FIND A LEGAL COUNSEL

Do Your Annual Legal Checkup, With Attorney Robert Elias

Editor’s Note: Attorney Robert Elias gives Haute Lawyer and our readers a checklist of the important things to keep in order from a legal standpoint.

Robert Elias - Nov 2020 - shutterstock_79081297Photo Credit: Shutterstock

The outbreak of COVID-19 has posed a significant disruption to the lives of Floridians. Every aspect of our daily lives has been affected. The majority of us are either working remotely and/or self-quarantined at home. This time can provide the opportunity for us to get our “legal” house in order. This article will address some of the more important items which can be reviewed from the comfort of our own homes including specifically estate planning, asset protection, and real estate. Hopefully, COVID-19 will soon become under control but the review of the items in this legal checkup should be undertaken regardless of its spread.

Estate planning is among the most important legal topics which should be a primary focus for most South Floridians. Planning is not just for the super-wealthy. Avoidance of probate, particularly for South Floridians, is a major area to which you should devote time. As you may know, probate is time-consuming, expensive, uncertain and should be avoided whenever possible. There are a variety of techniques that can be employed to avoid probate including the use of a trust, lady bird deeds, and other simple measures. Moreover, COVID-19 has placed greater focus on “Advance Directives” which are the documents that affect you during your lifetime and include Durable Powers of Attorney, Health Care Surrogates, Living Wills, Pre-Need Guardians, and HIPAA Releases. If your estate planning is more than 5 years old or if there has been an intervening life event (i.e. marriage, divorce, children, serious illness or death of a family member, etc), estate planning should be reviewed and updated as appropriate.

Asset protection, particularly in Florida, typically works in conjunction with proper estate planning. Avoiding exposure through the use of entities including limited liability companies and other corporate structures can be critical to bypassing aggressive creditors. Irrevocable trusts are also commonly utilized for this purpose. Examine your corporate documents to ensure that appropriate shareholder/operating agreements exist, shares/membership certificates have been issued and that other corporate formalities are being observed in order to thwart attempts by creditors to “pierce the corporate veil”. A quick review of the Secretary of State website will confirm that the entities are active and in good standing. Moreover, you should thoroughly review how the title to assets is currently held and then determine if any changes are appropriate so that assets are not unnecessarily exposed.

Many South Floridians own residential and commercial real estate. By going to the property appraiser’s website, you can confirm how the title to the real estate is reflected and if property tax payments are up to date. If there are any deficiencies, they can typically be corrected. In addition to being held in your individual name, homesteaded property can also be held in the name of a trust and still be eligible for homestead exemption. Enhanced life estate deeds, also known as “lady bird deeds,” can be used as a way to avoid probate. Review your files to make sure you have a copy of your survey, title policy, and lease(s) if applicable as these can become important documents in the event an issue arises. Also, make sure that you review your insurances with respect to the properties to confirm you are adequately protected.

The foregoing is only a portion of the important items that should be reviewed. Estate planning, asset protection and real estate review represent central items in the “legal” checkup process. Most of the review can take place from the comfort of your own home. You just need access to your files and/or a computer to review most everything.

THE ELIAS LAW FIRM CAN HELP

If you need legal assistance with real estate, corporate, estate planning/probate and/or asset protection matters, feel free to contact The Elias Law Firm at 305-823-2300, via email at relias@eliaslaw.net, or visit us on the web at www.eliaslaw.net.

About the Author: Robert Elias, Esq. leads a boutique law firm specializing in all aspects of residential and commercial real estate transactions, corporate law and estate planning/probate. He is active in a variety of charitable and civic endeavors throughout South Florida and maintains an AV Preeminent Lawyer Rating from Martindale-Hubbell, the highest peer rating for professional excellence. Additionally, he serves on the Board of Directors of Apollo Bank. Mr. Elias was named to the exclusive list of South Florida’s Top-Rated Lawyers by American Lawyer Media.

For more on Robert Elias, visit his Haute Lawyer profile at https://dev.hauteliving.com/hautelawyer/member/robert-elias/

FIND A LEGAL COUNSEL