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Scam Alert: Never Give Out Your SSN!

SCAM ALERT: I think I’m smarter than everyone else when it comes to detecting scams. I mean, I write a column that includes this SCAM ALERT feature. So, surely, I would always be on the lookout for scams and I should easily be able to spot all the classic signs, such as emails that state my account has been compromised or emails that say my account has been frozen because of suspicious charges. And I should surely, surely, surely be wary of someone saying I need to send in a gift card, eh! Um…. Well…. Nope. I got an email from Amazon saying that my account was frozen. I started to fill out some form. Luckily, I was asked for my social security number. FULL STOP ON THAT. But then, just to be sure, I called Amazon. Well, sort of. Actually, I called the number on the email. (DUMB). The guy I spoke to then said what I needed to do was get a gift card and give him the numbers on the card and then he would be able to match those numbers to………………oh, well, you know. And it was at that moment, that I said the magic words: SCAM. And I hung up. Look. When you get an email from Amazon or from Target or from any other company, it doesn’t mean it really came from that company. What I should have done and what you should do, is not respond to that email. Just go to your account and log in like always and if you have no trouble logging in, just report the email to that company. I recently reminded myself that it’s true we can learn from our mistakes; BUT it’s better by far, to learn from someone else’s.
Q. I have a fairly large estate but it’s not federally taxable. It’s not likely that it ever will be federally taxable. I have no close relatives and I do not intend to leave anything to the distant ones I know about. I have some friends and I have some charities and they will get the bulk of my estate, probably all of it. I have no idea who to name as the administrator of my estate, nor who to name for my health care person. So, my question is are there good estate planning options that do not include having a Trust or should I have a Trust and if so, who do I name as the administrator.
A. There’s a lot to unpack here and in a column like this, it’s not possible to do justice to what you’ve raised. But I think you have brought up some very significant and highly interesting issues and so I will address your questions but only in a general fashion. And before I even start to do that, my primary advice to you is to meet with your attorney or with an attorney that can provide estate tax advice. A member of our law firm, Attorney John Beck will take over now and will give you and my readers some thoughts about your question.
Q. My wife and I own a triplex in (a city in another county in Florida). Her 57-year-old daughter lives in it rent free which is okay with us. She is not really able to take care of her financial needs and when both of us are deceased, she will still need a place to live but she won’t be able to handle taking care of the place if we left it to her. She will also need some income and right now, we supplement her job from our own funds. But if both of us are gone, the only hope she has is to get some money from the two other rental units until she gets on social security and Medicare. Your thoughts please.
A. Unfortunately, this is not an infrequent situation, where we love a child, but that child is basically unable to take care of herself/himself. My thought is for you to create a living trust and also a limited liability company. Then make the living trust the owner/member-manager of the LLC. Then you and your spouse transfer the ownership of the triplex into the LLC. With the trust actually owning or being the entity to control the LLC which owns the triplex, you can have the trust contain all the provisions you need to manage the property and see to the daughter’s needs, even after you and your wife have passed on. You would need to name a successor trustee to yourselves and you would need to decide what kind of provisions will be contained in the Trust in order to take care of the property and look after the child. With the property owned by the LLC, there is the added benefit of asset protection for you in the event the is a liability claim resulting from an accident on the triplex’ property. NOTE: This is a very complex problem and you must sit down with your attorney. You should not rely on what I’ve just written other than as a generalized idea. Your attorney may propose other solutions.
Q. I am a single woman in my early 70s, living with a significant other, who is married. We are living in my home in (a city in Florida). He does not plan on getting divorced and I really don’t care one way or the other about that. In the event I die, I do want to make sure that MY assets are fully protected from his wife and children. What do you suggest?
A. Well, the most important thing I can suggest is that you sit down with your attorney and explain the situation and seek his or her advice. You didn’t say if you have children or other relatives that you want to have your assets on your passing, but I must assume from the tone of your email that you do have beneficiaries. So, you must protect them. Beyond that, I would urge you to keep all your assets completely separate and make sure there is a written document which expresses which of your personal items such a furniture and jewelry, etc., etc., belong solely to you. Then, you need to make sure your Will (or Trust if you have one) is finished and says exactly what you want to have happen with your separate assets. It would be beneficial for you to have written document which expresses precisely what is to happen to ALL your property including your homestead, when you pass on and if he has survived you. And for heaven’s sake have an attorney draft that kind of document. Good luck.

Gerald R. Colen, and his law partner Rachel M. Wagoner manage the Law Offices of Colen and Wagoner, P.A. The law firm’s attorneys are Jerry Colen, Rachel Wagoner, and John Beck. All are members of the Florida Bar Association. Jerry Colen and Rachel Wagoner are members of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys, and the Academy of Florida Elder Law Attorneys. Attorney John Beck has a degree in finance, a master’s degree in accounting and a master’s degree in taxation. The law firm practices in the areas of simple and complex Estate Planning, wills, trusts, probate, real estate, title insurance, elder law, taxation, Medicaid Planning and business and professional advice. This column is only intended to present fact situations that may be of interest to the reader. It does not, nor is it intended to provide legal advice. You should not rely on what is written in this column to be legal advice for any situation. You should always consult your own attorney for legal advice. Mr. Colen, Ms. Wagoner, and Mr. Beck have law offices at 1756 N. Belcher Road. Clearwater, FL 33765. Mr. Colen, Ms. Wagoner, and Mr. Beck also meet clients at On Top of the World, in Clearwater, Florida. Visit the law firm’s website at Email Jerry Colen at; Email Rachel Wagoner at Email John Beck at

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