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New Probate Laws Open the Door to More Florida Lawsuits

New laws went into effect in Florida this fall that change the way estates are divided in the event that the deceased did not leave a will and offer opportunity for descendants to have the will reinterpreted by the courts.

In most cases, the spouse of the deceased will be left with everything after all of the debts and taxes are paid. This changes the old Florida law that split the estate among the surviving spouse and the surviving children.

In the event that the deceased had children who are not descendants of the surviving spouse, they will now get half of the remaining estate, according to Florida law.

These rules could mean an increased number of lawsuits filed by family members who claim to know the intent of the deceased despite the lack of a will. Since the laws changed, wills that had not been amended since the new laws went into effect will come under closer scrutiny.

The two most significant changes to the law concern the change in the surviving spouse’s inheritance and the court’s ability to change a will if someone presents a case that the will does not represent the intent of the deceased.

If the deceased had no will, then the surviving spouse now will inherit the entire estate if all of the children belong to both the deceased and the surviving spouse. Previously, the surviving spouse would get $60,000 and the other monies would go to the rest of the estate. Portions of the old law continue to apply if there is a surviving child outside of that marriage.

The other significant change in Florida probate law that went into effect this year allows the court to change the will – even if it was unambiguous – if the interested party can prove the intent of the deceased was different from what was in the will.

This could potentially open the doors to many new lawsuits. The law change even says, “In determining the testator’s original intent, the court may consider evidence relevant to the testator’s intent even though the evidence contradicts an apparent plain meaning of the will.”

Probate in Florida includes paying the debt of the deceased as well as taxes and, in some cases, funeral expenses. This occurs before the family or other heirs receive their inheritance. Often this process takes as long as a year (or more) and is handled by Florida circuit courts.

An experienced attorney can help put together a will that serves the exact wishes of a client. But that will needs to be revisited annually to make sure that it is still up to date. In many cases, the attorney can develop an estate plan to minimize probate or avoid it entirely.

Brandon estate planning attorney Reginald Osenton has experience helping clients develop wills, trusts, living wills and power of attorney documentation. He also has experience in helping clients avoid probate, or in helping family members probate estates throughout Florida.

Shiobhan Olivero is the Owner and President of Olivero Law If you need a Brandon estate planning lawyer, Tampa estate planning lawyer, or Tampa estate planning attorney, call 813.654.5777 or visit Brandonlawoffice.com.

Posted on Tuesday, December 27th, 2011 at 2:11 pm under News and Press.
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Five Tips to Surviving the Holidays When Splitting Child Custody

The holidays can be a stressful time for a family in even the best years. But when a family has broken up, the tension can strip all joy from the season.

A divorce can be emotionally exhausting and can make the holiday season practically unbearable. All of this can be unfair to the children of a divorce. But there are some things to keep in mind as the holidays approach that can help calm the storm.

Here are five tips to help your children enjoy the holidays and help you survive through January.

1. Have a strategy. As much as possible, plan out where everyone will be and when so that your children will know what to expect and the other parent can plan his or her schedule as well. Be on time with planned phone calls and pick ups and drop offs.

2. Stay connected. Keep in touch with the other parent so that you are not overlapping gifts or giving the children presents that are forbidden to have. It is important to know what is going on with the children when they are not with you in order to be a good parent to them when they are with you.

3. Focus on the children. Remember that the children like parties and presents and seeing their cousins that they only get to see a couple of times a year and they should get to enjoy that. Try to surround young children with things that they know – especially if this is the first holiday since the divorce.

4. Be positive. It will hurt your ability to negotiate with the other parent if it gets back to them that you have been speaking unkindly about them. Since your family will be around the children, too, remind them to stay positive about your children’s other parent in front of the kids. It may be your dad’s instinct to make remarks about the other parent under his breath. Or it may be in your sister’s nature to want to discuss all of the details of how the marriage ended. But it is your job to tell your family that all comments about the family around the kids need to be upbeat.

5. Start some new traditions. Your children will miss the old traditions you had as a family. That is natural and you may miss them, too. But use this as an opportunity to start some new celebrations. Let your children help to design some of these new holiday rituals so that they can take some ownership of them.

Shiobhan Olivero is the Owner and President of Olivero Law If you need a Brandon child custody attorney, Tampa divorce lawyer, or Tampa family law attorney, call 813.654.5777 or visit Brandonlawoffice.com.

Posted on Tuesday, December 13th, 2011 at 2:15 pm under Divorce and Family Law.
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