Aug 20, 2017

Forgotten about a financial asset? How to reclaim it

Even the most frugal and diligent among us can forget about fragments of our financial lives as the years pile up, we move, paperwork accumulates and gets misplaced or thrown out. These forgotten fragments include bank accounts of various types, mature savings bonds no longer gaining interest, brokerage accounts, insurance proceeds, etc. 

Once an asset has been dormant for a period of time, the financial institution is required to turn it over to the state. According to a recent article in Kiplingers, state treasuries and other agencies hold $40 billion in unclaimed property! And the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association reports that in 2011, states took in $5.8 billion in unclaimed property, and paid out $2 billion.

In Florida, a bank will consider your account dormant if there has been no activity on it for five years. Activity includes deposits, withdrawals, communication of any type with the institution. For accounts opened after October 1, 1990, the bank must contact your beneficiary as the dormancy deadline approaches. If there is no beneficiary or the beneficiary cannot be reached, within 180 days after the account becomes dormant, the institution must try contacting you. If there is no response, the asset is turned over to the  Florida Bureau of Unclaimed Property. (Other states have similar procedures, although dormancy periods may vary from state to state.)

But don't despair. Once turned over to the state, you can find your unclaimed property through a variety of search engines. Check to see if you have any "found" money here: 
If you think you have lost or misplaced a savings bond, here’s a form you can fill out:

Obviously, it’s delightful to find "lost" money - but better not to lose it in the first place! Here are some tips for making sure you keep track of what you have. You will notice these practices are identical to good estate planning practices: 
  • Keep records up to date.
  • Make sure your beneficiary designations are up to date. 
  • Let key family members know what your assets are, and where they are. 
  • When you change your address, notify your financial institutions. 
  • If your name changes due to divorce or marriage, notify your financial institutions and your employer. 
  • Consolidate accounts. One reason assets get forgotten is because there are just too many of them. When possible, consider consolidating them so they are easier to track.

Aug 14, 2017

Estate of Star Wars' Carrie Fisher goes to probate

Carrie Fisher, daughter of late actress Debbie Reynolds and crooner Eddie Fisher, died from a heart attack on December 27 at age 60. When her mother, legendary movie star Debbie Reynolds, died the following day, many were not surprised: Mother and daughter had an exceptionally close, albeit conflicted, relationship.

Fisher shot to stardom as Princess Leia in the original Star Wars film, going on to continued success as an actress and writer. She amassed considerable wealth along the way, and leaves an estate estimated at $25 million to her only child, daughter Billie Lourd, 25.

Fisher's estate plan includes a living trust naming Lourd as sole beneficiary. However, not all of Fisher's assets were in the trust at the time of her death. The current trustee, attorney Dennis King, said Fisher was under the impression that her prior attorney, now deceased, had taken care of all the funding. Apparently, he did not. On February 28 King petitioned the court to have Fisher's non-trust assets placed in the trust, but he has since withdrawn the request. Last week, he filed Fisher's will with the Los Angeles Superior Court to begin probate of the non-trust assets.

The non-trust assets will also pass to Lourd. Those assets are said to be worth about  $7 million and include jewelry; a life insurance policy with Transamerica Occidental; a 2016 Tesla S car that currently sells for around $100,000; bank accounts; ownership in Carrie Fisher Properties and Carrie Fisher Online, both limited liability corporations; and all the proceeds from her mother's books, trademarks, copyrights, etc. Lourd will also get the proceeds from the sale of the house Fisher shared with Reynolds, now on the market and worth about $18 million.

TMZ reports that Fisher also owned a large amount of Star Wars memorabilia. Much of it, along with some other personal items, will be auctioned in September 2017. Proceeds will go to Debbie Reynolds' pet charities: The Jed Foundation and The Thalians, both of which provide support to those with mental illness.

Unlike a trust, a will must be filed with the Probate Court, and is public record. Below, unfortunately somewhat fuzzy, is Fisher's last will and testament, as published on the Daily Mail website.

Jul 24, 2017

Considerations Before (And After) You Agree to Serve as Health Care Surrogate

Consider yourself fortunate if you have been asked to serve as someone’s health care surrogate, for you get to decide if you’ll accept the job. Astonishingly, many people name a surrogate without ever asking or informing the person they select! The first the surrogate ever hears of his/her responsibilities is when a doctor calls to discuss an incapacitated loved one’s medical treatment.

To Serve or Not to Serve?

Assuming you have been asked to serve, should you? If a parent or other close relative asks, you will probably want to agree, but you should first understand the breadth of your potential responsibilities. Do not assume, as so many do, that your services probably won't be needed. Once you sign on as someone’s health care surrogate, there is no way to know if or when you will be called on to make difficult, even gut-wrenching health decisions. So before you say yes, consider the following:

  • Do you have the temperament to serve? I know a man who loved his elderly mother dearly. At the same time, he had zero tolerance for medical matters. The sights and sounds of hospitals made him so anxious that when his mother was hospitalized at the end of her life, he never visited. Fortunately, it was not he, but his less squeamish brother, who served as health care surrogate.  

  • Can you honor your loved one’s wishes even if they don’t align with your personal beliefs? I know of one situation in which a family friend fell into a vegetative state and was being tube-fed and kept on a respirator. He had appointed his son as his health care surrogate decades earlier, but in recent years the son had become involved with a religious movement that opposes discontinuing any life-sustaining measures. This put the son’s values in direct conflict with his father’s living will. The matter ended up in the hospital’s medical ethics department, with the surrogate and his sibling arguing back and forth. The father died before the issue was resolved, but to this day the episode casts a shadow over the siblings' relationship. 

  • Are you geographically near your loved one? It is possible to confer with health care providers by phone or email, of course. You can also hire a geriatric care manager to handle the situation. But you will probably feel more comfortable making decisions if you can observe your loved one in person, and talk face-to-face with medical staff.

  • Are you up to dealing with the medical bureaucracy? Sometimes this can be a full-time job in its own right! Do you have the time and the patience to do it?

What Are The Duties of a Health Care Surrogate?

The health care surrogate's potential duties are broader in scope than most people realize. Among the issues you may be asked to resolve are:  

  • Approving various medical treatments, medications, diagnostic tests. 

  • Deciding on where medical treatment will be received – which hospital, rehab facility, nursing home, Hospice, etc.

  • Securing second opinions, if necessary.

  • Dealing with Medicare and other insurance carriers. 

  • Deciding about end-of-life procedures. 

  • Requesting and approving release of medical records as appropriate.

  • Communicating with your loved one’s other family members.

Prepare to Be an Effective Health Care Surrogate

Once you agree to serve as someone's health care surrogate, it behooves you to become familiar with that person's wishes, values, and legal documents. Both you and your loved one will be more comfortable knowing you are on the same page. You should:

  • Talk to your loved one at length about his/her wishes. Discussing purely hypothetical situations can be unproductive. Instead, try discussing specific, high-profile cases – Teri Schiavo, for example – and find out what your loved one would want if he/she is in a similar situation. Be very specific about end-of-life interventions: Ventilator? Tube feeding? Palliative care? Does your loved one prefer to finish out his/her days at home? Under what conditions?  

  • Ask for a copy of the health care surrogate and the living will. Ask questions about all the health care documents if you need clarification, and ask your loved one to provide you with updates whenever those documents are modified. Make sure the health care document has a HIPAA waiver. Also, it’s usually best if the document names one main surrogate, and then successors, for situations in which the named surrogate cannot serve. Asking two or more agents to agree on any course of action can set the stage for family friction, and can be a logistical nightmare, as well.  

  • Find out your loved one’s health history. Does he/she have any chronic conditions? What medications does he/she take? Who are his/her doctors?  

  • What are your loved one’s religious and spiritual values? Is there a clergy person he/she would like you to consult if you are unsure about your decisions?  

  • Determine if you or someone else is the person’s agent under the durable power of attorney for property. If it’s someone else, understand that that person will be able to approve or deny payment for any health-related services you deem necessary. I am familiar with one case in which a health care surrogate wanted to bring in a nurse's aide for a few hours a week to help manage medications for her mother, who was in the early stages of Alzheimer's. However, the agent under the mother's durable power of attorney refused to release funds, saying it wasn't necessary. A power struggle ensued, with the surrogate claiming the agent was more concerned about money than their mother, and the agent saying money had to be conserved for when their mother's situation grew even more dire. To avoid this kind of battle, you, your loved one and the agent under the durable power of attorney should talk, and reach at least a general understanding of what will and won't be paid for. 

Jul 11, 2017

Be your own Social Security advocate

About 10,000 Americans turn 65 each day, according to the Pew Research Center. Social Security offices are fielding massive numbers of inquiries as the Baby Boomers head into their benefits-collecting years. Unfortunately, studies show that office staff do not consistently provide the most complete or accurate information. This can result in an applicant unknowingly leaving dollars in rightful benefits on the table.

I first reported on this problem in my September 2016 post on the General Accounting Office's study. That study led to additional training for Social Security personnel. However, a June 2017 Kiplingers article reveals that deficiencies persist, particularly involving these issues: 

  • When to start collecting: Some people will need to collect before full retirement age because of health, financial or other issues. But studies show that others collect early simply because they do not understand the monetary value of waiting. 
  • Spousal Benefits: David Frietag of the MassMutual Financial Group notes that single people have 9 different ways to claim benefits, but married couples have 81 options, making their choices far more complicated. There is no-one- size-fits-all plan for optimizing a married couple's Social Security benefits. Each spouse's age, life expectancy and earnings must be considered. Additional rules apply when there has been a divorce and/or remarriage. Social Security agents do not always do the in-depth analysis required for married couples to choose wisely. 
  • Working and collecting benefits: If you collect benefits before your full retirement age but keep working and earn more than $16,920, Social Security deducts $1 from every $2 in benefits - but only until full retirement age is reached.

Social Security agents certainly mean well. But they are working in a very complex system, fielding a high volume of inquiries. Moreover, every applicant has individual circumstances and goals that need to be analyzed in order for Social Security benefits to be maximized. Therefore, when it comes to Social Security, you must be your own advocate. There are many resources available online and at your local library.  Here are some helpful ones:

Jul 1, 2017

Living Trust Basics

The living trust, also known as the intervivos trust or revocable trust, is a useful and popular estate planning tool in Florida, and rightly so. In this post I tell you about key advantages of this versatile legal instrument. I'll also tell you about some common misconceptions.

The Advantages

Advantage: Avoid probate
In Florida, probate can be a long, drawn-out process, incurring both legal fees and court fees. If your personal representative (executor) is not local, it becomes an even bigger hassle. Some probates can take months, but others can literally take years. A living trust can streamline the process, allowing your heirs to receive their distributions more quickly.

Advantage: Avoid 2nd probate for out-of-state property
If you own real estate in another state, titling that property in the name of your living trust will eliminate the need for a secondary probate in that state.

Advantage: Privacy 
If you pass away and have a will, the will must be filed with the probate court. If you have left no valid death instrument - no will or no trust - a probate will still have to be opened up for your estate. As soon as your estate is in probate, it becomes public record, meaning anyone can examine the details of your estate plan. And that makes it easier for anyone unhappy with your plan -  a disgruntled, estranged child, for example - to launch a legal challenge. Fighting that challenge will cost your estate, leaving less money for your heirs.

Advantage: Greater control over distributions
You may not want certain heirs to get their inheritances in one lump sum. With a living trust, you can place certain controls and conditions on your heirs' inheritance. For example, you may want a younger beneficiary to get his/her distribution upon attaining a certain age, or a spendthrift beneficiary to receive only a limited amount of money in staggered distributions. Another way to exert this control is to have your estate pass under your will, go through probate, and leave the inheritance in a trust known as a testamentary trust under your last will and testament. Obviously, using a living trust is a more straightforward method to accomplish your goal. 

Advantage: Financial institutions more likely to honor your trust than your power of attorney
Your durable power of attorney authorizes someone to manage your financial affairs. In Florida, there is no one statutory power of attorney form. The document is only required to meet certain basic legal requirements, and financial institutions can be extremely picky about the document. It is not uncommon for an attorney-in-fact trying to do business for an incapacitated loved one to be turned away by a bank or brokerage because the power of attorney doesn't meet that institution's specific, unique requirements. If you have a living trust, the equation changes. Financial institutions are unlikely to reject the successor trustee your trust authorizes to handle your finances. 

Advantage: Retain full control until incapacity
In Florida, you may not create a "springing" power of attorney. That means that the person you designate as your agent under your power of attorney has immediate authority to act on your behalf, even if you are not incapacitated. This does not prevent you from acting, but it gives your agent legal authority equal to yours. 

Usually, with a married couple, that is not a problem. But many people are uncomfortable giving someone other than the spouse the authority to handle their affairs while they are still competent. With a living trust, you can be the sole trustee, and your successor trustee can take over for you only after documenting your incapacity. (Spouses usually designate one another as co-trustees, so both have equal authority to act. A third party, usually a child, is designated to take over when neither husband or wife can handle the finances.) 

The Misconceptions

Misconception: Creditor protection
As noted above, a living trust has many virtues. However, putting assets into your living trust does not protect them from creditors. 

Misconception: Living trust assets are not considered when applying for Medicaid benefits for long-term care
An asset in your living trust is available to you, and therefore is considered a countable asset if you apply for Medicaid for long-term care. Only an irrevocable trust can remove assets from consideration by Medicaid.

Misconception: Trustees have to be paid 
Successor trustees can be paid a fee, but if you are like most people, you will probably name a family member to serve as your successor trustee. Most family members decline to receive fees. If you do name a professional, third-party to serve as successor trustee, naturally there will be a fee for services. If you have a good reason to want a third-party successor trustee - for example, you have children who can't get along - those fees are money well spent for your peace of mind.

Misconception: You lose control over your assets
No! You can buy assets, sell assets, and do anything you would normally do.

Misconception: It's costly to set up and a hassle to maintain
You will have to re-title your assets in the name of your trust, but for most people this is not a big deal. (Note: some assets, such as IRAs, should not be placed in your trust. Your estate planning attorney will advise you about this.) You don't have to get any special tax numbers; you will file your taxes as you always have. And although the initial cost to set up a living trust exceeds the cost of setting up a will, it saves money at the back end in legal and administrative fees.

Misconception: Any lawyer can set up a living trust
Wrong. This is a complex instrument, and the devil is in the details. Since your trust will speak for you after you are gone, there can be no ambiguity. Every "t" must be crossed and "i" dotted! Beware trust mills, non-lawyers doing estate planning, online or preprinted forms, and attorneys not experienced in estate planning. Relying on an experienced estate planning attorney can give you the assurance that you and your family will get the protections you seek.

Check out my website for more on living trusts.

Jun 11, 2017

Alan Thicke's family goes to war over late actor's estate

You don't need to be rich and famous, or have children from prior marriages, for your estate plan to run into trouble. But it sure does help. Now, the late Alan Thicke joins the roster of deceased celebrities whose families have gone to the trenches over money and control. 

Best known for his role on the sitcom Growing Pains, Thicke died suddenly in December 2016 from a ruptured aorta. He was 69. He left behind two grown sons from a prior marriage, Robin and Brennan; another son from a different marriage, Carter; and his wife of twelve years, Tanya Callau, with whom he lived on his Carpinteria, California ranch. 

To his credit, Thicke did prepare an estate plan. He had a revocable trust, written in 1988 and modified several times prior to his death, most recently in 2016. According to the trust, his three sons were to inherit the ranch, most of his personal effects, and over half of the rest of his estate. Callau would get the furnishings from the ranch, Thicke’s pensions and union death benefits, half a million dollars in life insurance, and anything else in the estate not specifically earmarked for the children. Sons Brennan and Robin were named co-trustees of the trust. 

In addition, there was a prenuptial agreement, signed by Callau prior to her 2005 marriage to Thicke. It gave her the right to continue residing on the ranch, so long as she maintained the property and paid all of its expenses. It is the apparent disconnect between the terms of the prenuptial and the trust that is fueling the family's competing claims.

Last month, Brennan and Robin filed a petition in Los Angeles County Superior Court, alleging that Callau is demanding a larger inheritance than their father's estate plan provides. Specifically, Callau is contesting the legal validity of the prenuptial agreement, which she says does not clearly distinguish between Thicke's personal property and community property (California is a community property state). If the prenuptial does not stand up to legal scrutiny, it could give Callau significant community property rights to the assets in the trust, and would therefore entitle her to far more than she is currently inheriting. 

Callau's attorney has called the prenuptial a "mess" and claims Brennan and Robin have turned down Callau's offer to take the matter to mediation. The sons' attorney refutes those points and has said: “The fact of the matter is that Alan had a career, wealth and children well before he ever met her. It was important to him to make sure that was protected and that his children were taken care of after his passing. She agreed to that. She signed it, understood it and now she’s refusing to honor it." According to some reports, the sons' petition is simply retaliation against their stepmother because she will not permit them to convert the ranch to a marijuana farm. 

You may not be a celebrity, but if you have a family, your planning must begin with an examination of your family dynamics. Our job as your "counselors at law" is to help you identify your family's strengths and weakness. Who is best suited to make certain decisions? Who is likely to create issues in the wake of your death or disability? Who gets along? Who doesn't? Who gets along well now, but might not if you are out of the picture? Only after answering these questions can we build a solid estate plan for you that will ensure your wishes are honored, and your family protected.

Jun 6, 2017

If You Knew You Had a Good Chance of Developing Alzheimer's, What Would You Do? What Should You Do?

Suppose you could find out if you have a greater-than-average chance of developing Alzheimer's Disease. Would you want to know? What would you do with this information?

One of the genetic secrets revealed in recent years is the relationship between the APOe4 gene and Alzheimer's Disease. About 40% of those who develop the late onset form of the disease (the most common form) carry this gene variant. While inheriting the APOe4 gene increases susceptibility, it by no means seals the deal; environmental factors such as diet and lifestyle also seem to play a part in determining who will or won't develop the disease.

Recently, the company 23 and Me began offering APOe4 testing. All you need to do is swab your cheek and send off a saliva sample. The company provides you with the results, which it promises will remain confidential and never be released to third parties. 

But just because you can know if you carry the gene, would you want to know? Positive results could have negative psychological ramifications. It might be a Pandora's box for someone with a low threshold for worry, creating years of anxiety over something that may never happen. Even if the results spur someone to adopt a healthier lifestyle, adhering to the regimen will not necessarily prevent the disease from manifesting.

On the other hand, someone who tests positive gets an opportunity to make important family, financial and legal plans that he/she might not otherwise make. Alzheimer's Disease is a staggeringly expensive condition. Families who don't prepare can be blindsided by the expense, which often includes long-term nursing care. Medicare does not pay for that type of care. A person who knows he/she has a heightened risk of developing Alzheimer's can take proactive steps to protect family and assets, such as Medicaid planning or purchasing long-term care insurance. 

The insurance industry is concerned about the possibility of more and more people being tested, learning they carry the gene, then purchasing long-term care insurance. A 2005 study, "Genetic Testing for Alzheimer's Disease and Its Impact on Insurance Purchasing Behavior," published in the journal Health Affairs, drew on clinical trials of 1,000 people. The study revealed - unsurprisingly - that those who have learned they carry the APOe4 gene are five times more likely than the average person to apply for long-term care insurance. If the now-readily available test becomes widely used, it could create a pool of insureds more likely to collect on their policies in the future. This would skew actuarial projections and put the long-term care insurance industry in financial jeopardy. Robert Cook-Deegan, one of the researchers who participated in the study, likens testing positive for APOe4 and then buying long-term care insurance to "...taking out a million-dollar life insurance policy the day before you know that you're going to die," adding, "The stock market would call it trading on insider information."

The study also found that applicants felt no obligation to divulge the reason they suddenly wanted a policy. While long-term care insurers are exempt from the 2008 Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act and have the legal right to ask applicants if they have had genetic testing and to request the results, at this point most insurers do not pursue the matter. That could change if the industry finds itself under pressure. 

Still interested in getting tested for APOe4? You might want to hold off and follow the advice of Jill Goldman, genetic counselor at Columbia University's Taub Institute: Purchase long-term care insurance before you go for testing, because what you know might eventually be used against you.

May 28, 2017

Roger Ailes' Florida homestead protected from lawsuit liabilities

Roger Ailes, the media mastermind behind Fox News, died May 17 after falling at his Palm Beach home. The medical examiner attributed his death to bleeding on the brain, exacerbated by the fact that Ailes suffered from hemophilia. He leaves behind his wife, Elizabeth and a son, Zachary. Ailes was 77.

Ailes launched Fox in 1996, leaving the network last year amid a widening web of sexual harassment accusations. Two lawsuits naming him personally were ongoing at the time of his death. An individual's debts and liabilities do not disappear when the person passes away. Instead, the estate substitutes for the decedent. Attorney Gloria Allred has said she expects the lawsuits against Ailes to continue, with his estate now the target of the proceedings. 

Newsweek estimates Ailes' fortune at $100 million. He earned $20 million annually while at Fox, and took a $40 million severance package upon leaving the network. He also owned several homes, including the $36 million Palm Beach residence he purchased just after leaving Fox. That was a shrewd legal move: Ailes had recently declared himself a Florida resident, qualifying his Florida residence as homestead property. Under Florida law, homestead property is beyond the reach of creditors. Thus, unless his wife Elizabeth has waived her homestead rights, the home will pass to her, safe from any legal judgments.

In addition to availing himself of Florida homestead law, Ailes' relocation here offers other tax advantages. Since Florida has no estate tax, his estate will owe none. In terms of the federal estate tax, what is owed will depend upon the nature of the estate planning Ailes did. (Federal estate tax kicks in for all taxable assets over $5,490,000.)

The evidence fueling the two pending lawsuits against Ailes is based on private conversations he allegedly had with the plaintiffs, Andrea Tantaros and Julie Roginsky. Ailes always denied their allegations. Without him here to defend himself, the defense may be weakened. On the other hand, the plaintiffs may need to buttress their case with evidence beyond those private conversations. It is possible that Ailes' estate may now be eager to settle out of court, in order to sew up his affairs as quickly as possible.

May 18, 2017

IRS calling? This time, it may be legitimate

Consumer advocates are warning taxpayers about a new program that went into effect in April that permits the Internal Revenue Service to use private debt collection agencies. Targeted taxpayers will be those the agency has already contacted but who remain in arrears. The four companies are: Conserve - Fairport, New York; Pioneer - Horseheads, New York; Performant - Livermore, California; and CBE Group, Iowa.

The IRS tried twice before to use private companies to go after outstanding debts, without success. The last such effort, shut down in 2009, found that private collectors were not as successful as government employees in recovering funds. Nonetheless, legislation passed in 2015 calls for this third attempt.

According to some consumer advocates, the new program presents several dangers, and they warn taxpayers to be vigilant: 
  • Because private collection agencies are paid on a commission basis for every dollar they recoup, they have little incentive to inform a delinquent taxpayer about forgiveness programs or other alternatives for which the taxpayer might qualify.  
  • Heavy-handed tactics are another concern. In fact, in 2014 Pioneer's parent company was fined $97 million for misrepresentations it made to students when it worked with the Department of Education to collect outstanding student loan debts (read the story here).  
  • It will be easier for scam artists to impersonate collection agencies and attempt to defraud taxpayers into paying a debt that doesn't even exist.

To protect yourself and your loved ones, you should keep the following points in mind:


  • If a private collection agency has been authorized to contact you, the IRS will send you a letter first, informing you about which of the four agencies will be calling. That letter will be followed by a letter from the company. Thus, if you receive a call from a private debt collector demanding payment for back taxes and you have not  received these letters beforehand, chances are the call is a fraud.

  • The agency that contacts you must abide by certain rules. You cannot be threatened with arrest by law enforcement for nonpayment. The caller must be courteous and respectful of your rights, per the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.

  • If you have any question as to whether you actually owe any back taxes, call the IRS directly at 800-829-1040. 


Click here for more information from the IRS on its private debt collection program.

May 13, 2017

Florida Homestead Exemption Hike On the 2018 Ballot

Florida voters next year will vote on whether to raise the Florida homestead exemption. The November 2018 ballot will include a constitutional amendment to increase the exemption from $50,000 to $75,000 on homes worth $100,000 or more. If 60% of voters approve, the new rate will take effect January 1, 2019.

Available to Floridians for their primary residences, the homestead exemption reduces the value of the residence for property tax assessment purposes. According to estimates, the hike would save 4.3 million state residents about $644 million. The average homeowner would see a savings of $170 annually.

The measure has its advocates and critics. In all likelihood, homeowners will vote "yes" to putting money in their pockets. Florida municipalities and counties, on the other hand, are concerned about the amendment's impact on critical services. According to various estimates, annual lost revenue for Palm Beach County would be $62.7 million; Broward County, $73.5 million; Martin County, $8 million; and St. Lucie County, $8.2 million.  

At a recent regional meeting covered by WPTV, Indian River County Administrator Jason Brown said assisted living facilities in the western part of the county could be affected by cuts to fire services. And St. Lucie County officials said the new library, scheduled to open later this year, might lack the necessary funds to operate. 

Advocates for the amendment argue that voters deserve a chance to vote on the property tax break, particularly in light of the fact that many people's home values have yet to recover from the 2008-2009 recession. The measure is sure to get plenty of press coverage as we get closer to the 2018 election.
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