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VanNess & VanNess, P.A.
Toll Free: 866-697-6221 Local: 352-436-4333 Over 100 years of combined experience

Leaving a portion of an estate for charity

A Florida resident who is creating an estate plan might want to leave a portion of their assets to charity. However, it's important that they do so in a way that lowers the overall tax burden.

As an example, a person might have three major assets that are worth $1 million each. The person might leave the home and the IRA to the children along with $900,000 from an after-tax account. The remaining $100,000 of the after-tax account would go to charity.

What drivers should know about hydroplaning

Hydroplaning is an ever-present threat when it rains in Florida. When there is too much water on the road for vehicles' tires to handle, the tires will push that water underneath them. The thin layer of water that develops between the tires and road will cause the tires to lose traction. They are, in effect, floating above the road.

Vehicles can slide or skid uncontrollably as a result, leading to sometimes serious crashes. Drivers can largely avoid hydroplaning, though, if they slow down and avoid large puddles. They especially want to be careful during the first 10 minutes of rainfall; this is the most dangerous period because the water immediately mixes with the oil residues on the road and creates a slippery surface. After this, the residues start to be washed away.

The importance of estate planning at any age

According to a new survey from, nearly 80 percent of millennials do not have a will. It's also common for younger or childless and unmarried individuals in Florida to procrastinate or not see the importance of making estate plans. Part of the reason for this may be a desire not to face the unpleasant facts of life or make decisions at a time when it seems unnecessary to do so. However, dying intestate, a legal term meaning without a will, results in many distribution decisions being made by the courts.

The basic document that's part of the estate planning process is a will. With this particular document, who gets what is clearly spelled out and an executor is named to handle the transfer or assets. Single, healthy millennials may also benefit from a durable power of attorney to determine who will take care of financial matters should incapacitation become an issue. An advance medical directive spells out end-of-life wishes in regard to such matters as life support and comfort measures. If an individual falls into a persistent vegetative state, the default decision is usually to sustain life artificially.

Volvo releases distracted driving study

Florida residents who assume that it is only the younger generation who drives distracted may be interested in the results of a study conducted by Volvo and the Harris Poll. Thousands of participants were asked about the distracting activities they engage in behind the wheel. Just over 80 percent of millennials and Gen Xers admitted to phone use; this was followed by 71 percent of Generation Z, 64 percent of baby boomers and 59 percent of the Silent Generation.

Among specific activities, 60 percent admitted to texting and driving, 35 percent to reading emails, 25 percent to surfing the web and 20 percent to posting on social media. On the other hand, the participants clearly thought that other drivers were worse than they were -- on average, they said that they believe more than 90 percent of other drivers text and read emails.

Estate planning for small business owners

It is important for small business owners in Florida to have an estate plan so that their intentions for their businesses are clear. If there is no estate plan, the business along with the rest of the estate could be caught up in legal proceedings for a year or more.

The first step is to write a will. The will may appoint an executor, establish beneficiaries for assets and include information about who will take over the business or the person's share of the business. The person may also want to create a log of all the relevant information about accounts and any files important to the operation of the business. These may be shared online with the executor or other individuals or might be kept in a safe or safety deposit box.

Driving safely around school buses and heavy traffic

Florida residents are probably aware of the challenges they face on the road when school starts. School zones force them to slow down. They see more children darting out onto the street, and they find themselves sharing the road with school buses. Safe driving is a priority at all times, but especially during the school season.

The following tips should be kept in mind. First of all, drivers must slow down when school buses have their yellow lights on. When their red lights are on, and their stop arms are extended, the law requires drivers to stop. Drivers are encouraged to keep a 10-foot safety zone around a stopped school bus. They must refrain from all activities that take their attention away from the road, such as calling, texting, eating and adjusting the radio.

Legacy planning can preserve wealth for the future

People in Florida thinking about the future may want to consider how they can improve their existing estate plan in order to protect generational wealth. There are a number of key documents that everyone should have in place, such as wills, health care proxies, advanced medical directives of living wills, revocable living trusts and other items. People can create an irrevocable trust to receive the proceeds of their life insurance policies in order to protect the beneficiaries of the policies from creditors or additional taxes. In addition, trusts can be an important way to handle transition in the family business.

However, despite extensive estate planning, wealth is often lost from one generation to another. On average, there is a 70 percent chance that wealth will decline significantly by the second generation and a 90 percent chance of such a decline by the third generation. Legacy planning can be an additional step to help preserve these assets over generations. In order to develop a legacy plan, technical advice from a lawyer as well as financial experts may be critical. Legacy planning can also involve a different mindset that focuses on the long-term viability of key assets.

Estate planning complicated by cryptocurrency, digital assets

The number of people in Florida who own digital assets is increasing rapidly, and so is the impact of such assets on estate planning. For people who own cryptocurrency or online contact lists, the question of whether and how to include these things in an estate plan can be difficult to answer. The most important step is to make sure the executor or other decision-maker has all the information necessary to properly distribute assets, be they digital or physical.

According to a probate lawyer who wrote a book on inheritance planning for cryptoassets, paper and pen may be valuable tools in digital estate planning. The lawyer said that it's important to write down the locations of assets, passwords, PINs and the types of assets held. This information should be kept in a safe place where it can be easily found by the executor of the will on the death of the testator. The lawyer also said that it can be helpful to make at least two copies of the relevant records and keep them in separate locations.

Car crash risk goes up for teens once they are licensed

The National Institutes for Health reports that car crashes are the leading cause of death among 14- to 19-year-olds. Another study by the NIH, which was conducted with Virginia Tech University, should be of interest to teen drivers in Florida because it has found out when the risk for crashes and near-misses reaches a particularly high point.

One might think that the risk is highest when teens still have their learner's permits, but this is not the case. After analyzing 90 teen and 131 parent participants in Virginia, researchers concluded that the first three months of driving with a license are worse than the three months prior to that. Alarmingly, the crash risk went up by eight times.

How to account for the cost of Alzheimer's

There are currently 5.7 million Americans who have Alzheimer's disease, and lifetime care costs for someone who has it are well over $300,000 on average. As an increasing portion of the population turns 65 or older, the number of people who experience this condition will grow as well. Florida residents who find out that a family member has been diagnosed with Alzheimer's should review that person's estate plan.

This can help to get everyone on the same page as it relates to medical and financial needs. It can also help to make sure that beneficiary designations are current and correct. A living will can be created that will help determine what type of care an individual will receive while mentally diminished. It can be a good idea to meet with a financial adviser who may be able to talk more about how to handle the cost of in-home care as well as the cost of adult day care or other facilities.

VanNess & VanNess, P.A.