We are a boutique law firm focusing our practice in the following areas:

Wills, Trusts and Estate and Trust Administration, Federal Estate and Gift Tax, Powers of Attorney, Healthcare Planning and Prenuptial and Postnuptial Agreements.

Charitable planning also comprises a large area of our practice with the creation of outright gifts, Charitable Trusts, and Charitable Foundations. We are general counsel to the Community Foundation of Sarasota County, Inc. and several private foundations.

ESTATE PLANNING CENTER

One of our core values at Muirhead, Gaylor, Steves & Waskom is bringing clarity to the complex and personal issue of estate planning for our clients. We hope this helps. Please contact us with any questions.

WHAT IS ESTATE PLANNING?

You work hard all your life to provide for and protect the people and things you love. We can help insure that the individuals and the organizations that matters most to you receive your legacy on the terms you desire. Planning helps everyone to be prepared well in advance and puts your mind at ease knowing that wishes will be carried out. An estate plan, prepared by a qualified attorney, is a thoughtful and caring gift to the people and organizations that receive your estate.

Estate Planning is figuring out what you have and what you wish to give, to whom, when, and how. It is not just for the very wealthy. Many families are shocked to find out what the real cost can be for someone dying without a estate plan.

COMMONLY USED WORDS AND PHRASES RELATED TO ESTATE PLANNING

The Estate Planning Center is never a replacement for your attorney, but serves as a resource to help you understand the process and terminology that is involved for Wills, Trusts, Probate, Estate and Gift taxation and Charitable Foundations.

Probate

A court procedure by which a Will is proved to be valid or invalid.  A Person Representative (more commonly known in other states as an "executor") is appointed to administer the Will. Probate includes paying the deceased person's debts, taxes and distributing the property according to the Will.  The Personal Representative will work your Trustee if you have a Trust. It is important to note that decedent's assets that are subject to probate are only the assets in the decedent's individual name alone.  Generally speaking, assets titled in a Trust, in joint names with another party, or that have beneficiaries designated, such as life insurance, annuities, payable on death accounts or transfer on death accounts are not subject to probate.  

Trust

A legal document naming a Trustee to whom assets are transferred to manage and distribute according to your written directions. Assets titled to the Trust are not subject to the jurisdiction of a Probate Court upon your death. 

Trustee

A person or corporation (Bank or Trust Company) named in a trust document who manages property titled in the trust. The Trustee follows the written directions you provide in the Trust agreement with regards to paying debts and taxes, as well as distributing income and principal to your beneficiaries. 

Trust Administration

Trust are useful estate planning tools however a trust is more than a document. Even after a trust is established and assets are titled to the Trust, it needs administration. The Trust is administered by the Trustee. The initial Trustee is typically the Grantor (the person who established the Trust). When the initial Trustee dies, becomes disabled, or no longer desires to act as Trustee, the successor Trustee named in the Trust document takes over the administration. This involves managing the assets of the Trust and making investment decisions. It can also involve paying the bills of the Grantor. Upon the death of the Grantor, administration includes paying debts and taxes, as well as making distributions to beneficiaries according to the terms specified in the Trust agreement.  An estate planning attorney, CPA and financial adviser can be retained by the Trustee to assist with Trust administration. 

Estate Tax

Federal Estate Tax is the term used for the tax levied by the federal government on assets prior to being transferred to beneficiaries. Currently, the exemption is $11,180,00.  (Note, there is no estate tax on asset transfers between spouses.) This is per person, so a married couple may leave $23,360,000 to their beneficiaries without the imposition of a federal estate tax. Florida does not have an estate or inheritance tax. 

Charitable Foundations

Charitable Foundations are non-profit corporations or charitable trusts that are created to make grants to charities. There are private foundations and  public foundations. Private foundations are created by an individual, family or corporation and funded by the creators.  They tend to involve considerable wealth. A public foundation raises funds by contributions from individuals, corporations and even the government to make grants to charitable organizations. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is an example of a private foundation and The Community Foundation of Sarasota County  is an example of a public foundation.