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Orlando Probate and Estate Administration Law Blog

Estate planning questions after Prince's death

Florida music lovers were likely saddened to hear reports of the death of Prince on April 21. The 57-year-old singer was discovered unconscious in the elevator of his Minnesota home and declared dead shortly afterwards. There were no initial statements from Prince's representatives about what caused his death, but there have been reports that Prince was suffering from flu-like symptoms.

It is unclear who will inherit Prince's estate that is estimated to be worth $300 million, as his representatives have not yet issued any information about whether a valid will existed. Because Prince was unmarried when he died and had no living children or parents, his estate would likely pass to his siblings under the laws of intestacy.

Preventing a child's spouse from getting an inheritance

Some Florida parents who are drafting estate planning documents may want a way to prevent their children's spouses from getting the money. Technically, leaving an inheritance to a child does not necessarily mean their spouse also gets the inheritance. However, if the two divorce, the spouse might be able to get a portion of the inheritance. This may depend upon the state they live in and whether it is commingled with marital assets.

Even if there is not a divorce, it is likely that the spouse will benefit from the inheritance. One solution might be to set up a trust. The owner of the trust can set the parameters, and those parameters can include ensuring that there is no benefit for the spouse. The disadvantage is that the money is left to the trust and not the child, and so the child does not enjoy the full benefit.

Inheriting a home in Florida

If Florida residents find out that they have inherited a house, there are a variety of questions that will need to be answered in order to determine how best to proceed. People have the option of keeping, selling or renting out a home, and each option has advantages and drawbacks. What someone decides will often depend on how much the home is worth, what condition the home is in and what the costs of upkeep are.

One of the first things that someone should do when they find out they have inherited a home is to determine how much it will cost to maintain it. Even if the house is paid for, there will still be the issue of property taxes and maintenance.

Dying with no will in Florida

Florida residents who pass away without having a valid will are said to have died intestate. This means that the state will determine a number of things, including how the decedent's assets are distributed. When a person with children who are under the age of 18 dies without a will and the other parent is unavailable to care for them, the state will decide who will raise the children.

Asset distribution is usually based on the person's closest living relative. If a person who is married without a will passes on, all of the couple's jointly-held assets will normally be given to the surviving spouse, and when a couple has children, then a third to a half of the person's individually owned property goes to their spouse, and the rest goes to the person's children.

Ongoing will and estate planning to keep current

While many Florida residents understand the importance of drafting wills, they may not realize that once these documents have been written, certain events should prompt reviews and updates. Family circumstances and makeup change overtime, as do certain laws that may be applicable.

When people undergo a major familial change, such as a divorce, a remarriage or the birth of additional children or grandchildren, their wills should be reviewed and updated accordingly. If it isn't, their assets may pass to a former spouse, or they may accidentally exclude a new child or grandchild from inheriting.

How to divide assets among children without conflict

Losing a parent is a difficult event for children of any age, and fighting between adult children could occur while everyone is upset and emotional. Parents in Florida who are planning on leaving behind an inheritance for their children can take steps to prevent or minimize the arguments siblings might have in such an event.

Preparing an estate plan and evaluating and updating it periodically is important so that a parent's last wishes reflect a family's current situation. Benefactors might want to review relevant documents every few years or when a major change happens in their life or to their assets. Examples of significant events could include a new member of the family being born or a divorce. An unforeseen circumstance could mean that one family member needs more financial help than the others.

Components of a comprehensive estate plan

When Florida residents become mentally incapacitated or pass away, their estate plan determines what happens to any assets they own. The plan may also account for who raises their children or how medical decisions are made. An estate plan should contain a Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act release, a will and a living trust. It should also include a power of attorney and a health care directive.

Staying organized is critical to making sure an estate plan can be executed properly. People should create a list of all of their assets to make it easier for an executor to account for them. Beneficiary forms should be updated to ensure that the right people have access to money in an IRA or the death benefit from a life insurance policy. It may also be a good idea to create a list of family or friends who should be notified if anything happens.

Testators advised to prepare for contingencies

Florida residents who are concerned with how their heirs will dispose of their inheritances can take steps to maintain control. They may need to account for factors like timing, as the order in which heirs testators perish may impact how assets will be disbursed. In some cases, it may be wise to let heirs make decisions to handle unanticipated events.

Contingency plans are an important part of estate planning. For instance, plans that decide to give specific asset shares to named individuals may be well-suited by backup arrangements that account for what will occur should circumstances change, such as when an heir dies. These instructions must be specified in legally binding documents.

How a trust may be useful in estate planning

Some Florida parents may wonder whether they should create a trust fund for their children. Some people associate trust funds with wealthy families and spoiled children, but in fact, they can serve a variety of different purposes for many income levels.

Trusts are one of several vehicles that can be used for estate planning. Beneficiary designations and titles are ways of passing assets such as retirement accounts and property such as homes or vehicles on to heirs. A beneficiary designation is simply a matter of filling out forms associated with the account. Putting property in the name of an heir with joint rights of survivorship means that it will go to them on the death of the other person.

How estate executors can avoid costly mistakes

While it is a great honor to serve as the executor under a testator's will, the role carries many duties and responsibilities that must be strictly followed. Florida residents might benefit by learning about how to avoid some costly mistakes while serving as an executor.

One of the executor's responsibilities is to make sure the decedent's bills are paid in full. However, paying some of the bills too swiftly could result in costly mistakes. For example, if the executor immediately pays credit card balances and other small bills, he or she could be held personally liable because of a breach of fiduciary duty if there is insufficient funds to pay off an unexpected, large federal income tax bill.

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