My Pink Lawyer ®

Mom to 2 awesome kiddos, Wife to a great guy & last, but not least, Florida Women's Wills, Trusts, Estates, Special Needs & Guardianship Lawyer Now that you know me, you should follow me. Looking for something?

Don’t Plan Your Estate the Way I Prepared for my First 15 K!

It’s Noon on Saturday, February 1, 2014. I lay in the bathtub and swallowed two Aleve, every muscle screaming. I could barely move.
 
My 12 year old son and I had just completed Pensacola’s Double Bridge Run, our first 15K race.
 
Last Fall, my son and I decided that every month we would run a race together for some fun mother-son bonding experiences. It’s ironic that I’d even agree to running since I hadn’t run since grade school. But a quick download of the “Couch Potato to 5K” app on my phone and I figured I’d work up my endurance.
 
Needing an audacious goal to motivate ourselves, we registered for the Pensacola Double Bridge Run about 5 months before the event. We technically had plenty of time to train but, as tends to happen, time flew by and an Achilles injury waylaid me from running for a month. Then, the weather turned cold and it was so much easier to sleep in instead of running in the freezing temperatures of the pre-dawn hours.
 
Before we knew it, the Double Bridge Run was upon us and the farthest I had ever run was 5 miles. That’s right, folks, 5 miles and the Double Bridge Run was almost twice that distance (9.3 miles to be exact).  Fortunately, my pitiful lack of preparation didn’t deter us. I reasoned that the worst thing that could happen was I’d have to walk part, or all, of the race. Although pitifully slow, I am happy to say that I not only crossed the finish line (not last either!) but I jogged the entire way.
 
My son ran the race with eight minute miles and finished almost an hour ahead of me. Ha! [My son, by the way, didn’t train for the race. He just went out and ran it—the only kid in his middle school to do so. Oh, to be young and healthy like that!]
 
Now, I don’t recommend my “wing it” approach to running to Planning Your Estates. There’s too much at stake for your family to either Do No Planning at All or to Do Haphazard Planning. No matter your bank balance, you’ve worked too hard caring for your family during your lifetime to leave your Estate Planning to chance. Unlike races, there are No Do-Over’s when it comes to your Estate Plan.
 
If you haven’t ever Planned Your Estate or your Estate Plan is over five years old or you’ve had a major life event in your family since you last reviewed your Estate Plan, you should meet with your Estate Planning Lawyer to make sure everything is up to date. It may seem overwhelming but a good Estate Planning Attorney will walk you through the Estate Planning process step-by-step.
 
My son and I will run next year’s Double Bridge Run again and this time I plan to be better prepared. I’ve moved onto the ‘5K to 10K’ app on my phone and am more diligent about stretching to help prevent injury after my runs.
 
I hope you think of me the next time you put off updating or planning your estate. Remember, An Ounce of Prevention is Worth A Pound of Cure!

Attention Moms! What’s Worse than Being Stuck Inside with Your Kids During an Ice Storm?

I awoke yesterday morning to a text from Emergency Management that the Pensacola Bay and Pensacola Beach bridges were still closed and weren’t opening anytime soon. This was our second ice storm day at home and the third day of cancelled school. Now living on Pensacola Beach, I couldn’t get to my law office had I even dared to try.  While many parents I know were going stir crazy at home with the kids, I was desperately missing one of my own.

My 12 year old son was still stranded at his friend’s house in Gulf Breeze on the other side of the beach bridge from us for the third day straight. Although I knew he was in good hands with his friend’s parents, I still worried about him. He had only packed enough clothes and food for one night, not three! He’s been vegan for over 18 months now, which makes it a little challenging when he spends the night out.

Even though I try not to worry, it’s natural as a mom to worry about our kids. We feel we know what’s best for them—their bedtime, what they eat, how they spend their free time, who their friends should be, etc. It’s not that my way is right necessarily (but of course it is for us moms, right?!); it’s that I know my kids better than anyone else. I know their joys, their fears, what they like to eat, how much sleep they need to feel rested in the morning, how they like their downtime, their bedtime rituals, etc. Although I’m not a particularly nervous person and my kids are very independent, it was driving me crazy to be physically cut off from my youngest child.

It made me think about how my kids would do if neither their dad nor I were around to raise and guide them anymore. Although I know that no one will love them and raise them as well as we can (we all feel like that as parents, don’t we?), at least we’ve put our legal documents in place to ensure that the folks that we want raising our kids will be appointed as their legal guardians and that the inheritance we will be leaving them (thank you life insurance!) will be protected and used for them well into adulthood. Without a Will, minor’s trust, guardianship nominations, etc., all of these decisions would be handled by the courts outside of our control as parents.

It’s not fun to think about our inevitable demise and I hope we all live long, fulfilling lives. But none of us have a crystal ball so as parents, it’s our responsibility to love and teach our kids now but also to prepare for the worst. We can do so by making sure our Wills, Minor’s Trusts, Durable Powers of Attorney, Guardianship Nominations, and Advance Care Directives are signed and up to date.

If you’re a Florida resident, I can assist you with getting your Estate Planning affairs in order. You can reach out to me here to schedule your Free Estate Planning Consultation.

Are You a Control Freak? The Art of Letting Go in Your Estate Plan

Puerto Morelos, Mexico, October 5, 2013

Sipping my morning coffee in a little café overlooking the Caribbean, I pulled out my phone thinking I should call home to check on the kids.

Phone On – check

Searching….Searching….Searching….

…?… Uh, no Bars, no Cell Service at all? HEL-LO?

I had called Verizon before my husband and I snuck off to weekend getaway to Mexico. I paid for the “Mexico” cell service package so I wouldn’t be charged outrageous fees for calling home internationally. Silly me, I didn’t even ask if Verizon even HAS cellular service in the Yucatan peninsula. Note to self: They don’t.

After the shock of realizing I was “cut off from the outside world,” I slowly resigned myself to the following facts:

  1. My kids were in the very capable hands of friends;
  2. Last I checked, Tropical Storm Karen was fizzling out in the Gulf and probably wouldn’t be a threat after all to the Florida Panhandle; and
  3. As my kids frequently reminded me, I needed to stop being a control freak and trust that they are perfectly capable of making their own decisions (within reason of course!).

I have the same types of discussions with my Estate Planning Clients everyday:

How Much Control Will You Demand From the Grave?

Most clients say they want their estate plan to be easy (translation: keep it simple yet effective to accomplish their desires) and cost efficient (translation: they don’t want to spend a lot of money).

However, some of these same clients also want to control how their loved ones use the funds/property they inherit:

  • “I want to keep my home in the family to be passed down through the generations.”
  • “I want my IRA funds to go to my kids but I want to make sure they don’t cash it out early.”
  • “I don’t trust that my son-in-law won’t squander any money I leave my daughter.”
  • “I want to pass my business along to my kids and ensure that my grandkids can also work there when they get older.”
  • “My kids are immature and I don’t trust them with money.”
  • “My kids have to complete college, reach a certain age, etc. before they get their hands on anything.”

I remind my clients that it’s their money and they can put whatever restrictions they want to on how it is used or doled out or who they leave it to (within certain legal parameters). However, the more control or restrictions they want to put on the inheritance, the more complicated their estate plan becomes and ergo, the more costly their estate plan becomes.

To some clients, the additional control is worth the additional cost. To others, not so much, and they decide to LET IT GO and keep it simpler with outright distributions. It’s a decision that every client much make and there is no right or wrong answer. Clients just need to make the best decision they can at this moment knowing that their estate plan can be updated down the road as their circumstances, or those of their loved ones, change.

Pensacola, Florida, October 8, 2013 

Home again, feeling refreshed after 3 days in the sun and sand with no responsibilities, I realized my home was just as I left it, albeit with a little more dirty laundry and dishes. The kids and pets were happy to see us and life went on without us. Homework was completed, tests were studied for, kids still got to school and their activities on time. All that and I never even had a chance to call home once to remind anyone about the schedule.

Guess I really can start to let go of the reigns some. It’s a personal decision that every Estate Planning Client needs to decide for herself.

Need some help getting your own Florida estate affairs in order? Feel free to reach out to me now & I’ll be happy to answer your questions free of charge.

Don’t Be a Couch Potato! 6 Simple Steps to Your Own Estate Plan 5K

Moving out to the beach this summer, I decided I should really try to get into shape. I’ve never been much of a runner (who am I kidding? I’ve never been a runner. I hate running! My lungs feel like they’re on fire and my thighs are like jellyfish—not an attractive sight.)

A friend mentioned to me in passing that she had just finished her first 5K run and mentioned an app called “Couch Potato to 5K.” Now that sounded up my alley! I downloaded the app and liked what I read. It had new runners starting out very slow with interval training of walking and slow jogs. In fact, the first couple of weeks, I was walking more than I was jogging. My son went for my first workout with me and commented that I was actually jogging slower than when I walk which was hilarious yet true.

Eight weeks later, I have worked up to forty-minute steady runs which is very impressive for a gal who’s never been able to run more than 5 minutes at a time in her life.

If you had told me eight weeks ago that I would be running for forty minutes, I would have said that you were crazy. It was simply too overwhelming to even think about. I have many clients tell me the same thing is true for them with getting their affairs in order with their estate planning.

The hardest part of estate planning for most folks is getting organized and many folks don’t even know where to begin. The trick is to break the process down into bite-sized pieces that are manageable. Here are a few initial steps to get you started, which cost you nothing. Let’s call this “Couch Potato to Estate Planning 5k.”

1.    Decide that you are going to do something; not much, but get off the couch and take your first few steps.

2.    Ask your friends or family or search on-line for an estate planning attorney licensed in your state of residence. Preferably this attorney should be local to you but in this technological day and age, it is not mandatory with things like Skype and the Internet.

3.    Look at the websites of these attorneys to get a feel for their practice, who they are, who they work with and how they work with clients. Search for on-line reviews of these attorneys as well.

4.    Call or e-mail these attorneys to chat with them live. I personally chat with every person who reaches out to me for an estate planning consultation so they can get to know me better by phone and I can learn more about their situation. You can learn a lot about a person by chatting with them by phone. If an attorney will not return your call promptly and prior to meeting with them in person, you may want to look around a little further for someone else.

5.    If you get a good feel for this attorney over the phone, schedule your free estate planning consultation with them. The attorney will probably have you fill out an estate planning worksheet prior to your meeting which will further help you get organized for the consultation and will save you a lot of time when you get together.

6.    At your consultation, your attorney will probably give you a “homework” list to keep you progressing along the path of estate planning organization. Again, these will likely be bite-sized pieces for you to tackle at your earliest convenience.

Before you know it, you will be well on your way to “running your own estate planning 5K”. It may take you several months to get there but it all starts with getting off the couch and taking your first steps.

If you’re a Florida resident and are ready to get off the couch and schedule a complimentary estate planning consultation, feel free to reach out to me or check out my website to learn more about my practice. Regardless of who you decide to work with, however, know that I am cheering you on to the Estate Planning 5K finish line!

Would You Rather Pick Lice or Talk to Your Attorney About Your Estate Plan?

My kids came home from elementary school several years ago with lice. EEUW! I don’t like bugs to begin with so this was particularly ICKY for me to deal with. But, my kids needed me (of course my husband made himself scarce—what’s up with that?!) so, ‘putting my big girl panties on’, I bought the Delousing Kit at the pharmacy and proceeded to follow the instructions on the box. 

Well, little did I know that the delousing shampoo is the easy part. The really disgusting part of the entire delousing ordeal is the painstakingly slow picking of each individual nit (definition: lice egg, for you lucky unindoctrinated readers out there) from your child’s hair. Yes, each hair follicle needs to examined, preferably with a magnifying glass. Just brushing the hair en masse with the worthless comb that comes in the kit doesn’t cut it. I cannot emphasize enough to you how SLOW AND TEDIOUS AND ICKY this process is. I spent hours in the bathroom with my kids to find every last nit.

Believe it or not, I’ve spoken to some folks who just can’t bring themselves to talk to an estate planning attorney about their affairs because they feel it’s every bit as ICKY as what I’m describing with the lice. They cannot face the reality that they will die one day and hope that by not talking about it, it won’t happen.

Well, let me tell you folks, just like you can’t play dumb and pretend your kids don’t have lice when they do (or think the lice will somehow magically disappear on their own), pretending you won’t die, won’t prolong the inevitable. Decisions need to be made and it’s better to make them when you’re relatively young and healthy than wait until the last minute when it might be too late. We all have a magic window of opportunity to make legal decisions and put them in writing and there will come a day for each of us when that window will close.

Some decisions we should all be making for ourselves and our families include:

·      Who do you want raising your kids if you aren’t here to do so? In other words, who, besides you, do you trust to pick nits out of your kids’ hair?:)

·      Who do you want to leave your money and property to when you die?

·      Who do you want making medical decisions for you if you’re unconscious or in a coma or critically ill?

·      Who do you want paying your bills and managing your finances and property if you are laid up in the hospital or otherwise out of pocket for a while?

All of these issues and many more will be discussed and addressed by a qualified estate planning attorney. At the very least you should have a written Will or Trust, Durable Power of Attorney, Living Will (if you don’t want to be maintained on artificial life support if you have a terminal condition with no chance of recovery), Health Care Power of Attorney (in Florida we call them Designations of Health Care Surrogate) and an Organ Donation document (if desired).

I challenge you, if you haven’t prepared or reevaluated your written estate plan within the last three years, to make an appointment today to discuss your situation with an estate planning attorney in your State. If you are a Florida resident, you’re welcome to reach out to me personally.

I promise that talking about your Estate Plan sure beats picking nits any day!

Medical ID Bracelets are a life-saving necessity for folks living with Epilepsy

The Epilepsy Foundation estimates that three million Americans suffer from the condition. Epilepsy is a medical condition that is characterized by recurrent seizures. Unfortunately, seizures in people suffering from epilepsy are unpredictable and may occur at any time. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, the manifestation of these seizures varies widely. The mildest seizures involve staring spells, while some people with epilepsy suffer from violent shaking fits.

Many people with epilepsy take medication to keep seizures under control. Missed doses of epilepsy medication may result in a seizure, leading to a medical emergency.

Medical_id_bracelet

The Importance of Epilepsy Identification

Epilepsy is a serious condition, and it is important that those suffering from the condition are properly identified with an epilepsy medical bracelet in case of an emergency. Because epileptics may suffer from severe seizures that could result in unconsciousness, an epilepsy ID bracelet is helpful for proper identification of the reason for the seizure. Medical professionals may waste time trying to diagnose the condition when the symptom is a part of a person’s ongoing condition.

An epilepsy medical bracelet will alert medical professionals to the condition. Information regarding a patient’s primary doctor may also be included on the epilepsy ID bracelet. Emergency medical personnel can contact the patient’s doctor to receive detailed information about the type of seizures the patient suffers from, which will help rule out other complications.

If medication is taken for seizures, this information can be noted on an epilepsy medical bracelet. This will give medical professionals a better idea of what kind of seizures a patient typically has, and a dose of this medication may be administered to help stop seizures.

Check out my Video Presentation on 5 Things Every Parent Must Do to Protect their Special Needs Kids

5 Things Every Parent Must Do to Protect their Special Needs Child

Most folks when they think about estate planning think about what’s going to happen to their money and their “stuff” when they pass away. However, for parents of young kids, and especially for parents of special needs children, the concern is making sure their children are protected and taken care of when they are no longer around.  Although not exhaustive, here are 5 things at a minimum each parent of a special needs child should do to protect their child:

1.             Name a guardian for your child.

·      Guardian of Minor

All parents of kids under age 18 should name a legal guardian to care for their children if something should happen to them before their children become adults. I have a free planning guide on my website to help parents choose the best guardian(s) for their kids.

·      Guardian Advocate

However, many special needs kids will need a guardian to care for them, manage their finances & make medical decisions for them even after they turn 18 and are legally an adult in the eyes of the law. I frequently work with parents to get them appointed their children’s legal guardian advocate after their disabled child turns 18 to enable those parents to continue to do all of the things and make all of the legal and medical decisions for their children that they’ve done their entire life.

Once appointed guardian advocate, parents should nominate successor guardians for their disabled adult children in their estate planning documents just as they would when their kids were still young, under the age of 18.  Alternatively, one can appoint a Standby Guardian ready to step in immediately upon the death of the guardian; or one can have the court appoint a co-guardian to serve simultaneously in which case the surviving guardian will continue to serve as sole guardian upon the death of one of the guardians.

2.             Have Your Kids Apply for SSI benefits before age 22

Although I am not a Social Security attorney, I’ve learned enough to be dangerous from my colleagues who practice in this area.   Your disabled child may not be eligible for SSI when they still a child (younger than age 18) because SSA will look to the parents’ earnings and assets to determine the child’s eligibility. However, when your disabled child turns 18 and is legally an adult, SSA will then look only to your child’s income and assets in determining SSI eligibility.

If a person is deemed disabled by the SSA prior to age 22, then that disabled child will be eligible to receive SSDI off of his or her parent’s earnings record upon the disability or death of the parent. SSDI benefits can be substantially higher than SSI benefits which is currently capped in 2012 at $698/month for eligible individuals.

3.             Prepare a Letter of Intent or written Care Plan for your disabled loved one

A Letter of Intent is a nonbinding document that passes vital information about a person with disabilities to future caregivers.  It may include not only information about your child’s benefits and resources but also such things as your child’s medical history & treatment plans, medications, daily care needs, favorite activities, habits, sleeping and eating preferences and many other important aspects of your child’s daily routine, who their doctors are, their list of medications, etc.

While these items may be second nature to you, it is important not to take them for granted. After all, in many cases, your child’s future caregivers assume their role in caring for your child without having actually lived a day in your shoes.

Visit my website today to download my Free Disabled Loved Organizational Guide.

4.             Incorporate a Special Needs Trust for your loved one in your Estate Planning

The last thing we want to do when we pass away is to inadvertently jeopardize our children’s public assistant benefits because of an inheritance we leave to them. Many families don’t know that an inheritance of as little as $2,000 can disqualify someone from public benefits unless the inheritance is paid into what’s called a Special Needs Trust.

Special Needs Trusts, also known as supplemental needs trusts, can be incorporated into your estate plan to hold any funds or property you want to leave to your disabled child without jeopardizing your child’s public assistance benefits. The are discretionary spendthrift trusts [which means the beneficiary’s creditors can’t reach the trust assets] intended to supplement, but not replace, any public benefits the trust beneficiary receives such as SSI, Medicaid & other governmental programs. 

The funds of the special needs trust can be used to supplement the beneficiary’s government benefits by paying for services & equipment that Medicaid would not cover, such as the purchase of a home, special wheelchairs, handicap-accessible vans or mechanical beds; as well as pay for vacation, a personal attendant and recreational activities. This type of trust can be tailored to enrich the beneficiary’s life.  The trust last for the beneficiary’s lifetime and upon the beneficiary’s death, you have chosen in advance who then inherits any remaining trust assets, such as other descendants or family members.

5.             Leave Sufficient Financial Resources for your Child

Many parents of disabled children sacrifice their careers and their life savings to provide for their kids with special needs. Even parents who are financially secure, however, want to ensure that more assets are available for their children with disabilities after they are gone. Many parents purchase life insurance to fund their children’s special needs trusts. Life insurance can provide funds at your death to help pay for caregivers or other resources that can maintain the quality of life for the special needs loved one in your life.

Don’t forget disability insurance too.  Statistically we will all become disabled at some point in our lives. If that disability affects our ability to earn an income, this can be devastating to our families, including our disabled loved ones who are dependent upon us and our incomes.

Closing:  Remember, planning is not something you do for yourself. It’s something you do for your loved ones because it’s easier for you to take care of things today than it will be for your family & loved ones to take care of things after you’re gone.

I invite you to download my Free Special Needs Planning Guide from my website today.