Estate Planning

At David Lanigan, PA, we will work closely with you to identify and address crucial issues in planning your estate, such as who will inherit your assets, who is capable of handling your financial affairs, and who is best-suited to make medical decisions if you become incapacitated.  We work with our clients in the Tampa Bay area to establish estate plans that will provide for their loved ones, avoid guardianship during their lifetimes, and reduce the likelihood of probate or trust litigation at death.  In order for the estate planning process to be effective, it must be comprehensive, which means that we need to learn a lot of information about you and your family, your desires, goals, and fears, your assets and liabilities, and more.

Our estate planning has involved complex estates often worth millions of dollars and often consisting of family owned businesses, life insurance, Qualified Subchapter S Trusts, Electing Small Business Trusts, deferred compensation plans, minors’ trusts (to hold gifts from parents and grandparents), and charitable interests, exposure to creditors, multiple generations, generation-skipping transfers, IRA’s and other retirement plans, second marriages, unmarried couples, spendthrift children, non-U.S. citizenship, mental disabilities, and other complicating factors. 

Mr. Lanigan has written a wide variety of wills, revocable living trusts, irrevocable life insurance trusts, asset protection trusts, living QTIP trusts, traditional split-dollar agreements; private split-dollar agreements, charitable remainder trusts, minors’ gift trusts, family limited partnership agreements, durable powers of attorney, designations of health care surrogates, shareholder buy/sell agreements, and other contracts to implement his clients’ estate plans.

What is Estate Planning?

Estate planning is a process by which a person or a couple:

  1. considers all of their assets, liabilities, income, and expenses;
  2. identifies one or more persons to serve as their surrogate for making health care decisions at any time that they cannot do so themselves;
  3. identifies one or more persons to serve as their agent to manage their property at any time that they are unable to do so; identifies to whom they wants their property to go during life and after death (i.e., family members, charities, etc);
  4. decides when these beneficiaries are to receive their property and in what amounts;
  5. arranges for management of assets in trust for one or more beneficiaries who are not old enough or informed enough or frugal enough to manage assets left to them by a parent, grandparent, or other ancestor;
  6. analyzes how to avoid or at least minimize all taxes, both federal and state, that could be imposed upon their death or upon making a gift or upon income;
  7. considers their own health and the health and abilities of every person on whom they rely to serve as personal representative (i.e., executor/executrix), trustee, surrogate, agent;
  8. considers life insurance, whether to buy it or retain it, how to “own: it, how to fund the premium; whether to hold it in an irrevocable trust;
  9. considers business entities they own and how to value them and whether to retain or transfer control and how and when to transfer control;
  10. arranges their assets and liabilities so that a judgment creditor, if any, would have difficulty collecting on a judgment.

What kinds of estate planning do we do?

  1. Planning for blended families, where children from prior marriages must be considered.
  2. Wealth preservation planning.
  3. Business succession planning.
  4. Special needs trust designing, such as for a mentally retarded or otherwise disabled child or to account for potential need for Medicaid.
  5. Unmarried couples and same sex couples planning.
  6. Trusts for my clients’ pets.

What documents are used to implement an estate plan? 

An estate plan is implemented by several different essential types of documents, including:

  1. A last will and testament;
  2. A trust;
  3. A designation of health care surrogate;
  4. A durable power of attorney;
  5. A “living will”;
  6. A pre-need designation of guardian;

Additional documents sometimes used include:

  1. a shareholders’ agreement or buy-out provisions in a limited liability company operating agreement;
  2. a pre-marital agreement;
  3. a domestic partner agreement, for an unmarried couple or a same sex couple.

Why do I need an estate plan?

In order to:

  1. avoid or minimize discord among family members;
  2. ensure that the people whom you designate receive your property and receive it in amounts you desire and when you want them to receive it;
  3. pass ownership of a family business to one or more of your descendants when you want to and under circumstance which favor the likelihood of future success of your business;
  4. avoid or minimize all taxes that could be imposed upon your death and upon making gifts;
  5. coordinate disposition of your assets via non-probate means with a will and maybe a trust;
  6. account for homestead characteristics;
  7. plan for your retirement;
  8. provide liquidity for your estate after your death;
  9. provide supplemental benefits for a disabled child who receives or in the future probably will receive governmental support;
  10. favor one or more charities.

Q: What can a Will do for you?

A:        A Will can:

  1. direct the distribution of your assets that will be subject to probate for the benefit of beneficiaries whom you designate;
  2. designate the person or persons whom you would like to serve as guardians of your children, in the event you (and your spouse, if any) die while your children are minors;
  3. designate your personal representative (i.e., executor or executrix) of your probate estate;
  4. minimize the likelihood of family conflict over your property.
  5. establish your plan to avoid or minimize estate taxes and effectuate your estate tax plan;
  6. allocate the burden of paying any income taxes, estate taxes, and generation-skipping transfer taxes that arise because of your death;

Q: If I have a will, can I avoid probate?

A: No, a will works in and through the probate process.

Q: If I have a revocable living trust, can I avoid probate?

A: Assets titled in the name of your trustee at the time of your death will be governed by your trust and need not go through probate.  Nevertheless, probate may be desirable for the purpose of shortening the time during which a creditor can file a claim against the estate from two years to three months.

Q: Should I create a trust to handle my assets?

A: A revocable living trust is the type most often used to hold assets and distribute them after death.  If you have assets that you can transfer into a revocable living trust during your life, creating such a trust might be useful.  Otherwise, a will should be sufficient to implement your plan.  See the monograph concerning trusts at ________ of this website.

Q.  Can I just add my spouse or children to the title of my home and to my bank accounts and investment accounts instead of writing a Will?

  1. Joint ownership creates more problems than it solves. See the downloadable monograph located _____________ in this website

Q: What happens if a person gets divorced but dies before changing his Last Will and Testament?

A: His Last Will and Testament will be interpreted as if the former spouse had died at the time of the divorce.

Q: What happens if you get divorced but die before changing your revocable trust?

A: The trust will be interpreted as if the former spouse had died at the time of the divorce.

Q : What happens if, while a resident of Florida, a person gets divorced but dies before changing his designated beneficiary of his IRA, annuity, or life insurance?

A: Subject to many qualifications and exceptions, the designation of beneficiary would be null and void.

How Is Estate Planning Done at David Lanigan, P.A.?

When you contact us, we will provide to you an estate planning questionnaire.  When you receive it, please complete the questionnaire, sign it, copy it, and send the original to us.  We will analyze it, identify concerns and goals, learn to whom you wish to leave your property and under what conditions and terms, and, during your initial appointment, propose to you ideas as to how you may achieve your goals.

In addition, when we have learned these things, I will send you an engagement agreement and request a fee retainer. After you have signed and returned the engagement agreement and deposited the fee retainer, we will prepare a draft of your documents and offer them to you for review. When the documents meet with your approval, you will sign them in accordance with legal requirements.

We scan the original signed documents to save in our computer and deliver the originals to you.