Proper Execution of a Will and What Happens When a Will Is Lost?

Proper Execution of a Will and What Happens When a Will Is Lost?

Attorney Sam Tracy

A will cannot dispose of any of the decedent’s property until it is admitted to probate. In order for a will to be admitted to probate, it must be executed in accordance with the formalities required by Florida law. The testator must sign his will at the end in the presence of two attesting witnesses. The attesting witnesses must sign in the presence of each other and in the presence of the testator. If the testator attaches a self-proof of will, the will may be admitted to probate without further proof. Without a self-proof of will, an oath of one of the attesting witnesses may be required before the will is admitted to probate.

Related videos: The proper signing of a will and Best Practice signing of estate documents.

willWhat Happens When a Will Is Lost? Upon the testator’s death, if a will, executed by the testator and kept in his possession, cannot be found, there is a presumption, absent other evidence, that he destroyed it with the intention of revoking it. However, this presumption may be overcome and the will may be admitted to probate if an interested person is able to establish the full and precise terms of the lost or destroyed will. The content of the lost or destroyed will may be proven with a correct copy of the will and the testimony of one disinterested witness. Without a correct copy, the content may be established through the testimony of two disinterested witnesses.

Baskin Fleece handles all aspects of estate planning, probate administration, and litigation. To schedule an appointment with a BaskinFleece attorney, call (727) 572-4545. For more information about BaskinFleece, visit www.BaskinFleece.com.

Why Joint Accounts can Bypass Your Estate Planning

Estate planning caution: Upon the passing of one of the joint owners of an account, the account automatically passes to the other person. However that can have many unintended consequences – find how in this 2 minute video:

For help or answers to will and estate related questions, you can contact BaskinFleece at 727.572.4545.

Why is probate necessary and what qualifies as probate assets?

Beneficiaries of estate planningProbate is necessary to pass ownership of the decedent’s probate assets to the decedent’s beneficiaries. If the decedent left a valid will, unless the will is admitted to probate in the court, it will be ineffective to pass ownership of probate assets to the decedent’s beneficiaries. If the decedent had no will, probate is necessary to pass ownership of the decedent’s probate assets to those persons who are to receive them under Florida law.

Probate is also necessary to wind up the decedent’s financial affairs after his or her death. Administration of the decedent’s estate ensures that the decedent’s creditors are paid if certain procedures are correctly followed.

Probate asstetsWhat are probate assets? 

Probate assets are those assets that the decedent owned in his or her sole name at death, or that were owned by the decedent and one or more co-owners and lacked a provision for automatic succession of ownership at death.

Probate asset examples:

  • Probate courtA bank account or investment account in the sole name of a decedent is a probate asset, but a bank account or investment account owned by the decedent and payable on death or transferable on death to another, or held jointly with rights of survivorship with another, is not a probate asset.
  • Probate assets includes life insurance policiesA life insurance policy, annuity contract or individual retirement account that is payable to a specific beneficiary is not a probate asset, but a life insurance policy, annuity contract or individual retirement account payable to the decedent’s estate is a probate asset.
  • Real estate as probate assetReal estate titled in the sole name of the decedent, or in the name of the decedent and another person as tenants in common, is a probate asset (unless it is homestead property), but real estate titled in the name of the decedent and one or more other persons as joint tenants with rights of survivorship is not a probate asset.

This list is not exclusive, but is intended to be illustrative.

 

Some of the content of this information is courtesy of The Florida Bar and represents general legal advice. Because the law is continually changing, some provisions in this blog may be out of date. It is always best to consult an attorney about your legal rights and responsibilities in your particular case.

Fiduciary Duty of a Trustee

In this short, but informative video below, Jay Fleece of BaskinFleece, discusses the fiduciary duty of a Trustee and the pitfalls of being a Trustee if the inform and accounting duties are not properly reported. 

FYI – Trust administration is the process whereby assets and cash which were funded into a revocable or irrevocable trust during the decedent’s lifetime or “poured into the trust after his or her passing”, are marshaled/gathered and made ready for distribution to the beneficiaries named in the trust. Trust administration also requires the filing of a notice of trust with the probate court and is the process whereby creditors are paid, and after all state and federal tax returns are filed and all creditors and other administrative expenses are paid, the trustee makes a final distribution of the trust assets and cash.

For help or answers to will and estate related questions, you can contact BaskinFleece at 727.572.4545.

How is the Personal Representative of a Will Compensated and Professional Fees Determined?

The personal representative, the attorney, and other professionals whose services may be required in administering the probate estate (such as appraisers and accountants), are entitled by law to reasonable compensation.

Compensation for personal representativeEstate expenses: The personal representative’s compensation is usually determined in one of five ways: (1) as set forth in the will; (2) as set forth in a contract between the personal representative and the decedent; (3) as agreed among the personal representative and the persons who will bear the impact of the personal representative’s compensation; (4) the amount presumed to be reasonable as calculated under Florida law, if the amount is not objected to by any of the beneficiaries; or (5) as determined by the judge.

Personal representative compensationThe fee for the attorney for the personal representative is usually determined in one of three ways: (1) as agreed among the attorney, the personal representative, and the persons who bear the impact of the fee; (2) the amount presumed to be reasonable calculated under Florida law, if the amount is not objected to by any of the beneficiaries; or (3) as determined by the judge.

BaskinFleece was named one of the Best Law Firms in US News & World Report’s 2015 rankings, receiving a tier two distinction for the Tampa metro area in the field of trusts2015 Best Law firm and estates litigation. Firms included in the list are recognized for “professional excellence with persistently impressive ratings from clients and peers.” Selection is based on lawyer and client evaluations, peer review from leading attorneys, and review of additional information provided by the law firm. To be eligible, firms must also have at least one lawyer listed in the 19th edition of The Best Lawyers in America.

For help or answers to will and estate related questions, you can contact BaskinFleece at 727.572.4545.

Some of the content of this information is courtesy of The Florida Bar and represents general legal advice. Because the law is continually changing, some provisions in this blog may be out of date. It is always best to consult an attorney about your legal rights and responsibilities in your particular case.

How is Personal Representative Appointed?

The probate process can involve a clerk of the court, circuit court judge, personal representative or executor, an attorney, and/or the IRS. If the decedent had a valid will, the judge will appoint the person or institution named by the decedent in his or her will to serve as personal representative, as long as the named person or bank or trust company is legally qualified to serve. If the decedent did not have a valid will, the surviving spouse has the first right to be appointed by the judge to serve as personal representative. If the decedent was not married at his or her death, or if the decedent’s surviving spouse declines to serve, the person or institution selected by a majority in interest of the decedent’s heirs will have the second right to be appointed as personal representative. If the heirs cannot agree among themselves, the judge will appoint a personal representative after a hearing is held for that purpose. Contact BaskinFleece at 727.572.4545.

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Some of the content of this information is courtesy of The Florida Bar and represents general legal advice. Because the law is continually changing, some provisions in this blog may be out of date. It is always best to consult an attorney about your legal rights and responsibilities in your particular case.

Estate Planning: Can a Will Reduce Income Taxes?

Attorneys are best to handle assets from a trust

A well-drawn will can reduce estate and income taxes that may arise when someone dies. Estate taxes are often by far the largest cash expense an estate can have. There is also the possibility that Congress may increase the impact of the estate tax in the future. In addition, proper planning must be made for income tax advantages. Proper estate planning with a will is indispensable in taking these benefits in the tax codes. For help or answers to will and estate related questions, you can contact BaskinFleece at 727.572.4545.

 

The content of this information is courtesy of The Florida Bar and represents general legal advice. Because the law is continually changing, some provisions in this blog may be out of date. It is always best to consult an attorney about your legal rights and responsibilities in your particular case.