In the first part of this series, we discussed how failing to address the issue of adult adoption in your estate plan can cause unnecessary litigation after your death, even when there is nothing sinister about the adoption.  In this article, we will discuss what happened to a man who attempted to use adult adoption to preserve his lavish lifestyle at the expense of his biological children.

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When people think about adoption, images of a young child in need often come to mind. Yet, Florida law contemplates a broader vision. Under Florida Statute § 63.042(1) “[a]ny person, a minor or an adult, may be adopted.” The recent Florida case Dennis v. Kline demonstrates the complications that may arise when an estate plan allows adopted children to become beneficiaries, but fails to address whether “adopted children” includes adopted adults.

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Sometimes blessings occur when we least expect them, but a lack of planning for such blessings can have unpleasant results. In the recent case of Maher v. Iglikova, a Florida court dealt with the ramifications of an unexpected blessing: the discovery of a previously unknown child.

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You may know that one of the necessary steps in estate planning is to name a “personal representative” (Florida’s term for “executor”) to settle your affairs after you pass away.  But did you know that you should also name your trusted family members and other helpers as your “personal representatives” under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA)?

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Our Relationships Series previously has covered the unique estate planning challenges faced by blended families and by same-sex and other unmarried couples.  Today we will address another group that is in dire need of proper planning: families with children under the age of 18.

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We are constantly warning clients and friends alike of the dangers of do-it-yourself estate planning.  The odds are just too high that a fill-in-the-blanks estate plan will fail.  We hate to say we told you so, but here it is straight from the pen of Justice Pariente of the Florida Supreme Court:

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The poignant documentary, “Bridegroom” written and directed by Linda BloodworthThomason (who created and wrote the television series “Designing Women”), vividly illustrates the human cost of a same-sex couple’s failure to do any type of estate planning.  It tells the story of Tom and Shane, two young men in a loving, committed, 6-year-long relationship that was tragically cut short by an accident.  The heartbreaking tale of what happened after the accident proves just how critical appropriate estate planning documents are for same-sex and other unmarried couples.  Click here to watch an overview of the film on YouTube.

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The Heckerling Institute on Estate Planning, held every January, is the nation’s leading conference for estate planners.  This year’s most-discussed topic was big changes in planning for same-sex couples.

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