Divorce & Estate Planning

If you cannot live with her, do you want her to get your house when you die?  This is where divorce can be part of estate planning. Not everybody needs a will, but if you die without a will while you are still married, your house goes to your spouse.  Even if your will was made before you got married, your spouse is still entitled to half your estate, the same as if you had died without a will. Some couples are “ABD” – All But Divorced – living in harmony separated from each other, but in Florida, unless they are divorced, they are still married.  Should one of them die without a will, that person’s assets get distributed by the State according to the legal formula of Intestate Succession.  Part of that formula is that the living husband or wife is entitled to the homestead property (unless there is a properly executed marital agreement). Divorce does not have to be expensive and it does not have to take a long time.  If both sides are ready to sit down and take the necessary steps to complete the procedure, then a divorce can be over and done with in about […] Read More

Celebration of Death?

Sometimes it is less of a funeral and more a celebration of death…depending on the person and depending on how that person’s will is executed. So you did not like Uncle Bobby and he did not like you.  If Uncle Bobby did not write a will and you were his closest living relative…you may stand to inherit his estate according to the process of Intestate Succession.  His neglect of estate planning could be your gain, regardless of how you felt about each other. When a person dies without a will, their assets get distributed by the State according to a legal formula.  Intestate Succession runs up to their grandparents and down their family tree until an appropriate heir(s) is/are found.  In the absence of a spouse or descendant, property can pass to a parent or sibling.  If there is none of the above, then a person who is a grandparent, aunt, uncle or first cousin may become a beneficiary. On the other hand, maybe you loved Uncle Bobby and he loved you, so much so that he wrote a will with you as his sole beneficiary (excluding his no-good children).  However, if he failed to execute his will properly, his […] Read More

Free Legal Lecture April 10 – “Do You Need a Will?”

So you have a house, a car, and some money.  Do you need a will?  Megan Wall of St. Johns County Legal Aid addresses this question in her Legally Speaking lecture April 10.  This FREE one-hour class starts at 10:00 a.m. at River House (179 Marine Street, St. Augustine, Florida) and is open to the public.  For more information, call (904) 209-3655.   Read More

Heir of the Dog & Intestate Will

Once upon a time there was a dog who lived in a great junkyard.  This junkyard had everything—broken furniture, old cars, and plenty of scratched up couch cushions.  There were shady spots and sunny spots, and high spots and low spots.  There were places where water collected for a convenient sip, and a vast infestation of tasty rodents.  It was everything a dog could want…and a cat’s paradise. In fact, there was a cat who coveted the junkyard and wanted it very badly for himself.  He had tried to sneak in, but the dog always told him, “No trespassing!” in no uncertain barks.  So the cat decided to wait it out.  Reasoning that cats have more lives than dogs, he figured he would get the junkyard when the dog died. Sure enough, one day the dog succumbed to his mortality.  The cat packed his bags and was all ready to move into the junkyard, but when he got there, a large puppy had already taken up residence. “Who are you?” asked the cat. “Heir of the dog,” answered the puppy. “But the dog had no will,” said the cat.  “How can you possibly be his heir?” At that point, the […] Read More

The Intestate Option for Estate Planning

Some people like to plan ahead.  They like to know what is going to happen…even after they are dead.  Those people execute wills.  Others, like Abraham Lincoln, take the intestate option. If you die without a will, your assets get distributed by the State according to a legal formula.  Intestate Succession runs up to your grandparents and down your family tree until an appropriate heir(s) is/are found.  In the absence of a spouse or descendant, property can pass to a parent or sibling.  If there is none of the above, then a person who is a grandparent, aunt, uncle or first cousin may become a beneficiary. Not everyone needs a will.   A valid will lets you control how your assets are distributed after you die.  However, depending on your circumstances, you may not need a will, or at least not an expensively drawn one. Seek competent legal counsel to discuss your estate planning, and if you decide to write a will, to ensure your will is properly executed. Happy Birthday Abraham Lincoln!   Read More

Words to Live by in Estate Planning

Estate planning has a vocabulary of words you do not necessarily come across in everyday conversation, but they can be handy terms when you are making decisions about asset distribution after your demise.  Here are some basic terms you may find helpful in estate planning: Beneficiary – someone who receives a gift or benefits from a trust Codicil – an amendment or addition to a will Decedent – the deceased person Devise – testamentary gift of real property Heir – person who is a spouse or descendant Intestate – person who passes away prior to creating a will Probate –the way the court verifies the will, makes sure certain debts are paid, and oversees the distribution of a decedent’s property.  Probate ensures that the court does not take shortcuts in asset distribution. While not everyone needs a will, if you decide to make one, make sure it is executed properly with two witnesses who are in the same room with you and each other.  Seek competent legal counsel to review your choices in estate planning, explain terms you might not understand, and to help ensure your will (if you write one) is executed properly. Read More

You Cannot Take It With You…Even If You Do Not Have a Will

What happens if you die without a will?  Answer:  You are still dead…and the State determines how your assets are distributed according to a legal formula.  It is called an Intestate Will. If you pass away without a will, Intestate Succession can run up to the grandparents and down your family tree until an appropriate heir(s) is/are found.  In the absence of a spouse or descendant, property can pass to a parent or sibling.  If there is none of the above, then a person who is a grandparent, aunt, uncle or first cousin may become a beneficiary. In Florida, a will can be typed or handwritten on toilet paper, but in order for it to be valid, it must be signed in front of two witnesses who sign in the presence of each other.  A notary public can join in to make the will “Self-Proving,” meaning the validity of the witnesses should not be challenged when it is time to admit the will to probate. The most important thing about a will is to make sure it is executed properly. Seek competent legal counsel to discuss whether you need a will, and if so, to ensure your will is properly […] Read More

People’s Law School – May 13: ‘Do You Need a Will? What If You Die Without One?’

Where there is a will, I want to be in it.  The People’s Law School holds its last class in its spring series of legal lectures May 13 and the topic is “Do You Need a Will?  What If You Die Without One?”  This FREE one-hour class starts at 4:00 p.m. at the Southeast Branch Library (6670 US 1 South, St. Augustine, Florida).  The People’s Law School series is a presentation of St. Johns Legal Aid.  For more information on St. Johns County Legal Aid and their services, go to www.jaxlegalaid.org. Read More

Once Upon An Intestate Will

Once upon a time, Cinderella lived with her dad on a grand estate which he owned.  Then two very unfortunate things happened.  The first was that her father remarried, wedding a gold-digger who was a terrible stepmother.  And then the father died intestate, which meant that Cinderella shared ownership of the estate with her stepmother. Not everyone needs a will.  If you pass away without a will, the State has one for you; it is called an Intestate Will.  Without a will, the State runs up and down your family tree until they find an appropriate heir.  In the absence of a spouse or descendant, property can pass to a parent or sibling.  If there is none of the above, then a person who is a grandparent, aunt, uncle or first cousin may become a beneficiary. However, depending on your circumstances, you may want to control how your assets are distributed once you assume room temperature.  You may want to override an Intestate Will by writing a will of your own. Without a will from Cinderella’s father, the stepmother took her ‘share’ of the profits from the estate, and gave Cinderella charge of all the upkeep.  Cinderella was a clever […] Read More

Future Perfect Estate Planning

You will have as much success posthumously completing your estate planning as you will have reading this at that point.  If you want your postmortem intentions considered, you have to complete your will before the deadline.  There is no credit for partial work, and your will may not be counted if it is not executed properly.  Our legal system does not recognize the undead as a protected group nor consider the rights of ghosts.  Possession may be nine-tenths of the law, but not in a spiritual sense.  All that being said, not everybody needs a will. Everyone will die, with or without a will.  If you pass away without a will, the State has one for you; it is called an Intestate Will.  Without a will, the State runs up and down your family tree until they find an appropriate heir.  In the absence of a spouse or descendant, property can pass to a parent or sibling.  If there is none of the above, then a person who is a grandparent, aunt, uncle or first cousin may become a beneficiary. However, if you want to ensure that your best friend from childhood will have inherited everything, then you need to […] Read More