Among the areas of law in which we practice (with additional information on each subject) are…
Estate planning is the creation of a legal game plan for an individual, couple or family all for the preservation and distribution of assets in the event of the passing of one or more family members with the least amount of taxation and administrative expense. Florida remains a popular retirement destination for older Baby Boomers and senior citizens. Yet, Estate Planning is important for adults – regardless of age – who have amassed assets of any value, as well as for people with minor children.
Laws can vary from state to state, but the reality remains the same: Every adult with assets should have an estate plan, and that plan should be revisited with an experienced estate planning attorney every few years to ensure that it still meets the client’s preferences, circumstances or changing family needs, as well as change of laws.
Revocable Living Trusts/Wills
A Living Trust is a legally binding trust document created and in effect while the grantor or owner is still alive. The benefit of a Living Trust over a traditional will is that upon the grantor’s passing, a Living Trust may avoid the expensive process of probate, which is necessary to implement the decedent’s wishes as outlined in a will. Part of the planning process can help reduce taxes.
A Revocable Living Trust performs much of the same functions as a Will. But where a Will must be acted upon through Probate, a Living Trust enables the creator to pass assets to beneficiaries when and how he or she desires without the need to go through Probate’s expensive and time consuming court proceedings.
It also can avoid a guardianship proceeding if the creator becomes unable to manage his or her own affairs. Beyond explaining and helping prepare the Revocable Living Trust, the attorney can be engaged by the estate after the individual’s passing to interact with the trustees, financial advisors, stock brokers, accountants, etc., in helping settle the trust.
Life doesn’t always unfold or end as we plan. In the event any adult is suddenly stricken, debilitated or incapacitated with tragedy, accident or illness, Advance Directives, including a Living Will or “Death with Dignity” form, which can outline and make clear the person’s wishes; a Healthcare Surrogate (defining whom the individual wants making medical decisions amid his or her incapacitation); and a Durable Powers of Attorney (who has decision-making power to manage the individual’s financial or legal affairs in that same situation, including with banks, investment brokerages, even simple bill-paying).
Guardians for Minor Children
Guardianship Provisions outlined within a Last Will & Testament can help the individual’s minor, dependent children avoid becoming part of a guardianship dispute in court. Guardianship Provisions outline whom the parents have selected to care for and raise the children and manage their finances and affairs in the event of the parents’ passing or incapacitation. The court still will make the final determination, yet courts often give great deference and weight to the parents’ stated wishes.
Guardianship Provisions introduce a scary notion: The parents’ untimely passing or incapacitation, and the need to plan for the children’s future. This prospect often keeps people from pursuing creation of such provisions. Yet it’s the parent’s responsibility to plan for the children in any eventuality. As stated previously, if you don’t, the courts will decide – without knowing your intentions or wishes.
For those individuals who have a Last Will & Testament, and not a Revocable Living Trust, the Will goes through a process called Probate. In this process, the courts review and approve the document. It can be costly and time consuming, as most courts require the estate to have an attorney to represent the estate in all court proceedings. In administering the Will, the courts will seek to ensure that the Will was properly executed and conforms with legal requirements in the State of Florida (or the state in question).
In a full probate proceeding, an executor or personal representative is approved or appointed by the court. The Personal Representative is required to publish Notice to Creditors of the individual’s death, file an Inventory of probate assets of property and values, pay all legitimate bills and claims, distribute assets to beneficiaries, provide an Accounting to the beneficiaries of what assets they took possession of, post any gains or losses and expenses incurred, and obtain an Order of Discharge from the court.
The process is similar for individuals with no will. The attorney for the Personal Representative will prepare all the documents necessary to be filed by the court, advise the Personal Representative, and communicate with the court and all beneficiaries, parties and/or creditors on behalf of the estate. In this capacity, the Personal Representative serves as a fiduciary. This is the highest legal standard, which requires avoidance of any self-dealing, vested or side business interests, and he is held strictly accountable for his actions. For this reason, competent and experienced legal representation for the Personal Representative is a must.
In this day and age, every family has to be concerned about potential litigation and the claims of future creditors against their assets. These debts could arise form such matters as: personal guarantees of bank loans and other business obligations, professional malpractice claims, liability for automobile and other accidents, injuries and property damage, as well as uninsured medical expenses. Fortunately, there are steps that can be taken to protect your estate against this and our law firm can assist our clients in keeping their hard-earned money no matter what problems of this sort may arise in the future.
At Grand & Grand, we work closely with clients on various real estate transactions from consumer / residential property purchases to complex commercial or business transactions, including sales, purchases, leases and refinancing. We are skilled in the representation of either side of a real estate transaction. We oversee document preparation and review; negotiations for purchase and sale of real property; real estate closings for residential, commercial and condominium properties; title insurance; and leases and landlord-tenant matters.
Our commitment in pursuit of helping each client achieve his or her objectives begins with a single question: What do you want from this transaction? Whether buying a residence, a commercial property, a restaurant, office or warehouse, motivations can vary. A residential purchase may be used as a primary residence or homestead, or it may be for investment purposes. Similarly, a commercial property purchase may serve an existing business, or be an asset for a real estate investor’s portfolio.
For the Buyer, we can help orchestrate the due diligence on a property and work with existing financial or real estate advisors to ensure the property is worthy of purchase. We will perform the title search to examine the title, seek open liens, ensure no code violations exist, and generally avoid title issues that may affect the owner in the future. Our attorneys can help draft or review contracts, and represent the client during negotiations, as well as at closing.
For the Seller, we can prepare the seller’s closing documents, including the warranty deed transferring the title for land and building; the bill of sale for any personal property that may go with the real estate property, including appliances, furniture, business equipment, etc.; and the affidavits guaranteeing that no liens or outstanding debts for work completed exist and that you are not a foreigner for U.S. tax purposes.
For Landlord / Tenant Lease Agreements, we counsel landlords or tenants regarding business or residential property leases that can range from thousands to millions of dollars in rent over the life of the lease. This is a sophisticated area of practice that requires skilled counsel experienced in commercial transactions. Documents could range from a two-page lease to a 40-page, multi-year agreement, requiring significant negotiations over language and provisions. Beyond rent and lease term, the agreement will determine who pays for maintenance and repairs, real estate taxes, insurance, who is responsible for damages and liabilities, what happens if the property is condemned, and whether there are renewal options, or right of first refusal to purchase the property. As with any transaction, it’s critical to engage legal counsel before a deal or letter of intent is signed. Afterward, all any attorney can do is help the client enforce the deal already signed.
Commercial Business Transactions
Whether starting, buying or selling a business, the counsel of a trusted legal advisor is critical to its successful execution. Websites and businesses have emerged promising do-it-yourself business creation. Few business creations, though, are that simple. The establishment of a new business almost always requires the principal work with an attorney well versed in corporate law, State law and taxation and Federal rules regarding the establishment of business entities.
Attorneys with Grand & Grand have worked with start-up businesses ranging from manufacturers, contractors, distributors and restaurants to dry cleaners to professional practices and consulting firms. We advise and assist the principals in creating and forming the appropriate business entity (e.g., an S or C corporation for U.S. tax purposes, a Limited Liability Company, a Limited Partnership, etc.), drafting and filing Articles of Incorporation or Organization with the State, writing the Operating Agreement and/or Shareholders Agreement, drafting of Minutes, Bylaws and Stock issuances, among other required documentation. We can work alone or in concert with accounting professionals to obtain the business Tax ID Number from the IRS and submit the appropriate filings with the Florida Department of State.