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Expert Advice on Estate Planning for Homeowners: An Interview with Daniel Plonsky of the Law Office of Daniel Plonsky

By Daniel Plonsky

Tell us a little bit about your company and the areas of law that you practice.

I am a solo practitioner that opened my law office,Law Office of Daniel Plonsky, in June 2007. Since then our client base has grown substantially through referrals and word of mouth. We are located in downtown Sarasota but will travel to meet clients who are unable to come to my office. I travel as far south as Naples and as far north as Tampa. My practice consists of primarily estate planning (wills, trusts and estates) but also handle family law cases (divorces, custody disputes) and other civil disputes.

Is there something that most people in Florida don't know about estate planning that they should know?

It is very easy and does not take a lot of time to complete a proper estate plan. Everybody needs one. We all grow old and most likely will eventually need someone to handle our financial affairs for us when we are unable to do it ourselves. Also, we need someone to make medical decisions for us when we are unable to communicate with the doctors, nurses, etc. Estate planning must be done while you are of "sound mind" and understand what you are signing otherwise it won't be deemed valid and the Court will need to appoint a guardian for you which can cost thousands of dollars.

In addition, when preparing your estate it is important to avoid probate. Most people assume that if you have a last will and testament, then you are protected from probate but a last will and testament has no bearing on whether your estate will be probated or not. In fact, it is almost a guarantee that your estate will be probated if you have a last will and testament. This is why it is important to establish a revocable living trust to avoid probate.

What are some of the biggest reasons that estate planning is essential for homeowners?

Whether a home is held in just your name or is jointly owned with someone else with rights of survivorship, eventually that second person passes away and the home would go through a probate process costing thousands of dollars. Both owners will be deceased so the court will need to provide an order allowing someone to sell the property (the executor/personal representative). Also, in Florida we have many homestead rights (both constitutional and statutory homestead). In order to properly avoid probate on your home, it is imperative to establish a lady bird deed on your primary residence so when the second owner passes away, the home automatically passes to the heirs without any probate and the homestad protection will pass to the heirs too.

Can you give a brief breakdown of the key steps in the estate planning process you go through with your clients?

I always offer a free consultation. I educate them about all the important documents (Durable Power of Attorney, Health Care Surrogate, Living Will, Last Will and Testament and Revocable Living Trust?along with ancillary documents, such as the lady bird deed). We discuss the clients ultimate goal (give to children, make sure a child's spouse can't receive the inheritance, if the child is on disability how to protect them from getting kicked off disability if they were to receive an inheritance, financial ability of the beneficiaries?should we provide them a lump sum inheritance or should they be of a certain age or maturity before they receive it? What happens if one of the children passes away, do you want to control where the inheritance goes in that situation?)

What is one of the challenges that homeowners face when they're creating an estate plan?

Maintaining homestead protection (protection from forced sale from creditors) while avoiding probate.

What happens when someone wants to make changes to their estate plan?

They call me up and we make those changes at a minimal charge.

What practical advice do you have for Florida homeowners who have not given much thought to creating an estate plan?

A complete estate plan is not difficult and I keep my prices affordable for everyone. Spend a few hundred dollars now to have total protection or spending tens of thousands of dollars later on because you didn't have an estate plan. I see it all the time with people who did not prepare an estate plan and come to me when it is too late. Also a good estate plan, can help preserve your assets so you don't have to spend down all your assets if you end up in a nursing home. We work on creating an estate plan that will help you preserve your assets if you have to go into a nursing home later on.

What's the best way for people to contact you and your company?

I respond to e-mail quickly: daniel@sarasotalawoffice.com. Phone is good too 941-552-1282. You can also visit my website

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About The Author

Daniel Plonsky received a bachelor's degree in business administration. He obtained...

Phone: 941-552-1282

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