Following up on other potentially problematic legislation which has not been codified into law, we have the Florida Electronic Wills Act. The bad news is this potentially disastrous law actually passed both houses of the Florida Legislature. The good news is Governor Scott vetoed the bill and gave very thoughtful reasons for doing so.
Sometimes the best decision by a legislature is not to pass a bill. Among the bills that did not pass the Florida Legislature in 2017 was Senate Bill 228, which would have made POLST a law in Florida. It died in the Senate Judiciary Committee. About twenty states have enacted POLST legislation.
In our last newsletter, we discussed the latest statutory assault on the homestead citadel Assault on the Homestead Citadel. In this newsletter, we will discuss a recent case law assault on Florida’s broad homestead protections.
Effective July 1, 2017, the Florida Legislature has amended Florida Statute 732.2035 dealing with property entering into the “elective estate.” The Legislature has added into the list of assets that make up the elective estate for the first time, the decedent’s interest in property which constitutes the protected homestead of the decedent. The law establishing an elective estate or “elective share,” as it is known, is designed to protect surviving spouses from being completely disinherited. The law provides that a surviving spouse must receive at least 30% of the decedent’s “elective estate,” no matter what the decedent’s Will, Trust, or other type of estate plan might say. This statute then goes on to list all of the various types of properties and assets that are included in the calculation of the “elective estate.” Previously, the homestead was not included.
As most of you know by now, a legally married surviving spouse has all sorts of valuable inheritance rights under Florida Law. Often, the question of whether or not a decedent was validly married at the time of his or her death is the main question in a contested estate. The recent case of Cohen v. Shushan involves this very question.
For some reason, Florida has had more than its fair share of interesting adoption questions. Remember the man that tried to adopt his girlfriend! (Adoption Series Part 2, June 13, 2014. Other prior blogs on adoption include: How does an adopted person inherit? (Adult Adoption Series Part 1, May 30, 2014), Part 3(August 22, 2014), “Virtual” Adoption-No Court Required! (Adoption Series Part 4, September 8, 2014), Can Adoptee Challenge the Legality of Her Own Adoption in Order to Inherit from Her Biological Parent? (Adoption Series Part 5, May 15, 2015).
There is a new book out titled: The Death of Expertise. The subtitle is “The Campaign Against Established Knowledge and Why it Matters”. The book deals primarily with politics and reviewers have labeled it “unexceptional”, so I am not recommending that you read it. However, the title also is applicable to what has been happening in the world of estate planning.
Taking the proverbial busman’s holiday, I recently read the novel “A Perfectly Good Family,” by Lionel Shriver. The book was about what happens when three siblings inherit the family “mansion” in Raleigh, North Carolina, after the death of their parents. The father was a “great man” character, a judge and civil rights advocate, the mother was the typical woman behind the man of her era, the oldest son was a rebel and bully, the youngest son was the obedient one who never left home and took care of the mother during her last illness; and the middle daughter (and narrator) shared characteristics of each of her brothers.