SCAM ALERT: In an earlier column this year, I discussed income tax filing as being April 15, which it was at the time I wrote that column. Of course, the IRS changed the date to July 15. So, for us, what that means is that the IRS will probably be calling and demanding some sort of payment because you messed up and didn’t file your return or because you “shorted” the government by several bucks. Everyone reading this column already knows that the IRS is NOT going to call you—NEVER has, NEVER will (unless, I suppose, if it’s a return from a call you made.). So, if you get that call, you all know to hang up. Well, yes, you know. But there may be friends or relatives who do not know or who might be fooled by some new way the scammer uses to intimidate the person to whom they’ve called. So, please, spread the word. The IRS does NOT call you to demand money. Thus, no matter how legitimate a caller may sound, it’s a scam. Do this: in your computer, go to https://www.irs.gov. Then, in the “search” function, type in “scams.” It’s very helpful. NOTE: In that https:// that “s” is critically important. Always look for that “s”.
Q. I understand that a holographic Will is one that I write in my own handwriting. It would seem to me that folks could save a lot of money by just writing out their Wills and wouldn’t need an attorney.
A. Yeah. Well. You are correct that a holographic Will is one written in your own handwriting. The thing is they are NOT VALID in Florida. Period. What about if you wrote one in another State? Again: A holographic Will is not valid in Florida. And while I am on the subject, what about those handwritten changes someone makes to his or her already signed and thus valid Will? You know, the Will you signed some time ago and now you’ve changed your mind, so you just want to make some handwritten changes to it. That is NOT VALID in Florida either. More than likely, if you make handwritten changes right on your previously validly executed Will, when you pass, and your Will is filed in Court, those changes will be ignored, the same as if you never made them. And for that matter, depending, on what specific handwritten statements were made, it might invalidate the entire Will. What about an oral Will, one you just speak? Florida Statute 732.502 is clear that a Will MUST be in writing. Okay. So, can you make a completely handwritten Will that is valid in Florida? Sure. All you have to do is make sure it fully complies with that statute. The way you do that is you must sign it at the end, have it signed IN THE PRESENCE of at least two witnesses both of whom say they saw you sign it and you said it was your Will. And while I am discussing witnesses, it is very wise NOT to have one of the witnesses also be a beneficiary of that Will. Actually, beneficiaries for a Will should not even be in the room when the Will is being signed. Does it need to be notarized? No, it does not. BUT, if it is not notarized then it is not “self-proving” and that means that when the Testator passes, the witnesses will need to be located and sign an affidavit to the effect that they saw you sign the Will.
Q. How much money can I give away without having to pay any gift tax?
A. I assume what you mean is how much can you give away to folks without having to FILE a gift tax return. If so, in year 2020 it is $15,000 per person. If, however, you were discussing how much you can give away without having to a pay out money to the I.R.S., as a gift tax, then that is a much different number. In 2020, it’s $11.58 MILLION dollars per person. If you need much more income and estate tax information, you need to speak with an attorney who handles estate and gift tax matters.
Q. My 58-year-old son has never been married. Recently, while walking in his neighborhood he met a woman who has been married 3 times and has 4 children. She invited my son to her home for a glass of wine and as he told me, to ‘interview me about my work, why I never married, what my family was like and would I like to have dinner with her some time.” I don’t know for sure how long this has been going on, but my son now wants to marry her. I am asking you about this because I suspect there are legal issues here.
A. “Legal issues here”: Hmmm. I don’t think masks are required inside someone’s residence. Nor is social distancing required inside someone’s home, should either of those be your concern.
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 www.colenwagoner.com. Email Jerry Colen at Jerry@colenwagoner.com; Email Rachel Wagoner at Rachel@colenwagner.com. Email John Beck at John@colenwagoner.com.