Friday, November 30, 2012

Attorney General Bondi Reminds Qualified Borrowers to Submit Claims

In a follow up to our recent post, National Foreclosure Settlement and the Big Banks, Florida borrowers who qualify and may be eligible for payment under the Settlement have been sent forms to return by January 18, 2013. 
This recent press release has me wondering if any of our clients will benefit from the recent $25 billion national mortgage foreclosure settlement. 
Read the actual News Release here.
Attorney General Bondi Reminds Qualified Borrowers Who Lost Homes to Foreclosure to Submit Claims for Payment by January 18

TALLAHASSEE, Fla.—Attorney General Pam Bondi reminds Florida borrowers who lost their homes to foreclosure between Jan. 1, 2008 and Dec. 31, 2011 and who may be eligible for payment under the $25 billion national mortgage foreclosure settlement to file claims by Jan. 18, 2013.
Forms have been mailed to qualified borrowers, and they must be returned by Jan. 18, 2013. Borrowers should complete their claim forms and return them as soon as possible in the envelope provided, or file them online at Payment checks are expected to be mailed in mid-2013. Borrowers who believe that they may have missed their claim form because they changed their addressed recently may contact the settlement administrator at 1-866-430-8358.
Eligible borrowers had mortgages serviced by Ally/GMAC, Bank of America, Citi, JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo, the nation’s five largest mortgage servicers that agreed to the settlement with the federal government and attorneys general for 49 states and the District of Columbia.
The settlement, which took effect in April, earmarked approximately $1.5 billion in payments for 2 million borrowers nationwide who lost their homes to foreclosure during that period and had their loan serviced by one of the settling servicers. The exact payment will depend upon the total number of borrowers who decide to participate.
Free claim form assistance available

Borrowers who have questions or need help filing their claims can contact the settlement administrator, toll-free, at 1-866-430-8358, or send questions by email to The information line is staffed Monday through Friday from (7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Central).
Payment won’t stop other legal claims

Eligible borrowers do not need to prove financial harm to receive a payment, nor do they give up their rights to pursue a lawsuit against their mortgage servicer or to participate in the Independent Foreclosure Review Process being conducted by federal bank regulators. More information about that program is available at
Eligible borrowers may get a payment from this settlement even if they participate in another foreclosure claims process. However, any payment received may reduce payments borrowers may be eligible to receive in any other foreclosure claim process or legal proceeding.
Eligible borrowers not notified should contact settlement administrator

Borrowers who believe they may qualify for a payment, but did not receive a notice because they have moved, should contact the settlement administrator directly to provide that information:
Call toll-free: 1-866-430-8358. The line is staffed Monday through Friday from (7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Central).
Beware of scams

Borrowers should not need to pay anyone to file their claim. All homeowners should be aware of settlement-related scams. Do not provide personal information or pay money to anyone who calls or emails you claiming that they are providing settlement-related assistance. If you believe someone is conducting a settlement-related scam, contact the Florida Attorney General’s Office at 850-414-3990.
Settlement background

The national settlement followed state and federal investigations, which alleged that the five mortgage servicers routinely signed foreclosure-related documents outside the presence of a notary public and without personal knowledge that the facts contained in the documents were correct. This civil law enforcement action also alleged that the servicers committed widespread errors and abuses in their foreclosure processes.
Broad reform of the mortgage servicing process resulted from the settlement, as well as financial relief for borrowers still in their homes through direct loan modification relief, including principal reduction.
For more information about eligibility and filing a claim:
Call toll-free: 1-866-430-8358 (hearing impaired: 1-866-494-8281). The line is staffed Monday through Friday from (7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Central).

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Decisions, Decisions -Revocable Living Trust or Will?

At a recent Estate Planning consultation, we discussed the question of forming a Revocable Living Trust or a Last Will & Testament.  It's a common question and the discussion is necessary to forming the proper Estate Plan.  The answer depends on the individual, their estate, and their desires. Below is a brief discussion on the main differences of Revocable Living Trust and a Last Will & Testament.  It is not meant to be the "answer", but only a thoughtful examination. 

Revocable Living Trust 

A living trust is a written declaration and contract in which you ("grantor") transfer your property into a living trust for the benefit of yourself during your lifetime (lifetime "beneficiary") and then for the benefit of your heirs (remainder "beneficiaries"). During your lifetime, you will be the "trustee" of your living trust which means that you maintain complete control over the living trust's assets. The "successor trustee" will take control over your living trust in case of your death or incapacity. In addition, you maintain the power to change, amend or revoke your living trust at any time during your lifetime.

The main advantage for a living trust is the avoidance of probate. Probate is a state court proceeding in which your property is transferred to your heirs. A previous post, How long does it take to probate in Florida, discusses the time involved in the Florida Probate process.  Since probate only affects assets which you own at the time of your death, assets placed in a living trust are not owned by you, therefore, there is no probate on those assets. The cost to Probate will range from a percentage of the value of probate assets to an hourly fee. 

Further, probate is a court proceeding, your Will will be filed with the local Clerk and become part of the public record.  A living trust, however, is confidential and the transfer of assets from the living trust is kept from public view. When the grantor of a living trust dies or becomes incapacitated, the successor trustee administers the living trust without a "gap" period.   Under a probate proceeding, there is a "gap" period between the time of death and the appointment of an executor.

It may sound like the Revocable Living Trust is a great option for everyone.  However, in order for a Revocable Living Trust to work, all assets which are to be held in the living trust must be transferred into the living trust.  This list includes, but it not limited to:

  • Real Property Deeds (lien holders must consent)
  • Bank Accounts
  • Partnership and Stock interests
The list can be exhausting for clients.  It is important to have a provision in the Revocable Living Trust that provides for a safety net for assets that have not been titled in the name of the living trust.  This is called a Pour-Over Will.  It provides that any assets not held in living trust will be placed into the living trust after the probate is completed.

A living trust is also more expensive in up front costs due to drafting the document and implementing it.   

Last Will & Testament

A will is a legal document that lets you tell the world who should receive which of your assets after your death. A will only takes effect upon death of the person, therefore, nothing is transferred or administered prior to death.   Without a will, the courts decide what happens to your assets and who is responsible for your kids in accordance with the Probate code.

An advantage of a will over a living trust is that probate estate is a separate taxpayer and can select a fiscal year end.   Also the decedent's creditors have a short statute of limitations time period to bring claims in a probate.  Once the period for claims has passed, those creditors are barred from asserting claims against the heirs. 

A will also allows you to name your executor, the person who will be in charge of your estate. Before you select an executor, make sure you understand the tasks he or she will need to perform, which include distributing your property, filing tax returns and processing claims from creditors. Your executor should be someone you trust completely and is willing to take on such a big responsibility.

There are limitations to wills.  It is important to know that the beneficiary designations on financial accounts, insurance policies and other assets take precedence over wills.  Make sure your beneficiary designations are up to date and reflect your current desires.


There is not one answer for everyone.  The important thing is to have a plan, seek the advice of an attorney, and make sure that your wishes will be carried through.  

There are many facets to a Revocable Living Trust and a Will that were not covered in the above post.  This post is meant to serve as a basic explanation of the difference between the two types of estate planning.  

Monday, November 5, 2012

The $300 Million Plan

A follow up post to our National Foreclosure Settlement and the Big Banks, Attorney General Pam Bondi announced the plans last week for Florida's $300 million.

To read the actual press release click here or the Frequently Asked Qustions section click here.
TALLAHASSEE, Fla.—Attorney General Pam Bondi, President-designate Don Gaetz and Speaker-designate Will Weatherford today jointly announced their support for a plan for allocating the remaining $300 million that the Attorney General recovered for Floridians in the national mortgage settlement. The plan ensures that the entirety of these funds will be spent consistent with the terms of the settlement agreement, but also that the funds will be allocated through the legislative process. These settlement funds are in addition to the approximately $7.5 billion in expected relief that the national mortgage settlement provides directly to Florida homeowners.

At the next meeting of the Legislative Budget Commission, with the support of Gaetz and Weatherford, Bondi will seek approval for budget amendments to disburse $60 million of the settlement funds. Bondi anticipates proposing that the $60 million be used to fund down payment assistance for Floridians, foreclosure-related legal assistance and counseling, state court initiatives to ease the foreclosure backlog and Attorney General’s office enforcement efforts.

The balance of the funds will be allocated through the appropriations process in the upcoming legislative session. Gaetz and Weatherford have agreed to support the appropriation of approximately $200 million for housing-related purposes, consistent with the terms of the settlement agreement. Although the specific appropriations must be determined through the legislative process, possible uses of these funds include foreclosure prevention, neighborhood revitalization, affordable housing, homebuyer or renter assistance, legal assistance, counseling and other housing-related programs. Finally, consistent with the discretion afforded her under the settlement agreement, Bondi will designate approximately $40 million of the settlement funds as additional civil penalties.

“This plan gets much-needed assistance to the homeowners and communities suffering the effects of the foreclosure crisis, and ensures that the settlement funds are spent with the transparency, accountability and flexibility that comes from the legislative process,” said Bondi. “I thank President-designate Gaetz and Speaker-designate Weatherford for working together with me to implement the mortgage settlement in a way that’s in the best interests of our state.”

“I am grateful to Attorney General Bondi and Speaker-designate Weatherford for working with us on a proposal which ensures that these funds are appropriated by the legislature in a transparent and accountable manner,” said Senate President-designate Don Gaetz (R-Niceville). “Together with the approximately $7.5 billion in relief that will go directly to homeowners, this funding will play an important role in the multitude of state and federal efforts to provide relief for homeowners facing foreclosure.”

“I appreciate the hard work of Attorney General Pam Bondi and Senate President-designate Don Gaetz both in securing the settlement for distressed homeowners and for representing the interests of the state,” said Speaker-designate Will Weatherford (R-Wesley Chapel). The framework that has been outlined today will enable the Legislature to fulfill its important duty as appropriators while also directing these funds to those who have been negatively impacted. I look forward to working together in the upcoming legislative session.”

Attorney General Bondi formally entered a landmark $25 billion joint federal-state agreement with the nation's five largest mortgage servicers over foreclosure abuses and unacceptable nationwide mortgage servicing practices. In addition to the funds described above, the agreement provides direct relief to homeowners and mandates extensive reforms of the banks' mortgage servicing practices. For more information regarding the settlement, please click here:

Jenn Meale
Phone: 850.245.0150