A loved one has passed away and after a few weeks you receive a package from a probate attorney's office. Inside the package are several official looking documents along with a cover letter asking that you sign and return a Consent to the enclosed Petition for Administration. Should you sign the Consent or not? Should you file an Objection?
Tom and Cathy (an imaginary couple) are married and have no children together. Tom has two adult children from a prior marriage; Cathy has no children. The couple reside in a Florida home which Tom owned before they got married. As a result, title to the home is only in Tom's name. Sadly, Tom dies unexpectedly of a heart-attack. At the time of his death, Tom had no Last Will and Testament. Cathy goes to see an estate attorney to find out about her rights regarding the home she and Tom had lived in for over ten years--she leaves in shock!
In Florida, there are two types of probate administration: formal and summary. Both accomplish essentially the same objective of allowing the distribution of a decedent's assets. However, there are some significant differences between these two types of probate. This article is intended to discuss the summary probate administration.
Article X, Section 4 of the Constitution of Florida provides protection against the claims of creditors for a person's homestead, i.e. their principal residence. In essence, if a homeowner owes money to a creditor, that creditor cannot attach or force sale of the residence in order to receive payment. The same concept applies if the owner dies owning a homestead. In other words, if a homeowner owes a creditor (such as a credit card, medical bills, etc.), when the person dies, the creditor usually cannot collect against the homestead. The homestead is exempt form the claims of creditors.
In today's era of on-line forms, office supply stores, and software, it is becoming increasingly more common for people to try to prepare their own estate planning documents. Whether it is a simple Durable Power of Attorney, a Living Will, a Last Will and Testament, or a Trust, there are plenty of ways that people can try to create their own estate documents. In our practice, we often see this result in an outright DISASTER!
In Florida, when the death of a person is caused by the wrongful act, negligence, default, or breach of contract or warranty of any person, certain of the deceased's survivors and the deceased's estate may be entitled to recover damages. Those damages, and who are entitled to them, are set forth in detail in Section 768.21, Fla. Stat.
Clients sometimes ask this question--often because they are confused about the relationship between their Will and their life insurance policy. After all, doesn't the Will designate a person's beneficiaries? This blog will clarify the relationship between the Will and life insurance.
In our estate and probate practice, beneficiaries often ask whether they will have to pay taxes on assets that they inherit. The answer to this often depends on what type of asset is involved and whether there is a gain or a loss on the asset. When a person owns property and they devise it to someone at death, in determining whether there's a gain or a loss for tax purposes, a determination must be made of the "basis" for the property. From the basis, it can be determined whether the value went up--a gain--or went down--a loss.
When a person dies and a formal probate estate must be opened in Florida, the probate court will appoint a person to be in charge of the estate administration. In Florida, this person is known as a "Personal Representative." In other states, it is known as an "Executor" or "Administrator." In Florida, no one is authorized to act as Personal Representative until a probate court issues an Order appointing the Personal Representative. Simply being designated in the Will is not enough--an Order appointing the Personal Representative is required.
Not uncommonly, we have clients come into the office after a loved one has died and ask for some assistance. Their request is often simple...for example: "How do I access Mom's bank account now that she's gone? Her Will says I'm supposed to get it. Can I take the Will to the bank and get it transferred over to my name?" Unfortunately, it's not that simple.