VanNess & VanNess, P.A.
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Crystal River Florida Legal Blog

Homestead status can reduce real property taxes

The first step in making a plan for your estate is to protect it from property tax and creditors. In Florida, homestead laws allow residents to exempt an unlimited amount of property value from creditor claims.

In the event that creditors come knocking or the death of a spouse, homestead tax exemptions could protect your estate. Here’s how to take advantage of it.

Who can file a Wrongful death suit in Florida?

If you suffer injury in a Florida vehicle crash due to someone else's negligence you have a right to seek to hold that person or persons accountable for your pain, suffering, damages and financial losses. If the injuries cause your death, the possibility of seeking compensation remains for survivors. State law, however, controls who can pursue such a claim. To determine if standing exists and to effectively prosecute a claim of wrongful death, consulting an experienced attorney is essential.

Florida's Wrongful Death Act makes clear that each survivor of a victim of wrongful death has a right to "recover the value of lost support and services of the decedent." That can include losses in the immediate aftermath of the death and into the future. However, the relevant portion of that law also makes clear that to pursue the claim, the action must be initiated by the decedent's personal representative.

Estate planning and revocable trusts

The benefits of estate planning affect more people in today's economy than ever before. Still, when most people hear the words "trust fund" they think of a wealthy individual setting vast sums of money aside for distribution to specified beneficiaries after their death. This article will demonstrate that customized trust instruments are not restricted to the wealthiest among us.

Many Florida residents have substantial assets that could warrant creating a trust within their estate plan. Different kinds of trusts are meant to yield specific outcomes. Making sure that you achieve your unique needs requires careful assessment by an experienced legal professional. In today's post we take a brief look at revocable trusts and what they have to offer.

Car accident risks: Another reason to make DST permanent

Are car accident risks related to sleep deprivation a good reason to make Daylight Saving Time permanent? Readers may recall that this time last year then-Governor Rick Scott signed into law a measure making Daylight Saving Time permanent in the state, officially taking effect last July. As you know, the change didn't actually take effect and this past weekend many Florida residents were surprised and didn't set their clocks ahead an hour.

Permanent Daylight Saving Time is called for in Florida and 30 other states, but permanent DST can't actually be enacted without approval by Congress. What are the chances Congress will make it happen? No one is offering any predictions. Meanwhile, officials at the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety suggest there are motoring safety reasons to drop the seasonal time shift from the calendar.

Implications of inherited stocks

Florida does not tax income. That doesn't mean the state doesn't seek to collect revenues when and where it can. Among the chances it looks for are occasions when a loved one dies and has bequeathed a transfer of assets.

Typically, if the material in question is in the form of real estate, the transfer to a spouse or child can occur without any state or federal tax against the property value increase realized during the decedent's lifetime. However, in a situation where the asset is in the form of stock, a lack of advance planning can result in your loved one having to pay government bills, rather than enjoying the intended boon.

Auto product liability and federal probes of faulty air bags

Auto Product Liability can be a contributing factor in a car accident. We have been hearing about the dangers of Takata air bags for years. Some of these devices have inflators that become unstable and explode with so much force that metal shards are sent flying through vehicles. This can cause serious or even fatal injuries. Air bags are intended to save lives, not cause serious harm or wrongful death. 

Globally, nearly two dozen people have died from injuries caused by defective air bags, most of them in the U.S. Millions of vehicles have been recalled and in just the past several weeks many more recalls were issued. Despite these actions, an estimated 17 million potentially faulty inflators remain in the cars we drive. Heat and humidity contribute to the decay and deterioration of air bags which makes driving an affected vehicle in Florida a major concern. 

Trust administration and relevant income taxes will be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court

Trust administration and relevant income taxes will be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2019. Since residents of Florida generally pay no personal income taxes, the outcome of this case is of great importance to our state. The Florida personal income taxation policy applies not only to earnings from wages, salaries or tips, it also applies to income received from a Trust. The State of Florida does not generally tax a Trust's income. 

This does not mean that a Florida-based Trust can be certain of avoiding all income tax implications. Many other states seek to collect taxes from Trusts based on the residency of its beneficiaries. In fact, some states seek to collect taxes on a Trust's earnings even if no distributions are made to beneficiaries.

Not having a Will could exclude these family members

Not having a Will could exclude your loved ones from receiving a portion of your estate. While it's in most everyone's best interest to establish an estate plan for their family and loved ones, the need may be especially strong in some instances.

Many people think they are too young to worry about signing a valid Will, but we all know that unexpected, tragic events happen each and every day. What would happen to your assets if you were to die suddenly in a car crash, or other tragic accident?

The individuals noted below are unlikely to receive an inheritance through "intestate succession" (meaning there is no valid Will in effect at the time of someone's death).

Estate Planning - the right time to create or review your estate plan

Estate Planning - When is the right time to create or review your estate plan? We all know people who believe that you can plan too much, and tell you to "live in the moment." But attorneys with experience in estate planning in Florida know the benefits of taking a long-term view of your estate plan to maneuver the twists and turns of life that might come your way. When you anticipate aspects of life changing over time, and make relevant estate planning revisions as those changes occur, those you love the most will benefit.

By some estimates, more than half of all Americans lack even a basic estate plan. They don't have a Will, an advance health care directive, or Trust (when applicable). If this is true in your case problems will arise when you can no longer make your own decisons, or when you ultimately pass away. You owe it to your family to contact an attorney to set at least these fundamental documents in place. 

Accidents with autonomous vehicles involve auto product liability

Accidents with autonomous vehicles involve auto product liability. The movement toward autonomous vehicles (AV) has slowed down in the past year. Many experts point to the fatal accident in which an Uber test vehicle, with a person behind the wheel, struck and killed a pedestrian.

Uber and other companies slammed on the brakes for continued AV testing after that tragedy. But autonomous vehicles are here to stay, and testing by other companies continues. Last year attendees at the Florida Autonomous Vehicle Summit learned that a track for high-speed tests of driverless cars will be opening in Polk County this Spring.

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