J. Kelly Kennedy, Attorney/CPA, PLLC

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Lakeland FL Probate & Estate Administration Law Blog

What are the Florida rules of intestacy for non-spouses?

Every Florida resident has an estate plan, whether they know it or not. An estate plan can be established by a will and other estate planning documents. In the absence of these, another estate plan comes into effect: Florida's laws of intestate succession. About a month ago, we discussed how these laws provide for a person's spouse if the person dies without a will. This blog post will briefly describe how others are provided for if there is no spouse of if the spouse does not take the entire estate under the laws of intestacy.

Under Florida law, this property goes to the person's children, grandchildren and other descendants. If the person has no descendants, the estate and assets then go to the person's parents. If the person also has no living parents, the property goes to the person's siblings and descendants of dead siblings. If there are also none of these, the property is then divided in half. Half goes to the maternal grandparents or their survivors, the other half goes to the paternal grandparents or their survivors. In the absence of these, each half of the property goes to aunts and uncles on each side. The rules continue in this vein, leaving property to increasingly distant relatives or even in-laws. Finally, if there is no one left to leave property to, the property goes to the state of Florida.

What elements must be present in order to create a will?

Folks in Winter Haven know that a will is the primary tool used to dispose of a testator's estate after their death. But how does one create a will? Are there any formalities that have to be done to ensure that a will is recognized as valid? This blog post will describe some elements that must be present in order for a will to be recognized as valid.

In order to make a will, a person must be of legal age. Usually, this legal age is 18. Younger people can often make a valid will if they are married or if they are a member of the U.S. armed forces.

We help Polk County residents with their estate plans

In the minds of many Polk County, Florida, residents, the topic of estate planning brings to mind the task of distributing assets after one's death. This is indeed a very important part of estate planning, but it is not the only part.

As we talked about a few months ago, health care advance directives can be a key part of anyone's estate plan. Health care advance directives help doctors and loved ones make decisions on behalf of a person if that person becomes incapacitated by a health care issue. Living wills and health proxies are different options for those wanting to include a health care directive in their estate plan.

In search of the perfect business partner

While you may have had a dream of owning your own company, you realize now that taking on a partner is in your best interests. Maybe this is because you are struggling, and you need someone who can boost your finances. On the other hand, your Florida business may be booming, and you are looking for someone to share the workload or bring some fresh ideas to the company.

The last thing you want is to partner with someone who is going to take your business in the wrong direction or create an unbearable situation. This is why you are searching for the perfect partner. Compatibility is what most people say is the number one quality your partner must have. However, in what areas is compatibility most important for you and your partner?

End of the year estate planning

With the Thanksgiving holiday here, the end of the year is just around the corner. Besides shopping for holiday gifts, there are other end of the year activities a person in Lakeland may want to accomplish. The end of the year is a good time to revisit an estate plan and make sure it is still in good shape.

When a person has their estate plan created, they should feel a sense of accomplishment. But, an estate plan needs to be revisited to make sure it is still in good shape. The end of the year can be a good time to see if an estate plan needs updating. There are many different events that can affect an estate plan. If a person is married or divorced, has new children or grandchildren, or if someone dies, this can affect an estate plan. Since it is the end of the year, a person may want to give something extra to a charitable organization. Health or life circumstances may have been changed for people named in the estate plan. Or something may be missing in an estate plan such as health care directives or a living will. Also, a person may want to change the executor of their estate.

What laws of intestacy apply to spouses in Florida?

Estate planning attorneys in Florida for the most part agree: It pays to have an estate plan. Wills and trusts are powerful estate planning tools for people in the Sunshine State. Without a will, a person's estate will be distributed according to Florida's laws of intestacy. These rules may work well for some Floridians; others may not find them to be consistent with their estate planning goals.

Florida's laws of intestacy specifically cover how much of a person's assets a spouse is entitled to if the person dies without a will. If the person dies with no surviving descendants, the spouse gets the entire estate. The spouse also gets the entire estate if the person and the spouse have descendants in common and no other descendants. If the person has descendants that are not in common with the surviving spouse, or if the surviving spouse has descendants not in common with the person, the surviving spouse gets half of the person's estate.

Using a living trust for your estate planning

A few months ago, we discussed what trusts are and the various options that are available to those wishing to use a trust for estate planning purposes. How exactly are trusts used for estate planning? And does a trust eliminate the need for a will? This blog post will discuss the mechanics of trusts and estate planning.

First, a trust does not eliminate the need for a will. A will must be used if a testator wants to nominate a guardian for their minor children. Also, a will can be used to direct that the testator's assets not already in a trust to be placed in a trust after death. Without a will, a deceased person's assets would be distributed under the rules of intestate succession.

An unplanned estate may mean a long, frustrating probate

You may have been debating with yourself for some time now about whether you need to create an estate plan. Maybe you have already told your children, grandchildren and others what you would like them to do with your Florida home, checking account and personal belongings. If you don't have many assets, you may feel this is good enough.

However, without a will or other plan, you are leaving your heirs with the long and complicated process of probating your estate. During this legal process, a judge oversees the validation of your heirs and approves the distribution of your assets. There may be many factors that can drag out this process, leaving your heirs frustrated and disappointed.

What is an executor and what do they do?

If you are considering making or changing your will, you may have given some thought to who your executor should be. Maybe a friend or relative is making their will and has asked you to be their executor. What exactly is an executor and what do they do? This blog post will provide a brief answer to these questions.

An executor's duty is to make sure that a person's intentions are respected regarding the fate of their assets and property after their death. To do this, they are to oversee the paying of any outstanding debts of the decedent. They also oversee the distribution of assets and property to the decedent's beneficiaries after the debts are paid. These duties are called fiduciary duties, which simply means that the executor has a legal obligation to act in good faith in carrying out the wishes expressed in a will.

How we can help with estate administration, elder care planning

We looked last week at a situation familiar to many Winter Haven and Lakeland residents: that of "snow birds," retirees and elder folks who live in Florida during the winter and move to northern states during the summer months. As we noted, questions of residency may arise when a snow bird passes away and may have serious tax implications if not anticipated. That's not too hard to understand, so our readers may wonder why bother enlisting a legal professional to assist with estate administration on behalf of their elder family members at all?

The office of J. Kelly Kennedy realizes that many will feel a natural desire to minimize the involvement of courts, lawyers, and other officials in their family affairs. We understand, and we actually can help you towards this goal by preparing ahead of time. We can help you set up an advance directive regarding the care of your elder family member should he or she become incapacitated; we can also help set up different types of trusts to protect the assets of elder family members. As the saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.