This newsletter begins a series discussing the impact of marriage on the legal rights of spouses to share in each other’s assets. We begin by talking about the “elective share” and the “pretermitted spouse.”
It's that time of year again: The holiday season is in full swing. Hopefully you are planning to spend some time with those you hold most dear. As you prepare your home or pack your bags, we encourage you to consider not only what and who you are most thankful for, but whether you have expressed your gratitude in a meaningful and lasting way.
Unfortunately, we deal with death on a fairly regular basis as part of our practice, so it usually does not take us by surprise. However, we recently have had a couple of shocking deaths which illustrate why it is never too soon to plan.
We recently have written about how adopting an adult can allow an unrelated person to share in an inheritance (unless it is done with improper motives). But how, and from whom, do adopted persons (whether they are adults or children) inherit under Florida law?
Wording in a will or trust which allows a named person to decide where your property and money should go after your death (instead of you making that decision ahead of time) is called “precatory” language. An example is the recent Florida case of Cody v. Cody, where Earler Martin’s will left his home, and the rest of his estate, to one of his three stepsons, “to divide between [himself and his brothers], as he sees fit and proper.” Earler’s wish was probably that the inheriting stepson, Buford, divide up the home and other property equally between himself and his brothers. However, the words he chose to express that desire defeated that intent.
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.
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.
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)?
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.
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: