Articles Posted in Probate

By: Jacqueline R. Bowden, Weston Wills Attorney

Do it yourself (or “DIY”) projects are becoming common in today’s highly technological age, especially when considering websites like Pinterest and Houzz. In most cases, including home projects, an individual may have several chances to complete a task correctly. Unfortunately, when it comes to drafting a Will, the mistakes are usually not found until it’s too late.

The following is a list of 5 Common Mistakes found when people try the DIY method for drafting Florida Wills. These mistakes can often be avoided by having an experienced Miramar Wills Attorney draft a Will for you:

By Phillip B. Rarick, Miami Probate Attorney

You are named the personal representative (or executor in other states) and a loved one or family member has just died.   No doubt these are difficult times, but thankfully there are many resources for help.  The following is a checklist of initial important tasks to help guide you after the funeral or memorial service.

Note:   You are not required to accept the Personal Representative duties.  Before you can legally act on behalf of the estate you will likely need to secure Letters of Administration issued by a Florida probate court that officially designate you as the legal authority in charge of the estate.    Therefore, you should not take action as Personal Representative before you know your duties and what potential claims you may face from estate beneficiaries and creditors.  Consult a Miami probate attorney and see our 10 Basic Legal Rights for Beneficiaries Under a Florida Will.

____    1.         Minimum of 10 death certificates (these can usually be obtained through the funeral home)

____    2.         Original Will and all codicils (or amendments to the Will)

Note:   If you have the original, either personally deliver to the attorney’s office or send via Federal Express or certified mail.

By: Phil Rarick, Weston Probate Attorney

In our office we have numerous checklists, but one of the most important is the following checklist of nine critical deadlines for Florida probate actions:

  1. Deposit Original Will with court: Within 10 days of notice of death by whomever has custody of the Will. F.S. 732.901.

If you are a beneficiary or interested person of a Florida Will, you have numerous legal rights protected by Florida law.  These laws are designed to keep you informed about the probate administration and make sure the decedent’s wishes as described in the Will are fulfilled.

The person in charge of making sure the property distributions in the Will are satisfied according to the instructions of the decedent is called a “Personal Representative” (referred to in other states as an “Executor”). The Personal Representative (or “PR”) has numerous fiduciary duties that run like a laser beam to the beneficiary.  Here are some of the most important:

  1. You have a right to secure a true copy of the Will.   The original will must be deposited with the court within 10 days of notice of death by whomever has custody of it.  F.S. 732.901

By: Phillip B. Rarick, Esq.

Most divorce judgments call for one of the parties to obtain a life insurance policy to secure the payment of child support, alimony or some other financial obligation.  Let’s assume the obligation is solely child support:  a potential mistake is failure to secure payment of the policy premiums by use of an irrevocable Children’s Safe Harbor Trust structured as a spendthrift trust.

For securing the payment of child support, the settlement agreement should have specific language that may read as follows:

12 Point Summary of Florida Successor Trustee Duties

Note: Trust administration requires strict compliance with the trust terms and often analysis of complex tax requirements. A trustee is a fiduciary and is held to a high standard of care under Florida law. If you are a successor trustee, we can help. It is important that you follow the advice of an experienced Trust Administration Attorney to avoid or reduce estate taxes or income taxes and to protect yourself against personal liability. Not only are the expenses of an attorney and CPA typically considered routine trust expenses, but failure to utilize such services can expose the trustee to personal liability.

  1. Show Loyalty To All Trust Beneficiaries. Even if the successor trustee is himself a beneficiary, as trustee he has the duty of loyalty to all the other beneficiaries, including the remaindermen. Remaindermen are beneficiaries who do not have a current interest in the trust income or principal, but have a future interest in the trust.

By Phillip B. Rarick, Esq. and Jacqueline R. Bowden, Esq.

In Florida, when you die, your debts remain in your estate – and are not transferred to a surviving spouse or family member.  However, this simple legal concept does not stop some creditors from harassing the surviving spouse or a family member into payment of a debt for which they have no legal obligation.

Creditors may strike immediately after death, showing empathy and false kindness, and then try to convince the surviving spouse they have a legal or moral obligation to pay.  Beware and do not pay until you have consulted an attorney.

By Jacqueline R. Bowden, Esq. and Phillip B. Rarick, Esq.

Same-sex marriage will likely be legal in Florida beginning January 6 as a result of a historic 7-2 ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court yesterday, December 19.    This ruling, denying Attorney General Pam Bondi’s request to extend a stay preventing the state from recognizing the marriages of eight same sex couples, may signal the state’s last defense of a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage in line with the over-whelming national trend to strike down such bans.

The ruling has profound legal consequences for Florida same-sex couples.  This Alert reviews six Federal benefits available now, and three  state benefits that will be available January 6 barring any further legal developments, which are unlikely as Attorney General Bondi has now conceded that the stay will end January 5.

By Cristina M. Fernandez, Esq.

A.        The Question

A common question we encounter is how to transfer the title of a motor vehicle upon the death of its owner.

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