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What happens when a will is contested

A person in Florida who is not included in the will of a close relative might decide to contest the will. Being cut out of a will is not unusual; it may happen because a new spouse inherits all the assets or for some other reason, but the first step is often to discuss the situation with an attorney.

Contesting a will is a grueling and emotional process. People should be prepared for the fact that there could be lies told about them, and there might be a counter lawsuit. There is likely to be a deposition. This involves the lawyer for the other side asking questions, and the deposition is made into a transcript. Personal and upsetting questions might be asked or insinuations made. For example, a person might be portrayed as only after money and not caring about the relative. The person could be required to testify in court.

Life events can call for estate plan updates

Generally speaking, there are two major errors that Florida residents make with regard to their estate plans. The first is not to have a will or another planning instrument that is key to the settling of the estate. The second is to fail to update a plan once it's been developed. There is no set timeline upon which a person should update his or her plan, but there are certain life events that call for updates, and if it's been a while, it might be worth revisiting.

If the estate plan has not been examined in three years or longer, for example, it's a good idea to look at it to make sure it still reflects the needs and goals of the maker as well as the requirements of the law. Among the events that might necessitate an estate plan review are changes in assets and liabilities, a move to a new state and relationship changes.

Estate planning mistakes to avoid

Many estate owners in Florida choose to leave property to their loved ones through a will or a trust. While these are effective ways to pass on assets, there are several common estate planning mistakes that individuals should avoid.

One common error is failing to fully account for all assets. It's important to keep records such as mortgage documents, deeds and insurance information in a safe place and inform a trusted individual about their location. Many important documents are now available in a digital format. Therefore, it's also a good idea to make a master list of all usernames and passwords for any online accounts and store them in a safety deposit box.

Stan Lee's messy estate shows the importance of planning

Superhero co-creator Stan Lee has many fans in Florida. The 95-year-old Lee, who was the creator behind Spider-Man and the former chairman of Marvel Comics, passed away in November 2018. However, like a number of celebrities who left behind significant estates, his financial planning left much to be desired. If he does not have a will, there could be many challenges in probate court. Other celebrity estates, including those of Prince and Aretha Franklin, face ongoing disputes between heirs.

In Lee's case, there may be potential estate documents submitted as well, especially as he is known to have worked with financial advisors and lawyers over the years. He also accused some of these professionals of misleading him and mismanaging his money, but it is unclear if he ever created a will. As people age, they may also become increasingly unable to make their own decisions about their assets. Cognitive decline can also make estate owners more vulnerable to manipulation. This is why it can be important for healthy people to make decisions about their assets.

3 estate plan essentials

Making an estate plan can be a confusing process and it can be hard to know what you should include and what you should not. This post aims to give three basic documents that everyone should have in their estate plan, no matter what their age or financial status.


Making a plan to pass on family heirlooms

In the course of preparing their estate plans, some Florida residents may wonder how to deal with assets that may be more difficult to properly evaluate or divide between multiple beneficiaries. While assets like bank accounts or investment funds are easy to divide, some items may have emotional resonance as well as financial value. By thinking ahead about how to deal with specific assets, people can help to avoid family strife before it takes place and protect the assets that they want to pass on to their family.

In many cases, families do not know the real value of items like jewelry, art or some types of real property. They are not often evaluated, and family members may have different opinions about how best to deal with these items. Some people may want to sell off assets and distribute the funds, while others may feel strongly about a particular family heirloom.

Silent trusts can be a discreet choice to transfer assets

Many people in Florida are thinking about how they can best pass on their assets to future generations. Trusts are an excellent method to transfer wealth to children or other loved ones; they can be created to fill unique needs, and they allow assets to be transferred privately without going through the probate system. In addition, people begin to realize the tax advantages provided by trusts right away. However, many people worry about the potential consequences of informing their children from a very young age that a significant amount of money is being held in a trust fund. They may worry that children might not strive for success in school or a career.

When people create a trust, the trustee is ordinarily required to inform the beneficiary about its creation as well as its administration. Silent trusts allow people to create trusts while waiving this requirement, thus keeping the existence of the trust a secret. The trust will include a set period of silence whether it is a specific length of time or until the beneficiary reaches a specified age. In the meantime, the trust creator can reap the tax and estate planning benefits over the years while resting assured that he or she has provided for their loved ones.

Possible ways to set up an educational trust

Some people in Florida who can afford to do so wish to set aside part of their estate to provide education-related funds for children or grandchildren. There is no one "right way" to achieve this goal. However, there are several options available for individuals looking to give future generations a chance to pursue and achieve their preferred higher learning goals. Possibilities include setting up a trust all designated beneficiaries can dip into and establishing separate trusts for each child or grandchild that's a beneficiary.

Trusts can be an appealing option for this type of estate planning since there is so much flexibility with terms and conditions that can be set for loved ones. If a single trust for all children or grandchildren is preferred, what's termed a "pot trust" can be set up. This is simply a type of trust that sets aside a specific sum of money all beneficiaries can request funds from.

Important follow-up after drafting an estate plan

When people in Florida complete their initial estate planning documents, they may think that they've already taken care of everything they need to do to ensure their assets are properly directed. However, some key follow-up steps can help to ensure that the estate plan will work as directed.

One of the most important items for people to consider after completing their planning process is changing beneficiary designations on relevant accounts. From life insurance policies to investment accounts and other transfer-on-death funds, a significant portion of a person's assets may transfer without probate to a named beneficiary.

Charitable donations build legacy and deliver tax advantages

Multiple factors could motivate a Florida resident to include charitable donations in their estate plans. In addition to offering substantial tax savings, giving can support social progress. An estate owner might even create a philanthropic plan that forms a legacy across generations. To achieve the desired outcome, one needs to consider both their personal goals and the missions and capabilities of the recipients.

People typically support organizations with missions close to their hearts. A final donation at the end of life could memorialize a person's longstanding passion for a specific cause or institution. Although gifts often take the form of cash, assets such as valuable art or real estate could also be given to charitable institutions. However, not all organizations can accept non-liquid donations.

Kramer A. Litvak, P.A.
226 East Government Street
Pensacola, FL 32502

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Phone: 850-308-1677
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