What is the Difference Between a Simple Will and a Pour-Over Will?

What is the Difference Between a Simple Will and a Pour-Over Will?

How do you know which type of will is best for your needs? While most people likely assume a simple will or last will and testament will cover their wishes, it can provide great peace of mind to have this legal process secured before an emergency develops. Learn the difference between simple wills and pour-over wills by seeking legal advice.

Simple Wills

One of the most important estate planning documents is a simple will. For those who die intestate, i.e., without leaving a will, the cost to the estate can be significant. State law determines who will inherit the property of a person who dies intestate. (Family members are often required to cover the costs of funeral expenses and probate process.) Additionally, the state’s legal requirements may distribute assets in a way that the decedent never would have intended. All too often, disputes over property can cause family feuds.

A simple will or last will and testament can avoid some of these issues. A simple will is a legal document that states who you want to inherit your assets and belongings after you pass away.

Pour-Over Wills

Some people in Florida who have created an estate plan that is primarily based on a living trust might also want to make a pour-over will. The advantage of a pour-over will is that it can ensure that any assets not placed in the trust or passing through other means, such as a beneficiary designation, will become part of the trust when the person dies.

A pour-over will is intended to act as a safeguard. It is better to review an estate plan annually or when there are major changes to the family, care decisions, tax laws, or assets. A wise place to keep any type of will when it is not being used or reviewed is in a safe deposit box.

If a person does not have a pour-over will or a will that designates what will happen to assets not placed in the trust, those assets may be distributed according to state law. The result could be family members receiving assets they were not intended to have or being denied assets you wanted them to receive.

People who do not have a trust as part of an estate plan might want to discuss the advantages with an estate planning attorney. A trust may be useful to control how assets are distributed to a beneficiary who may be irresponsible with an inheritance, to a relative with special needs, or to a minor child, etc. A person can specify when distributions are made or set up the trust so that the trustee manages when distributions happen. There are several other complex ways to set up trusts to reduce estate tax or provide charitable contributions. In some cases, an irrevocable trust may be used to protect assets such as personal property, a life insurance policy, social security, etc. against creditors or debt collectors.

Learn more about Wills and Trusts at an Estate Planning Workshop. Please contact the Law Offices of Amy B Van Fossen for legal advice related to wills, estate planning, and more. 


Editor’s Note: This content was originally published in June 2021 and has been updated for freshness and accuracy. 


What Expenses Should I Expect When Hiring a Probate Lawyer?

What Expenses Should I Expect When Hiring a Probate Lawyer?

When dealing with end-of-life legal issues you may hear the word, “probate.” In this post, we will define probate, share examples of the probate process, and provide contact information to hire a probate attorney in Florida. In addition, we will address the question, “What expenses should I expect when hiring a probate lawyer?” This is an important question and this information can help you and your family get through a difficult time more smoothly.

What is Probate?

The court-supervised probate process is followed in nearly all cases for a deceased person in Florida. In a typical probate proceeding, a personal representative (sometimes referred to as an executor or executrix) gathers assets, pays debts, and distributes assets and property to beneficiaries. This can take months to years, especially for complex estates.

End-of-life legal issues can be complicated so a knowledgeable probate attorney is a valuable asset. They are experts at preparing and filing court documents, inventorying personal property, estate assets, and debts, distributing assets according to your wishes, and navigating complicated issues around a deceased person’s estate.

Common Florida Probate Expenses

Now that we’ve highlighted the importance of having a qualified probate attorney, you may be wondering about the costs of probate. Probate fees can vary, but there are some expenses you can expect:

  • Fees to pay your attorney (further explanation below)
  • Filing fees for the court and paperwork
  • Accounting, land survey, and appraisal fees
  • Reasonable compensation for executors or trustees
  • Executor/probate bonds required by some Florida county courts

These are the types of probate costs that need to be paid for the probate proceeding to move forward. Your probate attorney will help you understand which probate costs you are responsible for, as well as gather and distribute them on your behalf. People with attorneys have an advantage when dealing with these common fees and processes.

How Much Will My Attorney Cost in Florida?

Florida’s status as a “reasonable compensation state” may make your attorney fees the top expense in the probate process. Rather than an hourly rate, the state has a statutory fee schedule based on the value of an estate that is commonly used. However, this is not required and fees can be determined in different ways in your representation agreement.  When using the statutory fee schedule, if an estate is valued at $200,000, the attorney fees will be higher than if the estate is valued at $90,000, and lower than if the estate is valued at $1.5 million. These costs highlight the importance of consulting with an attorney about estate planning to protect your assets as much as possible.

Remember, probate is an important and necessary court process for many estates. It is important to have legal counsel that is an expert in the law and has the compassion needed for these delicate moments. Our attorneys are ready to help you navigate this process along with many other legal services, and we also have a blog where you may find answers to other important questions. Please don’t hesitate to give us at the Law Office of Amy B. Van Fossen a call today for all your probate estate needs!

What Do I Need a Probate Lawyer for in Florida?

What Do I Need a Probate Lawyer for in Florida?

It’s not always easy to consider legal issues surrounding aging and the end of life. But, it is important to have the necessary documents and legal support in place so that your estate is not negatively impacted by probate proceedings. You may be wondering, what is probate and what do I need a probate lawyer for in Florida? Our compassionate, specially trained probate attorneys at The Law Office of Amy B. Van Fossen are here to answer these important questions.

What is Probate & How Does it Impact Me?

Probate is the term used for a court-monitored legal process that helps guide the personal representatives (also called executors) and beneficiaries of a person’s will or trust. It exists to help ensure that the desires of the deceased are followed, and also helps to protect personal representatives so they are not held personally liable for how those wishes are carried out.

In Florida, nearly all estates need a probate lawyer as Florida law requires an attorney to assist in the probate process. For several reasons, the system in Florida can be more complicated than in some other states and non-lawyers may find themselves frustrated navigating probate rules on their own. Our expert probate lawyers handle these types of probate regularly.

What Issues Can a Probate Lawyer Handle for Me?

As mentioned, the probate court process in Florida is uniquely complicated. You may be wondering what issues a probate lawyer can handle (or avoid) on your behalf when you hire this specific type of legal counsel:

  • Ensuring that the deceased’s wishes are carried out accurately and without liability to beneficiaries
  • Transferring assets out of the decedent’s name after the time of death as required by Florida law
  • Gathering all estate assets for appropriate distribution including bank accounts, real estate, stocks, life insurance, etc.
  • Resolving any outstanding debts, funeral costs, or applicable taxes related to the deceased’s estate
  • Acting as an intermediary in an estate dispute and helping with any family conflict that may occur
  • Administering of new or additional probate documents if some aspect of your estate is not legally in order
  • Attending to any issues regarding missing heirs who cannot be located
  • Working closely with the deceased person’s representative whether that be an individual, bank, or trust company
  • Handling any other unforeseen complications that may arise during the probate process

Our Probate Lawyers in Florida are Here to Help You

While the probate process may feel like a complicated imposition, it exists to protect you, your estate, personal representative(s), and your beneficiaries. The goal of our attorneys is to make sure that your estate plan is documented, followed, and executed in a way that protects your assets and loved ones. Hiring an experienced probate lawyer is one of the best ways to provide yourself with information, protection, and a person in your corner for those delicate end-of-life issues. At The Law Office of Amy B. Van Fossen, our team understands the elder law is deeply personal. We’re devoted to providing consistent care in a comfortable environment. Contact us today to learn more. 

How Estate Planning Lawyers Strengthen Wills and Trusts

How Estate Planning Lawyers Strengthen Wills and Trusts

As we age, it’s important to start considering the legal process related to your estate. No matter the amount of wealth or assets you have, the most important thing is that they are yours. And, when you pass away, they should be distributed according to your wishes.

One of the most important actions you can take to make sure that your assets are protected and wishes are followed is to have a strong will or trust. Due to legal issues surrounding estates and end-of-life issues, these important legal documents can be complicated or even contested. Our specially-trained attorneys at The Law Office of Amy B. Van Fossen can show you how estate planning lawyers help strengthen your wills and trusts.

What Is Probate?

One of the words you may often hear when constructing a will or trust is “probate.” Probate is a court-monitored process that can happen if a will or trust does not exist, is unclear, or is contested. However, if you have a strong will or trust, you can reduce or even avoid the probate process. This can protect your family from additional time, taxes, and court interference to settle your estate.

What Is the Role of a Probate Lawyer?

As with many areas of the law, it is best to get your legal advice from an attorney who specializes in the area you need. And, when it comes to strengthening your wills and trusts in Florida, our highly trained elder care and probate lawyers know the details in this area of law.

A probate lawyer may need to take on a number of different roles in the probate process. These may include:

  • Preparing and providing documents that the probate court process may require
  • Appraising personal property
  • Figuring out where the deceased person held their estate assets (i.e. banks, stocks, etc.) as well as securing them for distribution to the beneficiaries
  • Tacking down and managing any life insurance policy or payout
  • Settling any debt, remaining bills, or taxes owed by the deceased person
  • Appointing a personal representative

How Can Our Estate Planning Lawyers Help You?

While it is everyone’s hope that the legal documents and beneficiaries are straightforward, that isn’t always what happens. Due to our specialty in elder law, our estate planning attorney can help make your wills and trusts strong and clear from the beginning, strengthen any existing documents that you may have previously drafted, or manage any complications that come up throughout the entire process or after you are incapacitated or deceased. 

The court-monitored probate process is something everyone would like to reduce and/or avoid, but you can benefit from having an expert estate planning lawyer in your corner to make that a reality. If you would like to discuss your existing wills or trusts, establish a strong will or trust, or simply have an initial consultation with compassionate, family-oriented attorneys who specialize in elder care, call our attorneys at The Law Office of Amy B. Van Fossen.

Should I Join a Trust Maintenance Program or Ask for Help Funding My Trust?

Should I Join a Trust Maintenance Program or Ask for Help Funding My Trust?

The way you originally establish and later fund your trust is an essential part of achieving your goals for the trust. While trusts can be straightforward, they can also be complicated by different state or federal laws. If you are funding a trust you will benefit from the legal advice of the knowledgeable elder care lawyers at the Law Office of Amy B. Van Fossen, P.A.

Because trusts can, and often do, change over time, you may benefit from joining a trust maintenance program or asking for help funding your trust. To determine if it would be helpful to incorporate this option into your estate plan, here are a few considerations.

What Is a Trust?

A trust is a legal entity that holds a person’s assets. Trusts, as part of a complete estate planning tool, may include many different kinds of assets including real estate, personal property, money, investments, life insurance policies, businesses, etc. The establishment of a trust requires the grantor (creator of the trust), the beneficiaries, and the trustee. A trust can be established for common or unique financial circumstances, all intended to accomplish your estate planning goals for your assets and beneficiaries.

What Does it Mean to “Fund” a Trust?

When you “fund” your trust, your assets are transferred from you to the trust. This happens by changing the assets from your name to the title of the trust.

Why is Funding a Trust Important?

One of the main purposes of a trust is to avoid probate. A trust will help ensure your financial wishes are carried out as you prefer after your death. This is a way to ensure your beneficiaries are taken care of. When your trust is funded, those assets can then be fully accessed and controlled by your trustee(s) rather than going through probate.

Who Funds a Trust?

While you are ultimately responsible for funding your trust, our attorneys can help you consider all of the assets you would want to transfer to your trust as well as help with more complicated transfers, such as real estate.

What is a Trust Maintenance Program?

A trust maintenance program is a beneficial tool offered by Amy B. Van Fossen, P.A. because circumstances change over time, and you may find that you want to change or amend the terms of your estate planning documents. With the trust maintenance program, you will frequently meet with our firm to discuss your needs, wishes, and any changes in life circumstances to ensure your estate planning documents are always up to date. Also, trusts can exist for many years. During that time, the trust may be used to provide monies to a beneficiary for a specific purpose, including health, maintenance, education, etc. Should you choose this option, a lawyer may help ensure you use the income and/or principal according to appropriate standards.

How Can a Trust Maintenance Program Benefit Me?

As mentioned, trusts and the circumstances surrounding your life and assets can change in the years after you establish your trust. A maintenance program is an excellent way to ensure that your trust is current and accomplishing its intended goals.

Your estate is yours and should be managed and/or changed in a way that benefits you, your goals, and the beneficiaries of your estate. As circumstances and assets change throughout your life, at the Law Office of Amy B. Van Fossen, P.A., we work, to the best of our ability, to ensure every client’s trust goals are met. Learn more about our process at the next Trust Follow Up Seminar or contact us today.

What happens if you pass away without a will?

What happens if you pass away without a will?

Probate Tip of the Day: What Happens if You Pass Away Without a Will?

Hi, everybody. For today’s Probate Tip of the Day, we’ll be talking about what happens if you pass away without a will. In Florida, if you pass away without a will and you’re the traditional family, husband, and wife, and you have children together, no children from prior relationships, then your husband or wife will inherit 100% of your estate.

However, if either one of you has children from a prior relationship, it gets a little more complicated. Your surviving spouse will then inherit 50% or 100% of your estate, depending on those prior children. If you do not have a spouse, then your children will inherit 100%. If you do not have a spouse or children, then your inheritance will first travel up to your parents, and if they’ve passed away, then across to your siblings. If you don’t like this, then you need to have a will executed so that you can draft around it.