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Author: Matthew Shapiro

Estate planning is crucial to securing the future and protecting the assets of your loved ones. In recent times, the proliferation of “do-it-yourself” (DIY) will kits and online services have offered seemingly convenient and cost-effective ways to create a will. However, while these DIY options appear accessible, they often harbor significant risks and limitations that […]

Estate planning includes decisions related to healthcare. In Florida, living wills and healthcare surrogates are essential tools for ensuring that your medical wishes are honored when you cannot express them yourself. In this blog post, we will explore the purpose and significance of living wills and healthcare surrogates, highlighting their benefits and key considerations when creating these documents.
A will is a legal document that outlines how a person's assets will be distributed after their death. It is a crucial document for anyone who wants to ensure that their wishes are followed and their assets are distributed as they intended. However, the validity of a will can be called into question if it is not an original document. This is because there is a legal presumption that when an original will cannot be found (and was last in the possession of the testator) that it was intentionally destroyed. This presumption can have significant implications for the distribution of assets and may lead to a legal dispute, resulting in additional costs, delays, and stress for loved ones.
The third spousal right for discussion is “elective share.”  Absent a valid waiver of spousal rights, the elective share serves as a floor for inheritance. It presents a surviving husband or wife with the opportunity to make sure they receive at least thirty percent of the deceased spouse’s “augmented estate” or “elective estate.”  A keen reader may notice the absence of the phrase “probate estate.”  This is because the elective share applies to more than just assets that pass-through probate and which are controlled by a Last Will and Testament.  The augmented estate includes a large swath of assets, including property held in a revocable trust, jointly held property, property with a right of survivorship, and certain property transferred prior to death. 
The second of several rights enjoyed by a surviving spouse (absent a proper, formal waiver) is that of “family allowance.”  Family allowance is the concept that the surviving spouse and certain “lineal heirs” of the decedent the are entitled to money during probate administration.  The policy behind family allowance is to private ongoing financial support, for those who need it, while a decedent’s assets are tied up in probate. 
Clients and their children are often shocked to learn that a surviving spouse has certain minimum rights to the deceased spouse’s property under Florida law.  These rights exist by virtue of marriage and can only be waived in a very particular manner.  They include the right to inheritance as a “pretermitted spouse, family allowance, elective share, homestead, and preference in appointment as personal representative.  For part one of this multi-part blog, I will address the concept of a pretermitted spouse and family allowance.
The holidays are here.  A time for family, for friends, and for gathering around the table to feast.  But what would a gathering be without certain taboo topics?  No, not politics.  I’m talking about inheritance and estate planning.  Who is in the Will, who has been omitted, and who has work to do if they want to stay off the naughty list? 
When it comes to estate planning, the primary goal of most clients is to eliminate the need for probate.  Although a jack of all trades, probate is primarily a court proceeding designed to lawfully transfer certain assets previously owned by a deceased person.  Probate is by no means a terrible undertaking, but it can be costly and time consuming.  The good news is that not all assets need pass through probate.
Under Florida law, a personal representative (sometimes referred to as an “executor”) has a duty to pursue a wrongful death action on behalf of the decedent’s estate and the decedent’s survivors. There are two key takeaways from this edict.
Following the tragic collapse of Champlain Towers South in Surfside, substantial scrutiny will be applied to the condominium association’s board of directors, and perhaps rightfully so. But as an attorney who focuses a large portion of his practice on condominium law (I have the thinning hair to prove it), I would say this catastrophe is merely a symptom of the greater disease – a broken system asking too much from its directors.