When Someone Dies

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Chapter 1: As Death Approaches
Checklist:
• Who's in charge before the death?
• Does the person have an advance medical directive, also called a durable power of attorney for health care?
• If the person prepared an advance directive/durable power of attorney for health care...
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Chapter: You’re Done; Now Make Things Easy for Your Survivors

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A
Each of you should write a legal Florida will as soon as possible. You should also consider forming a trust and putting the house in trust. This is a very, very good idea and you should talk to a lawyer about forming parallel trusts for you and your husband. In any case, each of you owns one half of the house and can dispose of it to whomever you choose. Florida likely has spousal inheritance rules that provide that the spouse automatically inherits a portion, if not all, of the other’s estate. Again, you must check with a lawyer. In your will, each of you can leave your half of the house to all of the children or just your children. You should write a contract for tenants in common that indicates who gets to use the house and who pays for what. In other words, your contract could say that the heirs may use only one half the house until you die, etc. If you are going to share the house with the children it is very important that there be a contract delineating use and the sharing of expenses. A will typically can be changed by the person for so long as he or she is of sound mind. That is why people often create trusts as it can insure your intentions remain in place, etc. It is very important that you consult an estates and trust lawyer. Tell the lawyer exactly what you want to happen, and a good lawyer will write the correct documents to accomplish your shared goals. Do it soon!!!!
A
Yes, in most circumstances when you inherit property your ‘basis’ in the property is its fair market value at the time of death. If the property was originally purchased for $10 but it is worth $1000 at time of death, your basis would be $1000 not $10 when you ultimately sell it. However, this is a hotly contested provision and over the last several years Congress has repealed or modified it several times. For years after 2013, you should check with an accountant or lawyer to determine if it still applies. There are also very complex rules regarding jointly owned property and property that was acquired in a tax deferred manner, such as an IRA, where different rules can apply. So make sure you talk to a lawyer or accountant to make sure that the particular property will be subject to the rule in the year inherited.
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I think the Green Burial Council is right. This has been an ever-changing field as 'green' becomes more and more important to people. I am told by United Air Lines that they will accept any body for shipping provided the funeral home certifies it is suitable for shipping. I will check with other airlines, but I suspect if the funeral home is willing to deliver the body then the airline will ship it. Best, and stay tuned.
A
Dear Cleta, Thanks for your letter. You would benefit from a will. Note your lawyer recommended a living will, and that is not clear to me what he meant. You can, and should, add your children as signatories on all bank accounts so that they can access money immediately upon your death. But a will makes things very clear, especially among family members. There could be immense problems if one of your children dies and it is not clear what you intended in the absence of a will. You also need a power of attorney and a medical directive.