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Fort Lauderdale Bankruptcy Legal Blog

Identifying interested parties when challenging a will

When Florida residents make a will, they may think they left clear directions for how their assets are to be distributed. However, people who feel they were left out or otherwise unfairly excluded may be able to contest the will when it goes to probate court. They may argue that they were entitled to a portion of the estate or that the testator was coerced or unduly influenced by others. In order to move forward with a will challenge in probate court, it is important to identify the interested parties in this type of litigation.

The first group of interested parties in a will challenge are all of the people and entities, including charities, listed in the will itself. All of these parties should receive notice of any type of probate litigation, because they have the right to an opportunity to participate in the case if they choose to do so. Not all named parties may decide to participate, depending on their relationship to the will and its testator or the subject of the litigation.

For individual filers, there are basically two kinds of bankruptcy

Federal bankruptcy laws create protections for people who are struggling to keep up with their financial obligations in Florida. Individuals who are considering bankruptcy have two options, generally speaking: Chapter 7 and Chapter 13. It is important to understand the differences between these two types of bankruptcy as one or the other may be better depending on the specific facts of a person's situation.

Chapter 13 bankruptcy is sometimes referred to as wage-earner's bankruptcy or reorganization bankruptcy. In a Chapter 13 case, the petitioner is required to submit a plan to repay debts, to the extent possible, over a period of three or five years. Generally speaking, the person gets to keep his or her assets but must also stay current with monthly bills and the repayment plan for the duration of the process.

How to move on after a divorce

After going through a divorce in Florida or another state, it may be a good idea to talk with a therapist. Although friends and family members may offer advice, a professional will have the experience and knowledge needed to offer quality insight. It is also generally a good idea to socialize with friends, family members or others with whom an individual enjoys spending time. This may make it easier for people to put some emotional distance between themselves and their exes.

It is common for those who have ended a marriage to feel angry or resentful toward their former spouses. Exercising on a regular basis can help process or minimize those emotions and make it easier to live without as much stress. Forgiving a former spouse can also help a person let go of the stress or anger with which he or she is living.

Credit card debt growing across the country

Many Florida residents are facing the growing burden of credit card debt balances. The state's residents accumulated the third-highest amount of debt in the country in the second quarter of 2019, adding $2.3 billion to their collective credit card bills. Of course, credit card debt isn't limited to Florida. Across the country, Americans began 2019 owing more than $1 trillion in credit card debt. Nationally, the second quarter brought an additional $35.6 billion in debt, a record for debt accumulation at that time of the year. These numbers were released as part of a WalletHub study predicting that consumers would garner another $70 billion in debt by the end of 2019.

There are many factors that contribute to the growing credit card debt burden that Floridians face. Emergency expenses are major factors, with many people turning to credit cards to finance medical bills, car repairs or urgent home expenses. While credit cards can help cover urgent expenses when they arrive, it can be difficult for debtors to pay off the ensuing bills. If they can't pay off the bill in the first month, interest will begin to accumulate. In addition, many people may already be charging daily expenses or discretionary costs.

The HAVEN Act extends bankruptcy protections for veterans

Military veterans in Florida and around the country were given some much-needed financial protection on Aug. 23 when President Donald Trump signed the Honoring American Veterans in Extreme Need Act into law. The HAVEN Act changes the bankruptcy code to protect Veterans Benefits Administration disability benefits from creditors when veterans file for personal bankruptcy. Disability benefits paid by the Social Security Administration are already protected in this way.

The impetus to pass the HAVEN Act was provided by five recent bankruptcy court decisions. In those cases, bankruptcy judges ruled that VA disability benefits were not protected from creditors in the same way SSA disability benefits are. Groups including Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Legion urged Congress to take action on behalf of millions of men and women who have paid a heavy price for serving the United States, and lawmakers in both the Senate and the House of Representatives responded by giving the ensuing bill strong bipartisan support.

The rise in gray divorces is raising concerns

The divorce rate in Florida and around the country has hovered around 50% for several decades, but the number of divorces involving married couples over the age of 50 has risen sharply and continues to rise. Only one in 10 divorces involved an older couple in 1990, but that percentage has since dramatically risen. This trend is worrying experts because the consequences of what are known as gray divorces can be severe. Older people who divorce often struggle financially, and many of them also develop psychological or health issues.

Adjusting to living alone after sharing a home with somebody else for years or even decades is difficult, and people who have been married for a long time often fall into depression when their wife or husband dies. However, it is even more common among the recently divorced that it is among the recently widowed according to a study conducted by researchers from Bowling Green State University. The study also reveals that recently divorced older people often gain weight and encounter medical problems like elevated blood pressure.

Are you struggling to decide whether to divorce?

How many times this month has the idea of divorcing your spouse crossed your mind? If you consider divorce more and more frequently, it may be time for you to weigh your options seriously and make a decision one way or the other. Whether to end your marriage is not a choice to make casually or quickly, but there may be negative consequences if you live with indecision for too long.

Perhaps you are simply under too much stress to make a reasonable decision about something so life-changing. If you feel overwhelmed with various factors in your life, it may not be wise to try to make a major decision such as whether to file for divorce. However, it may be time for you to step back from the stress and give yourself some peace to carefully consider your options.

Pursuing accountability for discrimination at work

Despite the adoption of laws prohibiting employment discrimination, people in Florida continue to be mistreated, fired or denied work because of their protected characteristics. There are legal options that people can pursue if they are subject to discrimination at work, especially intentional discrimination based on race, color, sex, national origin, disability, religion or genetic information. Sex discrimination can include not only traditional gender discrimination but also unjust treatment based on pregnancy, sexual orientation or gender identity. As a rule, legal remedies are designed to put the victim in a position as if the discrimination had not occurred.

For example, compensatory damages for discrimination are designed to make the victim whole. Someone who was fired or never hired for a job due to workplace discrimination may receive back pay, benefits and placement in the job. The employer may also be required to change its practices to prevent future incidents of discrimination. Compensatory damages can also include related expenses caused by the discriminatory practices, such as medical bills, job search expenses, attorney's fees and court costs. Compensation for emotional harm caused by employment discrimination is also included under this umbrella.

Major companies urge Supreme Court to act on LGBT rights

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act prohibits most employers in Florida and around the country from discriminating against workers based on their race, religion, gender, or national origin, but the landmark 1964 bill makes no mention of gender identity or sexual orientation. During the Obama administration, the Department of Justice was committed to extending these protections to gay and transgender workers, but recent developments suggest that President Trump has abandoned these plans.

Three cases dealing with this issue are scheduled to be argued before the U.S. Supreme Court on Oct. 8, and many of America's most prominent employers have joined together to urge the nation's highest court to extend Title VII protections to gay and transgender individuals Details about the amicus curiae brief submitted by companies including Microsoft, IBM, Xerox and Nike were released on July 2 by a coalition of advocacy groups representing the LGBT community.

Trusts may provide advantages wills don't have

The American Association of Retired Persons recommended in 1991 that families make use of trusts in place of wills for certain benefits. The benefits of trusts when it comes to Florida estate administration include disability planning, avoidance of probate, asset protection and inheritance earmarking. There are several different types of trusts, and they can be drafted to fit the specific circumstances of the client.

Wills do not include disability planning provisions because they are not effective until the person dies. With a living trust, though, the trust maker can name one or more trustees to manage his or her affairs in the event of disability or incapacitation. Trusts can help the parties involved manage their financial and medical affairs without the need of a guardianship proceeding.

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