In Florida finding a person born in the state can seem to be harder than finding a non-native. Further, Florida is a popular destination for people sometimes called 'snowbirds,' who are usually retired and live part of the year here and the rest of it elsewhere. As a result, many individuals who die here may also own real property in other states or countries. So, when the will of such a person is probated here in Florida, can the probate judge direct a personal representative to convey out-of-state property to a beneficiary?
As we have discussed before, "undue influence" is one of the most common allegations when people contest a will in Florida. Because of this, both the legislature and the state supreme court have weighed in on the issue at various times. Below is a very brief description of their various actions.
This space has discussed several times the way wills can be used as a part of a comprehensive estate plan. We have touched on the reasons the will document should be specific in its bequests and some of the language that can be used to give voice to a clear intent of the testator. We have also pointed out some of the reasons an heir or other interested party may challenge the validity of all or part of a will in probate court. So, is there any way to write a will to attempt to avoid the possibility of litigation after one's death?
We've discussed various forms of estate planning in this blog, including the use of both trusts and wills in attempting to give voice to the intent of the testator (i.e. the person whose estate is in question). We have also talked about the form wills need to take to be valid, and some of what may cause a will to be contested in probate court. But what happens if someone who is supposed to inherit probate assets dies before the testator?
Perhaps you have a family member, loved one or friend who has recently passed away. When you look through their things, you find their will. While reading it, you find (hopefully, not to your surprise), that you have been named the executor of the estate. You are, of course, honored that you are trusted enough to be given such a responsibility, but then your thoughts turn to what, exactly, this means. What do you have to do? What are your duties, and where can you find help?
We touched previously in this space on talk that the Florida Legislature may consider a law giving people more control over who can access their online assets when they die or become incapacitated. That possibility has been given more concrete form in a bill introduced to the legislature by State Senator Dorothy Hukill. While the bill still must get through committee hearings before being presented to the entire chamber, it is a step forward in the process of clarifying how digital assets should be handled by personal representatives and guardians.
The Uniform Laws Commission attempts to promote stability and consistency in state statutes by promulgating uniform laws that states can use in their own legislative processes. The commission has delved into the area of trusts and estates by publishing a "Uniform Probate Code." In an attempt to keep up with common practices in the area, a section of the Uniform Probate Code addresses the use of so-called "trust protectors," a convention that has become more popular in recent years. Florida has modeled its own trust protector statute on this section. The question then arises, what is a trust protector?
Having a solid estate plan is essential if you wish to have some control over how your assets are distributed after you die. We have discussed some ways of avoiding probate in Florida and the delays and costs associated with it. But for various reasons, probate is sometimes necessary, so it might be a good idea to take a look at the more likely legal justifications someone might have for challenging all or part of a will.
A state legislator in Florida is considering introducing a bill that would try to standardize the ability to access a dead person's digital assets. Because people's on-line lives have grown larger with each passing year, there are quite a few instances in which it is important that someone be able to get into a deceased individual's online accounts.
Many Florida residents may well have heard of the probate process and they may also have an idea that it has something to do with wills and estates. But many people may not understand exactly what probate is, and when it applies. One good resource for such questions is the Florida Bar.