by 4 percent, deaths caused by safety belt neglect by 4.6 percent and drunk driving deaths by 1.7 percent. There was also a 9 percent jump in pedestrian fatalities and a 5.1 percent rise in motorcycle deaths.

How to handle pressure to sign a power of attorney

Florida residents who are being pressured to sign a power of attorney document may be wise to resist. While such a document may be critical if an individual is unable to manage his or her own affairs, it is one that should be made free from any undue influence. In fact, if a person is pressured to give someone the power of attorney, it may be a sign of fraud.

Financial powers of attorney may be as broad or as narrow as a person wants them to be. It may even be possible to revoke the power of attorney if desired. An individual named to act on an incapacitated person's behalf has an obligation to work in the best interests of that person. However, it may be worthwhile for people to spend time wondering why someone else would want them to do so.

The duties of an executor

Florida residents who are creating an estate plan may want to consider the duties of the executor that they will appoint. The first thing an executor must do is obtain death certificates so that various institutions and agencies such as banks, the Department of Veterans Affairs, life insurers and the Social Security Administration can be notified.

It is also necessary to locate the will or trust. Once this has been done, the executor will have an idea of the scope of the job as well as what professionals might be needed. An executor may hire an attorney, a financial adviser or another professional to assist with the process.

Wills and their limitations

Many people living in Florida may have an incomplete estate plan and not know it. The importance of having a will has been stressed for some time, which may in some cases lead people to believe that the document is sufficient for determining what happens to their assets after they pass away. This assumption is incorrect.

While it is true that a will is a crucial part of estate planning, it remains only one part. Certain types of assets and concerns are not covered in a will. For example, people need separate documents, such as living wills and advance directives, to address their wishes regarding end-of-life issues.

Bigger cars offer passengers more protection

Florida motorists know that car crashes can happen at any time. But the chances of serious injury differ depending on a variety of circumstances, one of which is the size of the car. A vehicle's crashworthiness is determined by its size and weight in addition to its materials and structural integrity. Technological advances can aid drivers and have the potential to reduce the risk of, but bigger, heavier vehicles often simply hold up better and give more protection to occupants.

Drivers and front-seat passengers are given less protection during a front-end collision in smaller cars, especially cars with short front ends. The bigger the front end of a car is, the more of the impact it will absorb. A car slows while the front end is being crushed, so a bigger front end also means that impact to the front-seat passengers would happen at a slower rate of speed, which could result in less severe injuries.

Advantages of planned giving

Florida residents who are creating an estate plan might want to consider a planned gift. Planned giving refers to making charitable donations, and it offers a number of benefits to various parties.

Tax benefits are one advantage. Options include charitable reminder trusts, charitable gift annuities and IRA charitable rollovers. These may offer financial benefits in both the present and the future by giving people tax deductions or other advantages and then later reducing how much tax beneficiaries will have to pay. There are also benefits to setting up the plan and starting to see the advantages immediately. A charitable giving plan can benefit the individual doing the giving as well as the community at large. Furthermore, setting up the plan can improve communication with beneficiaries who will have a clear idea of how assets will be allocated. This also allows the people creating the estate plan to sit down with beneficiaries and organization and discuss their needs and how asset allocation can benefit them.

Estate executors and wine cellars

People living in Florida are often concerned about estate planning issues. In many cases, the primary concern is ensuring that investments are liquidated, cash assets are distributed and any personal effects go to the appropriate friends and family members. In some cases, however, someone may have a collection of valuable property that needs to be managed and distributed by an executor.

Take wine, for example. Some wine aficionados spent decades carefully curating a collection of rare bottles. If the collector is unable to consume the wine before he or she dies, the collection becomes part of the estate. In some cases, wine collections can be worth tens of thousands of dollars or more.

Communication with family and estate planning

Florida residents who are creating an estate plan might want to consider discussing it with family members. In fact, talking about finances can be an ongoing conversation. However, discussing money can be difficult for some people. One way to better frame the conversation might be to think about it as a conversation about values.

For example, people may want think about what they consider most important. This could include deciding whether a person is more interested in a long life or a more comfortable life or whether it is harder to talk about a funeral to loved ones or know those loved ones will have to make decisions among themselves about the funeral after a person's death. Values about spending and saving can also be discussed.

Naming successor trustees important

Floridians who are beginning to think about estate planning may want to try to avoid the probate process. One way for people to pass their assets on to successive generations is by establishing trusts while they are still alive. It is important to be careful when deciding who to name as a successor trustee.

Trusts do not pass through probate, allowing assets to be passed to the intended beneficiaries with a greater degree of privacy. The trusts are administered by trustees, who are tasked with managing the assets for the benefit of the beneficiaries and following the trusts' mandates. Administering a trust can be highly technical in nature and time-consuming.

Estate planning can include pets as well

Pets can be some of the most beloved members of the family for people in Florida and throughout the United States. Indeed, according to the National Pet Owners Survey, a full 68 percent of households across the nation own a pet, which amounts to around 85 million families.

One thing that can be difficult yet important to consider is how a pet will be provided for after the death of its owner. While stories about owners leaving large estates to their pets have received sensational news coverage, even pet owners of modest means may still want to consider provisions for their beloved creatures as part of their estate planning process.

VanNess & VanNess, P.A.