Florida Probate Litigation Lawyer Blog

“For better or for worse.” These are the traditional words that our society associates with wedding vows, indicating that the two individuals marrying each other are making a commitment to each other in good times and in bad times. This commitment is meant to extend to all aspects of the married couple’s lives, and estate administration is no exception. When a married individual dies, the decedent’s spouse is entitled to a portion of the decedent’s estate. This is true in Florida even if the decedent attempted to disinherit his or her spouse. As long as the couple has not divorced, the spouse is entitled to inherit at least something (even if the couple separated).
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In the United States, about 40 to 50 percent of marriages end up in divorce. It is, therefore, no secret that many people are entering second marriages. As a result, people need to be aware of the estate planning consequences associated with getting remarried. Not only will you have assets to worry about (e.g., cars, real property, money, etc.), but you may also have to consider the merger of the families and potentially, new children down the road. It can be a complicated proposition to be in, and it is important to have a plan in place if the time comes to walk down that aisle once more.
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Florida law on the execution of wills makes it clear that not all wills are created equal. One of the most important things to know when drafting your will is the law governing the validity of that document. In Florida, if a will does not meet certain required formalities, then the will is considered invalid and your estate becomes subject to the laws of intestacy, which will likely result in an outcome that neither you nor your heirs expected.
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The number of blended families in America is increasing and with it, so is the need for competent estate planning. As the modern blended family replaces the “traditional” family, tension arises from traditional intestacy laws. Florida residents need to understand the implications these laws have on their family structure and on the obligations that the laws place on individuals wishing to ensure that their intended beneficiaries receive the intended bequests.

When a person dies without a will, the laws of intestacy spring into effect and the property of the deceased person is distributed to family members in accordance with state law. Historically, the law of intestate succession has focused on biological relationships. In Florida, the law of intestacy has yet to be reformed to better address those family structures that include stepchildren.
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It is no secret that we are living in a digital world. Our daily lives are spent online paying bills, browsing social media, checking bank accounts, and the list goes on. When you signed up for all of these accounts, you likely did not think to yourself, “I wonder who will manage these accounts if I pass away?” If you did not contemplate this aspect of managing an online account, you would not be alone. Most people do not even read the terms and conditions when creating online accounts. Instead, we take it for granted that digital accounts will make our lives easier, not harder.
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A will cannot always handle the wide range of issues that arise when planning your estate. A revocable living trust, commonly called a living trust (or “inter vivos trust”), is created during your lifetime and allows you to create a plan to manage your assets and protect you when you fall ill or even as you age. Because the Living Trust, governed under Chapter 736 of the Florida Statutes (the “Florida Trust Code”) is revocable, you also have the power to revoke or amend it throughout your life.
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You take the time to create an estate plan with the hopes that upon passing, your assets are distributed as you had indicated in your estate plan. Unfortunately, not all estate plans are created equal and consequently, a poorly created estate plan could become more contrary to your intended wishes than no plan at all. Drafting an estate plan is a great way to ensure that your assets transition upon death in a manner consistent with your goals and wishes, however, a poorly executed plan can result in unexpected consequences and prove disastrous for your family and your estate.

The following tips can help you avoid common pitfalls in estate planning and may provide you with the peace of mind that undesirable consequences will not result from your good intentions:
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We live in a social media age where almost anything we do can be posted online for others to view. We share personal information ranging from vacation photos to our thoughts and opinions on this year’s Oscar winners. Facebook pages have become the diaries of our lives. Facebook and personal information stored on your Facebook page are not likely to be the first thing that comes to mind when you draft your estate plan, even though for millions of people around the world, it is the first website they visit when they wake up in the morning or when they arrive at work. But what happens to your Facebook profile after you die?
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Power of Attorney is a legal document that gives one person the authority to act on behalf of another as that person’s “agent.” The person who grants the Power of Attorney is known as the “Principal,” and can make this authority as broad or as narrow as he or she would like. For example, Power of Attorney may be as limited to merely giving the agent the authority to sell property out of state (often called “Limited Power of Attorney”), or as expansive as permitting the agent to perform any legal act for the principal (known as “General Power of Attorney”).
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When you are gone, will your surviving heirs abide by every wish of your estate just as you envisioned, or will they fight over their own interpretations of your will? Ambiguous language in estate planning can create friction among your loved ones when they are at their most vulnerable, erasing the love underlying your final gifts.
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