33801 U.S. Highway 19 N Palm Harbor FL 34684
The Law Office of Henry J. Kulakowski, Jr. offers sophisticated and comprehensive estate planning services for individuals and their families. We design and implement appropriate plans for the preservation and disposition of family assets and values. We utilize estate planning techniques that are designed to avoid the probate process, reduce taxes, protect assets, preserve family wealth and promote harmony and certainty among family members and heirs. We offer highly personalized and sophisticated estate planning and wealth transfer services to accommodate the needs of our clients, from large estates to those which are more modest. We listen carefully to fully understand each client’s particular family needs and objectives.
We recognize that estate planning is an intensely personal experience and deals with matters of life, death, dignity, property and family, and the legal and emotional issues which surround these matters. We will therefore take the time necessary to really listen and understand your needs and goals and your family and property issues and we’ll explain the laws and your options so that you can properly design and fully understand your estate plan. We will make this process very manageable, by guiding you through each step.
We approach estate planning as an opportunity to help our clients take stock of their lives and to take control in deciding how and when to share their legacy with those they love and those charities that are meaningful to them.
I have represented 5 Lottery winners in my career!
WHAT IS A REVOCABLE TRUST?
A revocable trust is a document (the “trust agreement”) created by you to manage your assets during your lifetime and distribute the remaining assets after your death. The person who creates a trust is called the “grantor” or “settlor.” The person responsible for the management of the trust assets is the “trustee.” You can serve as trustee, or you may appoint another person, bank or trust company to serve as your trustee. The trust is “revocable” since you may modify or terminate the trust during your lifetime, as long as you are not incapacitated.
During your lifetime the trustee invests and manages the trust property. Most trust agreements allow the grantor to withdraw money or assets from the trust at any time, and in any amount. If you become incapacitated, the trustee is authorized to continue to manage your trust assets, pay your bills, and make investment decisions. This may avoid the need for a court-appointed guardian of your property. This is one of the advantages of a revocable trust.
Upon your death, the trustee (or your successor if you were the initial trustee) is responsible for paying all claims and taxes, and then distributing the assets to your beneficiaries as described in the trust agreement. The trustee’s responsibilities at your death are discussed below.
Your assets, such as bank accounts, real estate and investments, must be formally transferred to the trust before your death to get the maximum benefit from the trust. This process is called “funding” the trust and requires changing the ownership of the assets to the trust. Assets that are not properly transferred to the trust may be subject to probate. However, certain assets should not be transferred to a trust because income tax problems may result. You should consult with your attorney, tax advisor and investment advisor to determine if your assets are appropriate for trust ownership.
HOW DO I KNOW IF MY ASSETS ARE PROPERLY TITLED TO MY REVOCABLE TRUST?
The account statement, stock certificate, title or deed will make some reference to the trust or to you as trustee. You might also elect to fund your trust by naming the trust as a beneficiary of life insurance or other similar arrangements. Your attorney and financial advisor may assist you with the transfer of assets to your trust. If your trust will own real estate then it is important to have the deed prepared by an attorney. The attorney will consider the impact of existing mortgages, title issues and homestead restrictions when the deed is prepared.
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CAN THE TRUST HOLD TITLE TO MY HOMESTEAD?
In some situations your homestead property can be transferred to your trust. Most Florida counties have special requirements to maintain the homestead tax exemption and special language may be required in the trust agreement and the deed. However, homestead property may lose its exemption from creditors when title is held in a revocable trust—the bankruptcy law on this point is unsettled. Your attorney can advise you on whether placing your homestead in your trust is appropriate, and if so, the requirements for a valid transfer.
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