Probate Check

“Prostate” and “Probate” are two words you do not want to get confused.  If you are going in for a Probate Check, nobody needs a rubber glove. Probate is the way the court verifies a 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. My theory on probate is, get in, take care of it, get out.  Probate is not a dirty word and it does not have to be expensive. Probate can take time, though.  In some cases, depending on the size of the estate, tax implications, and desires of the testator, probate-avoidance methods, including trusts and pre-death distributions, are appropriate.  However, I am not a fan of a rubber chicken dinner served to you in a hotel ballroom where they scare you into getting a trust. Not everybody needs a trust and not everybody needs a will.  Seek competent legal counsel to discuss your circumstances to make a plan that best suits your intentions.   Read More

Free Legal Lecture May 8: “Is Probate A Dirty Word?”

Are you a man over 50?  Have you had your probate checked?  Do you need to? My theory on probate is, get in, take care of it, get out.  Probate does not have to be expensive and nobody needs a rubber glove.  You can learn more about probate and estate planning at the upcoming Legally Speaking lecture, “Is Probate a Dirty Word?” on May 8 at River House (179 Marine Street, St. Augustine, Florida).  Megan Wall, Managing Attorney for St. Johns County Legal Aid, will be the speaker for this FREE one-hour presentation which starts at 10:00 a.m. and is open to the public.   Read More

Free Legal Lecture April 1: “Is Probate a Dirty Word?”

So you did not go to law school and you did not pass the Bar Exam.  No problem.  The People’s Law School continues in April with its series of legal lectures presented by St. Johns County Legal Aid.  The April 1st topic asks, “Is Probate a Dirty Word?”  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 schedule continues as follows: April 8 – “Landlord/Tenant Laws” April 22 – “Should You Ever Put Someone Else’s Name on Your Deed?” All classes are free and open to the public, and start at 4:00 p.m. at the Southeast Branch Library.  For more information on St. Johns County Legal Aid and their services, go to www.jaxlegalaid.org.   Read More

Valid Will

Where there is a will, I want to be in it, but only if it is witnessed by two people sitting in the same room with each other and with the testator.  If I am going to inherit money, I want to be a beneficiary listed in a valid will…and preferably one that is notarized. In the State of Florida, a will can be typed or handwritten, 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.  (This rules out video or sound-recorded wills.)  Furthermore, 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. If you moved to Florida from another state, you may want to have your will reviewed by a Florida lawyer to make sure your will is executed properly according to Florida law.  You may have the best of intentions after your death, but they might not happen if you have a will that is not valid in this state. Seek competent legal counsel to discuss your estate planning goals, […] Read More

Probate Debate

“Probate” “Prostrate” “Prostate” “Prostitute” – Do NOT get these words mixed up, especially not in front of your wife. Probate is the way the court verifies a 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. My theory on probate is, get in, take care of it, get out.  Probate is not a dirty word and it does not have to be expensive. Probate can take time, though.  In some cases, depending on the size of the estate, tax implications, and desires of the testator, probate-avoidance methods, including trusts and pre-death distributions, are appropriate.  However, I am not a fan of a rubber chicken dinner served to you in a hotel ballroom where they scare you into getting a trust. Not everybody needs a trust and not everybody needs a will.  Seek competent legal counsel to discuss your circumstances to make a plan that best suits your intentions.   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

The Video Will

If you get it on tape…that might be good for $10,000 on America’s Funniest Videos, but your videographed will is not valid in the State of Florida. The lighting could be perfect, the sound clear, and the star testator’s hair expertly coiffed, but unless that will is also documented in writing and signed by the testator in front of two witnesses who sign in the presence of each other, those post-mortem intentions might not be fully realized in the State of Florida. No matter how good the videographer is, a video will is not valid for asset distribution in Florida.  Get your good intentions in writing with two witnesses and you can add a notary public 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). To ensure your will is properly executed, seek competent legal counsel.  An attorney can help you review your estate planning choices, including their possible consequences, and help ensure your intentions after death will be met. Read More

What Is a Self-Proving Will?

It is difficult to execute a valid will by yourself.  It is also difficult to execute a valid will posthumously.  Generally you need some assistance to make sure your assets will be distributed according to your intentions, and you need to take care of it before your deadline. In Florida, a will has to have two witnesses who see you sign the will and see each other sign as witnesses—everybody has to be in the same room.  You can have a little will execution party—you, your two witnesses, and invite a notary public to join in to make your will self-proving. The reason to have a will notarized is to make it self-proving, then the validity of the witnesses will not be challenged later in probate.  If a valid will is self-proving, it can be admitted to probate without further proof, and saves time and expense in tracking down one of your witnesses to the will so that person can give an oath after your death.  Thus a self-proving will minimizes hardship on your friends and family when you are gone.     Read More

The Key to a Will

The key to a will is to have it executed properly.  In Florida, a will can be typed or handwritten, 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.  (This rules out video or sound-recorded wills.)  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. If you moved to Florida from another state, you may want to have your will reviewed by a Florida lawyer to make sure your will is executed properly according to Florida law.  You may have the best of intentions after your death, but they might not happen if you have a will that is not valid in this state. Seek competent legal counsel to discuss your estate planning goals, and to ensure your will is properly executed and valid in the State of Florida.   Read More

What a Will Can Do for You After You Are Gone

Where there is a will, I want to be in it!  You cannot always predict what is going to happen in life, and death can be a real surprise.  A properly executed will puts you in control of what is going to happen to your property.  Generally, you can accomplish the following things with a will: Decide who gets your property (instead of the law making the decision). Name the personal representative (executor) of your will to manage your estate. You may create a trust in a will; whereby, the estate or part of the estate will be kept intact with income distributed or accumulated for the benefit of members of the family or others.  Minors can be cared for without the expense of proceedings for guardianship of property. Real estate and other assets may be sold without court proceedings (if your will adequately authorizes it). Make gifts to charity. Decide who bears any tax burden (instead of the law making the decision). Name a guardian for minor children. Estate Planning has a deadline.  Seek competent legal counsel to discuss whether you need a will, and if so, to ensure your will is properly executed.   Read More