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How do lifetime gifts affect a Florida resident's will?

Nobody wants to picture their love ones struggling financially after the person passes away. This is one of the big reasons why people in Polk County take precautions like purchasing life insurance or setting up other instruments that will provide for their heirs in the future. Furthermore, some people accumulate assets throughout their lifetime and create a will to pass down those assets upon their death. But what happens when a person starts giving away some of their assets during their lifetime? Does this affect what happens with their will?

Under Florida law, the answer to that question depends on the terms of the will and any other writing that might go along with it. For example, consider the situation where a person has a son and a daughter and drafts a will leaving all remaining assets to be split equally between the children. But, while the testator (the person who made the will) is still alive, he or she starts giving money or other assets to only the son. Upon the person's death, the daughter might argue that she is entitled to more than a one-half share of the parent's remaining assets because her brother already received part of his share during the parent's lifetime.

This kind of situation is known as "abatement by satisfaction." Florida law does not presume abatement by satisfaction. In other words, the parent must acknowledge in writing that the lifetime gift of assets satisfies part or all of the devise in the will. Likewise, the child can acknowledge in writing, at the time that the parent made the gift, that the gift satisfied the devise. However, absent one of these acknowledgements, the will stands unaffected by the lifetime gift. Thus, in the hypothetical situation, the son would still get one-half of the parent's remaining assets.

Abatement by satisfaction is just one of the many legal nuances that a person with a will might want to consider as they progress through life. Like any other planning document, a person should periodically revisit their will and make appropriate amendments as their life circumstances change. Anyone in Polk County who has questions or concerns about their estate plan should seek out the help of an experienced estates and trusts attorney.

Source: 2011 Florida Statutes, "Title XLII Chapter 732 Section 609," accessed on June 18, 2015

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