Articles Tagged with probate litigation

Some people consider estate taxes enemy No. 1 when it comes to their inheritance. However, what’s much more likely to become problematic is family conflict. These aren’t necessarily new issues, but they are becoming more prevalent as increasingly more American families are blended, life expectancy has stretched and baby boomers are aging into their golden years.probate litigation attorney

A recent poll by TD Wealth revealed 44 percent of attorneys, accountants and trust officers in Florida indicated family conflicts were the biggest snag when it comes to estate planning. Part of the problem is people have unrealistic expectations. While most expect to inherit more than $100,000, Ameriprise Financial reports most people receive less than that. Almost 7 in 10 of those expecting an inheritence were never told how much they should expect, which led to substantial confusion and conflict.

Another issue is people increasingly have multiple ex-spouses, one or both my have children from prior unions and one spouse may be much younger than the other. These are fact patterns we know have the potential to lead to trouble. Such is the case in probate litigation conflict in Indiana that the state supreme court in Indiana has just agreed to consider. In Gittings v. Deal, an adult woman claims she was removed from her father’s estate by her stepmother, and subsequently her stepbrother raked in more than $3 million in profits on property she claims they should have shared.  Continue reading

If you are estranged from a parent and he or she does, can you expect an inheritance? The answer is: Not automatically. probate litigation attorney

Just because one is the biological child of a decedent does not necessarily in and of itself entitle that child rights to stake a claim on their mother or father’s estate.

No one is under any legal option to leave adult children – or anyone else – anything from their estate. Minor children are handled differently under the law, as the state recognizes they are entitled to a certain degree of support that might otherwise have been given had the decedent lived. But there is no guarantee of the same kind of expectation for children over the age of 18.

This is where an experienced probate litigation attorney should be called in, to examine whether there was a will or trust and if so, what the language of that document indicates. If these documents exist but there is no specific mention of a child – estranged or otherwise – or indication the parent intended to leave that person out of the will, that child may have the basis to pursue probate litigation to plausibly assert the conceivable allegation that the parent simply “forgot” about them.  Continue reading

The Pew Research Center reported last year that a record 61 million Americans live in multi-generational households. That’s nearly one-fifth of the population. This means finances of aging parents, grandparents and adult children and grandchildren are sometimes intertwined. This does not necessarily mean that upon a loved one’s passing that debts will automatically be transferred to relatives, even those you live with. However, probate litigation attorneys in Fort Lauderdale recognize many people don’t fully understand the debts for which they may be responsible, and which they are not.probate litigation

In general, no person is responsible for the debts of another while the debtor is alive – or dead. There are exceptions to this, though. For instance, spouses are often held accountable for each other’s medical debts in life. Relatives who co-sign or are also listed on loans may be responsible – that goes for student loans, car payments, mortgages, credit cards, etc. In death, a debtor’s outstanding obligations typically become the responsibility of “the estate.” The estate consists of all property, savings and debts. The process is much easier if there is a living trust in place, but if not, probate is the process of sorting through how those debts will be paid off and how property will be transferred to living beneficiaries.

To protect their inheritance, family members may need to start dealing with debts before probate has officially opened. That means keeping current on those administrative bills (i.e., mortgage, HOA fees, property taxes, utility bills, storage fees, etc.) until the probate estate is opened, and sometimes until the estate closes. Then there are the “final bills,” which can include income taxes, cell phones bills, credit card bills and retirement accounts. Beneficiaries of an estate probably should not pay out these final bills until the personal estate representative/ executor has settled the estate. A probate litigation attorney can help you sort through the details and determine the best way to protect your inheritance while still ensuring the estate meets its obligations. Continue reading

Altering a will to disinherit a family member is within anyone’s right, though it can lead to conflict. Probate litigation attorneys in South Florida at The Ansara Law Firm know there are ways to minimize the potential for warring family interests or a contested will after your death. contesting a will

Because contesting a will in Florida can be successful under a number of circumstances, ensuring your wishes will be followed as you have outlined requires working closely with a probate lawyer in drafting these changes.

Recently, the passing of a popular South Florida sports broadcaster sparked a fierce – and sadly public – feud between his adult children and his wife/ mother of his two youngest children, both minors. According to The News-Press in Fort Myers, the broadcaster wrote his oldest son and daughters from his first marriage out of his will in June 2015 – the day after receiving a stem cell transplant from his oldest son. He died about 1.5 years later, though his oldest didn’t learn of the change in his will until this past December, when his stepmother asked them to sign formal documents promising not to contest the will.  Continue reading

Any experienced probate litigation lawyer in South Florida is familiar with the stereotypical “evil stepmother” trope. It’s not necessarily that there may not be truth to it in some families, but it more often than not really comes down to the fact that in so many probate, estate and trust cases, the interests of the surviving spouse (more likely to be the stepmother) so often conflict with those of adult stepchildren. It’s fair to say that a significant portion – bordering on half – of contested wills, trust contests, life estate challenges, elder financial abuse allegations, deed revocations – involve some type of conflict between adult stepchildren and stepmothers.probate litigation

This is certainly not to say that stepmothers are “evil” in all or even most of these scenarios. What it does highlight is the fact that so many conflicts in matters of estate involve this dynamic and it’s indicative of the fact that an increasing number of families are blended and this inevitably can create long-simmering tension that can spill over into disputes over estate property, beneficiary rights to a trust or an inheritance.

The Pew Research Center reported just a couple years ago that in 1960, 73 percent of children were living in two-parent family households. By 2014, that figure dropped to 46 percent. The number of single-parent households rose from 9 percent to 26 percent during that time. Sixteen percent of children live in so-called “blended families,” with a stepparent, step-sibling or half-sibling. And of course, these figures reflect family structures in childhood; those single parents often go on to get married as the children get older or reach adulthood. There is also an increasing trend toward cohabitation among elderly paramours, which might further complicate matters legally. Continue reading

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