Our last blog talked about a case where possession of “lost “cash did not result in the “finder” of the cash ending up with it. In a famous “treasure trove” case involving Mel Fisher and the wreck of the Atocha, the opposite result was reached. The Spanish ship Atocha sunk in the sea off the Marquesas Keys, in 1622 while on route Spain. Throughout history it was thought that the Atocha contained gold and other valuables. The treasure hunter, Mel Fisher, eventually found the Atocha after years of searching in the 1970s and recovered millions of dollars’ worth of artifacts. The State of Florida, the United States Government and the Government of Spain eventually made claims to ownership of the lost treasure. The court awarded Fisher possession of the salvage, reasoning that the title to abandoned property vests in the person who reduces that property to his or her possession. The court reasoned that disposition of a wrecked vessel whose very location has been lost for centuries as though its owner was still in existence, stretches a fiction to absurd lengths.
So, what we learned from these cases is: if property has been lost for centuries, “finders, keepers”. However, if the rightful owner of the lost property (or the daughter of the owner) is still around to claim it after it is found, “losers weepers”.
We hope that you now more fully appreciate the nuances of those famous legal principles - “finders keepers, losers weepers” and “possession is 9/10 of the law.”

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You have heard the old adage “possession is 9/10 of the law.” Well, here is a case dealing with the other 1/10. The Arizona case of Grande v. Jennings involved a hoarder by the name of Robert Spann. When he passed away in 2001, his daughter, Karen Grande, became personal representative of his estate. She knew from experience that he had hidden gold, cash, and other valuables in unusual places in previous homes that he owned, so she started looking for valuables that her father may have left or hidden in this particular home. Over the course of seven (7) years, she found stocks and bonds, as well as hundreds of military-style green ammunition cans hidden throughout the house, some of which contained gold or cash. After seven (7) years of searching and making repairs to the home, it was sold, “as is” to Jennings in 2008.

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If a man dies in Florida without having his own will or trust prepared, he is considered to have died intestate. In other words, his estate will be distributed according to the “will” the state wrote for him. Under the state’s will, any children he had while legally married are automatically considered to be his legal heirs. But what if he fathered a child out of wedlock? Children born out of wedlock must file a paternity action to have themselves legally declared a “child” of the decedent, if they want to share in the estate. What if they wait until after the alleged father’s death to make a claim? Well, if they are adults now, it likely is too late.

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In 2013 the Florida Legislature enacted Fl. Stat. 736.202 to clarify when Florida courts have jurisdiction to hear disputes involving trusts. Lawyers refer to this type of statute as establishing “long arm” jurisdiction. The reason will become apparent.

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Walking exercise

More and more medical research is appearing which links simple lifestyle changes to preventing cognitive decline.  A recent article in the August 22, 2016 issue of Time Magazine highlights research by a Virginia neurologist, Dr. Majid Fotuhi.  He emphasizes six lifestyle changes that may help protect your brain as you age:

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Memorial Urns

The Florida Legislature recently has answered the emotional question of how a dispute of over a person’s cremated remains is to be split resolved.  Two years ago, there was a court case involving a dispute between two divorced parents over the disposition of their son’s ashes.  The father argued the ashes were assets of his son’s probate estate, so they should split like the rest of their son’s property, 50/50 with his ex-wife.  The court ruled against him and the legislature now has codified the correctness of that decision.

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Last Will and Testament

Almost every month I present an educational workshop called “The Truth About Estate Planning”. We start off our small group discussion citing similar horrible statistics. It is interesting to see that someone finally surveyed people to find out if their will was up to date. But, it appears that the definition of “up to date” used was rather narrow. A will was considered to be out of date for this survey if made before a person got married or had children. No one could argue with that.
But what about other life changes such as divorce, death of a family member, child becoming an addict, child taking on significant debt, child getting a divorce, a significant increase in net worth, a significant decrease in net worth, a change in the estate tax law, a change in other laws affecting estates, such as Florida’s Homestead law….and on and on. Using these broader concepts, I believe over 90% of Americans do not have an estate plan that will work when the time comes that it had better work.

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End of Life Care

Last e-newsletter, we addressed how difficult it can be to have "the talk" about dementia with a loved one. Many people also feel uncomfortable discussing end-of-life care with their parents. Although it may seem like it could put distance between you and them, having this talk can actually bring families closer together. Here's some advice on how to make the conversation as easy and painless as possible:

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Just as it's not easy for parents to bring up the birds and the bees with their kids, it's anything but easy to begin a conversation with a loved one about how they want to live at the end of their lives. But it's vitally important to have “the talk” as soon as possible if your loved one has Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia.

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