New Document Available To Denote Your Last Emotional Wishes

As a probate law firm in Florida, we speak to many clients who have just lost a loved one and were at a loss to know what their dying relative had wanted from them towards the end of their life. That’s why we developed My Last Emotional Wishes. This free document allows everyone—whether currently diagnosed with a life-limiting disease or just wanting to plan for the future—to record their end-of-life emotional desires, taking the guesswork away from struggling family and friends.

My Last Emotional WishesThe form, created in consultation with hospice professionals and other experts, allows you to write out such wishes as how you’d want to live if your time was limited; whether you’d want people to talk about your illness with you or mostly have their regular conversations; the people, items, music and/or prayers you’d want to be surrounded by in your final days; whether you’d want to be free of all pain near the end or wanting to tolerate discomfort if that means you can remain conscious; what you most want to be remembered for; where you’d ideally like to be when you pass on; the mood you’d prefer at your funeral/memorial service; and more.

My Last Emotional Wishes is offered free by the Law Office of Gary Landau, a probate and real-estate law firm located in South Florida. The four-page PDF form is easily downloadable from the firm’s website, GaryLandau.com (Scroll to the bottom of the page). After you fill out the form, let a loved one know you’ve created it, then store it alongside other important papers in your home (not in a bank vault, which can be hard for others to access in a crisis). Because this is not a legal form, but rather a reflection of your desires, there’s no need to have your signature witnessed or notarized.

“We created this form to help people provide emotional direction to their loved ones in the last stages of life,” says Gary Landau, the firm’s principal and an experienced probate attorney, who has watched struggling families wish they’d better known how to help their dying relative emotionally, and hopes to help others avoid this situation.

Because this form only deals with emotional issues, Landau cautions, it does not replace other legal documents everyone should have. This includes a Last Will and Testament, a Living Will (also called an Advanced Directive), and a Healthcare Proxy. (In some cases, a Financial Proxy is also desirable.)

If you know someone who might benefit from My Last Emotional Wishes, feel free to share this information.

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“My Parent Died Without a Will. What Should I Do?”

The legal word is “intestate”–which means a person has passed away without leaving a valid will. Florida probate law is very specific about how property and money are passed to living heirs when there is no will. (And it doesn’t always correspond with what you know your parent would want, which is why I encourage everyone to have a will that is properly drafted.)

 

The Florida Probate Code determines who inherits your parent’s probatable estate (homestead property–the person’s primary residence, is treated separately under the law). It’s kind of complex, depending on the makeup of the remaining family:

 

  • Your living parent inherits everything if he/she is the legal spouse and has no other children who are not the children of the deceased parent (say, from a prior marriage).
  • You and your biological siblings inherit everything equally if your deceased parent doesn’t have a living spouse.
  • You and your siblings inherit half and the living spouse inherits the other half if the living spouse is not your (and your siblings’) biological parent.
  • Similarly, you and your siblings inherit half and the living spouse inherits the other half if that surviving spouse has other children who are not the children of your deceased parent.
  • If one or more of your siblings who is the legal child of the deceased parent died before the parent, but has living children (i.e., your parent’s grandchildren), those kids inherit their parent’s share.

 

For children to inherit under the laws of intestacy in Florida, they must be legal children. This includes: biological children, even if they were not raised by the deceased parent; legally adopted kids; children conceived by your deceased parent even if they were not born until after their death; and kids born outside of marriage, assuming they have proven paternity or the deceased parent acknowledged paternity during their lifetime. Children who are not American citizens or don’t live in this country are still entitled to their share. However, foster children, step children, and biological children legally adopted by another person are not.

 

To help you understand your legal rights if a relative passes away in the state of Florida, or to draft or update your own will, contact the Law Office of Gary Landau for a FREE legal consultation at 954-979-6566 or by email. Attorney Gary Landau personally returns all calls and emails to him.

 

How To Have A Smooth Real Estate Closing When You’re the Seller

Sellers of real estate property often think their work is finished when the contract is signed. But until you’ve handed over the keys, and your closing attorney has handed over the deed, there are still things you need to focus on:

How To Have A Smooth Real Estate Closing When You’re the Seller1)   Title issues. If your closing agent/attorney turns up any problems, or “clouds” on your title, they will work to resolve it with your help. Maybe you forgot to get a permit closed for work you did a long time ago, or maybe there was a mistake when you added a relative to the deed. While these clouds can be cleaned up by a qualified attorney, there may be steps they need you to take, which you must do right away.

2)   Repairs.  If you haven’t maintained your house over the years, you might want to consider having your own professional inspection done before you list the home, then fix the problems that are detected, so they won’t cause problems later. If you haven’t done this, and your buyer’s inspection turns up trouble (assuming you are not selling the home “as is”), you’ll need to ensure those repairs as completed as soon as possible.

3)   Condition of the property. When you sign a contract, the buyer is agreeing to buy the home in the same condition they saw it. During the period between contract signing and closing date, it’s important for the seller to maintain the property, and to repair anything that breaks during this time. After you move out and before the buyer has a walk-through, be sure to thoroughly clean your soon-to-be-ex home inside and out.

4)   Closing documents. When you get the documents before the closing, you’ll need to review them as closely and as quickly as possible to make sure all the figures are correct. If you have any questions, ask your attorney to explain. That way, when you get to the closing, the final steps will also be as smooth as possible, and you’ll soon be on your way to your next adventure.

Sometimes sellers in South Florida think they do not need an attorney. My years of experience shows hiring an attorney is always a cost-effective move, because having a professional not only doing the seller’s documents but also representing your interests can save you time, headache, and, most important, money. Problems that turn up on the seller’s side after the contract’s signing can sometimes even kill the deal if they are not handled quickly and professionally.

For more on the steps buyers should take after the contract signing, see my prior blog.

Having the Law Offices of Gary M. Landau by your side during each step in a real estate deal helps insure that the process goes smoothly. For more information about your real estate contract in South Florida, call 954-979-6566 or email for a free consultation.

Why You Should Use a Realtor for Your Real Estate Deal

Real estate buyers or sellers sometimes think that bypassing a Realtor is a smart move. But after years as a real-estate attorney in South Florida, I can tell you that in most cases it is not.

An experienced Realtor brings a lot to a real estate deal that home buyers and sellers can’t adequately provide themselves. In the same way that you wouldn’t perform your own tonsillectomy or replace your car’s transmission, you shouldn’t handle a real estate transaction involving tens or hundreds of thousands of your dollars without a professional. (And no, I’m not getting paid to say this. It’s just that I’ve seen many deals where people bypassed a Realtor and later found that didn’t serve them.)

Why You Should Use a Realtor For Your Real Estate DealIf you are a buyer, you will benefit by having a Realtor show you properties that fit your exact criteria—and it doesn’t cost you anything, because the seller pays the Realtor’s commission.

If you are a seller, you will benefit by a Realtor’s expertise in how to price your property so that it both brings in top dollar for you and still entices a buyer to purchase your home. An on-target price is determined by what’s happening in your area, how much work has been done on your home, how it looks to buyers, and many other factors. (One of the things I have seen when people don’t use Realtors is that buyers agree to pay too much, and then the deal falls apart when it doesn’t appraise at that unrealistic level. I’ve also seen sellers give away their house for less money than they could have gotten.)

Here are other ways a Realtor can benefit your deal:

  • Realtors are experts in the improvements you might consider making to your property get the best price when you are selling your home, and which ones are not going to pay back their cost. They can also help you set up, or “stage,” your home to best appeal to buyers. Realtors can often recommend trustworthy contractors they have worked with on other deals.
  • Sellers don’t need to be home every time someone wants to see their property, because a Realtor accompanies them. Since they prescreen and stay with those buyers, you’re also less likely to have a problem allowing strangers to wander through your home.
  • Realtors understand the neighborhoods they specialize in, so they can direct buyers to those that would appeal to them, considering what’s important to you, from school quality to location near parks or shops to neighborhoods with a trendy vibe.
  • If a buyer is interested in a home where there will be competitive bidding, a Realtor can be an ideal partner to help you determine an offer most likely to succeed.
  • Once a contract is signed, the process of buying a home involves many steps, from applying for a mortgage to arranging for an inspection on time to having a last-minute walk-through of the property to be sure it’s in proper condition. A Realtor (along with your real-estate attorney) can help you successfully navigate this confusing process.
  • Realtors are bound by a strict code of ethics as members of the professional organization, the National Association of Realtors. In most cases, both buyers and sellers can expect honest and ethical treatment in all transaction-related matters.

While Realtors are not required for a real-estate deal in South Florida, they, like real-estate attorneys, are an important asset for a smooth and successful transaction. It’s crucial, though, that you find a good one. Check online for reviews (on sites like Google and Yelp), ask friends if they had a good experience with their Realtor, or check with people in the business; I often recommend Realtors I know to be excellent to clients who ask me for a referral.

For more information about buying or selling property in South Florida, call us for a FREE legal consultation at 954-979-6566 or send us an email. Attorney Gary Landau personally returns all calls and emails to him.

Money Wiring Scams Are Hitting South Florida Real Estate Closings

Money Wiring ScamsIn recent years, a growing number of shocking hacks into Realtors’ and closing agents’ email accounts have led to changes in how sellers and buyers should send wiring instructions for their real estate deals in South Florida. Here’s what’s going on:

• Hundreds of thousands of dollars in proceeds have vanished the moment the closing agent hit send. That’s because the instructions they were sent by email, ostensibly by the seller, were in fact fraudulent. According to law enforcement, savvy hackers can target Realtors and real estate attorneys, and follow the train of email conversations long enough to get the names of the buyers and sellers and amount of the deal. Then they send phony instructions on the bank the proceeds should be sent to—usually offshore accounts that can’t be traced. While this has thankfully never happened to me, I have heard horrifying stories from other real estate attorneys who wired hundreds of thousands of dollars their sellers never received.

• Similar problems can happen on the front end, when a buyer asks in an email where they should wire their hefty down payment or funds for a cash deal. If that email is read by hackers, they can send a reply with wiring instructions to their own offshore accounts. This problem has so concerned the industry that last year the Federal Trade Commission issued a joint warning with the National Association of Realtors about these potential threats to settlement funds.

What can buyers and sellers do? If buyers receive email instructions about where to wire their money, they should take a few moments to call the escrow agent to confirm they have the proper information. (Most closing agents no longer take bank checks, and none take personal checks, so wiring is typically the only way to deposit money.) Sellers can avoid this problem by bringing their wiring instructions with them to the closing rather than sending them by email at all. The closing agent will likely ask the seller to sign the instructions to be sure they are confirmed.

For more information about real estate deals in South Florida, contact the Law Office of Gary M. Landau by email or call 954-979-6566. Attorney Gary Landau personally returns all calls to him.