J. Kelly Kennedy, Attorney/CPA, PLLC

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Attorney and CPA

Estate administration ensures cherishing of your memories

Everyone should ensure a peaceful and sound distribution of their assets after they have passed away, all according to their wishes and ideals. Hence, estate planning is a must to ensure that subsequent estate administration does not require a person's loved onest to fritter their energies in needless and acrimonious court battles.

Florida residents should at least consider writing a will that accords with Florida law and, in some situations, federal tax law.

An example of the troubles that might ensue when one does not write a will carefully involves a case out of another state. The court in that case approved a settlement based on the will of shopping mall mogul Melvin Simon, three years after his daughter's allegation that her stepmother manipulated Simon to increase the stepmother's share of the inheritance.

Specifically, Simon's daughter from his first marriage alleged that her stepmother took advantage of Simon's Parkinson's disease, which was affecting his right hand. Allegedly, the stepmother got him to sign a revised estate plan (with assistance) and, more importantly, otherwise used his medical condition as an opportunity to manipulate him.

Simon's widow conceded that Simon suffered from Parkinson-like symptoms but strongly denied allegations of coercion. She did admit that she helped him sign his name on his documents.

The judge kept the settlement under seal because of some crucial information regarding publicly traded Simon Property Group.

Reportedly, the estate is worth $2 billion, and the settlement had to be approved by Indiana University and other non-profit organizations that will share in the estate.

In Florida, a person writing a will must be of sound health and mind at the time of signing and should be prepared to provide proof that are so. This case illustrates what can happen otherwise. Moroever, it is important that the will be notarized and signed in the presence of two witnesses..

Those who follow these guidelines will hopefully head off a potentially contentious family fight about the validity of a will.

Source: SanFranciscoChronicle, "Ind. judge approves settlement in Simon's estate," Dec. 12, 2012

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