Tampa Law Blog

Proving Undue Influence in a Will Contest

When a family member or loved one decides to challenge a Will (or a Trust) based on "undue influence," proof is often a challenge. Undue influence in executing a Will is not usually exercised openly in the presence of others. It is usually perpetrated in secret. Changes made to a person's estate plan due to undue influence are often hidden by the perpetrator. As a result, most of the time undue influence cannot be proven directly. In many instances, it must be proven by way of presumptions and indirect or circumstantial evidence.

Contesting a Will: the Role of Undue Influence

More and more often these days, it seems that after a family member or loved one dies, those left behind are unhappy with the way the deceased's estate is to be distributed through their Last Will and Testament. Often, the persons feel that their loved one has been taken advantage of, perhaps due to their vulnerability or for other reasons. When a family member or loved one decides to challenge a Will (or a Trust), one of the most common grounds is based on what is known as "undue influence." Florida has a statute, Section 732.5165, Fla. Stat., which specifically provides that "[a] Will is void if the execution is procured by fraud, duress, mistake, or undue influence."

Use of a Separate Writing in Florida Estate Planning

Florida, like many states, has a convenient statutory provision when it comes to dealing with tangible personal property (items such as jewelry, furniture, keepsakes, etc.) through estate planning.

The Unfunded Trust--All Dressed Up But the Only Place You're Going is to Probate!

There's an old expression: "All dressed up but nowhere to go!" This phrase has been interpreted to mean being completely prepared for an event that fails to materialize. This is sometimes true with persons who do a Revocable or Living Trust but fail to fund it. They are prepared to avoid probate but this objective--avoiding probate--fails to materialize because assets are not in the Trust at tht time of death.

How would your care go if you became incapacitated?

There is no denying that your will is a vital part of your estate plan and probably forms the cornerstone of it. However, with people here in Florida and elsewhere living longer, the question of incapacitation needs to have an equally important place in your plan.

Do you know what the end of your life will look like? Do you know what you want or don't want doctors to do for you? Do you know who will make difficult health care choices for you if you cannot? These questions need answers now, while you still have the ability to control the answers. Otherwise, your fate could be up to the courts and someone you may not truly trust.

When an original Will is lost or destroyed...don't panic!

Your father has passed away and after the funeral, you try to locate his Last Will and Testament. You find a photocopy but not the original. You do a quick search on Google and find that in Florida, you need to establish the original Will in order to file a testate probate. Should you panic? In many instances, the answer is "no." In Florida, we have a process where you can "prove up" a lost or destroyed Will.

Establishing a "See-Through Trust" for Your IRA

A traditional IRA is what is considered a "qualified" account. In essence, this means that the account gets special tax treatment---in particular, allowing you to defer taxation until a later date. With these types of accounts, you do not have to withdraw the money all at once. Many advisors refer to this as allowing you to "stretch" the distributions over time. Ultimately, this allows you to reduce income taxes which you must pay.

Protecting Your Special Needs Loved One

Many families struggle daily with the demands of caring for a family member with debilitating health or developmental challenges. Whether it is autism, cerebral palsy, birth defects, or some other debilitating condition, the challenges can be immense. Perhaps one of the more challenging aspects which these families face is making sure that resources are available to provide medical and other necessary benefits over the course of the family member's lifetime. Often these families must turn to governmental programs such as SSI (Supplemental Security Income) and Medicaid to meet the overwhelming demands.

The Dangers of "Do-It-Yourself" Estate Planning

With all of the resources available today online and elsewhere, many people are tempted to try to do their own estate planning. They may find online forms or software at the local office supply store. Alternatively, they might use one of these online services. But is this a smart and safe way to protect your family and yourself? The answer should be a resounding "no." 

The Dangers of "Do-It-Yourself" Estate Planning

With all of the resources available today online and elsewhere, many people are tempted to try to do their own estate planning. They may find online forms or software at the local office supply store. Alternatively, they might use one of these online services. But is this a smart and safe way to protect your family and yourself? The answer should be s resounding "no." 

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