VanNess & VanNess, P.A.

Crystal River Florida Legal Blog

The importance of appointing an alternate personal representative

Just as in seemingly every aspect of life, a "Plan B" is essential when it comes to estate planning.

Appointing a personal representative to oversee your estate in the event you pass away is crucial to ensuring that your wishes are carried out in accordance with your will or other estate planning documents.

However, if when you pass away the person you appointed can no longer serve or is unwilling to assume the responsibilities of a personal representative, that person can decline the appointment.

If you have not named an alternate personal representative to take on these responsibilities, the court will appoint someone else. It could be a person you would not necessarily have chosen.

Why you should update your estate plan after moving to Florida

Florida is an attractive state for retirees. Between the lack of state income tax and the tropical weather, it’s understandable why many Americans would choose to enjoy their golden years in the sunshine state.

However, while many may have their sights set on Florida, they may not know that they need to get their estate plans reevaluated after moving. Here are a few issues that out-of-state estate plans may have in Florida.

Talking to your future heirs

When it comes time to talk about what you will leave behind, everyone takes a different approach and for their own reasons. You may want to leave your estate plan a surprise, or you may want to have regular family meetings on the subject.

You may fear that if you have an open discussion about your estate plan, you will have to deal with family members arguing or trying to bargain with you about what they will get. With the right approach, however, you may be able to have a thoughtful discussion that will make it easier to plan and distribute your estate.

Are pedestrians ever at fault for an accident?

Throughout a lifetime, most people have been on both sides of the situation. Most of us have been the pedestrian jogging across the street, trying to make the most of the crosswalk light that (probably) changed while crossing. Most of us have also been the driver, forced to slam on the brakes for someone who was not paying attention.

Thankfully, most of the scenarios like this that play out every day only result in frustration. For a few, however, the same situation ends in damage and injuries.

Estate planning that includes your digital assets

Estate planning that includes your digital assets is evidence of how quickly our world is changing. Over the last few decades and certainly in recent years, digital files and methods of storage have changed dramatically. Where you once had CDs and VHS tapes, you now have images, movies, and even more electronic and digital formats stored on your cell phone, computer, and in the "cloud". While we all appreciate the ease of access, it brings up the question of what happens to the electronic files and digital assets we possess when we pass away.

When you meet with an attorney to discuss your estate plan, it's possible that digital assets are part of what you want to pass on to the next generation. You may have imagined your great-grandchildren inheriting your collection of DVDs and music so they can enjoy them just as much as you did. In the interest of saving space you currently have them stored in online accounts.

Car accidents involving self-driving cars

Car accidents involving self-driving cars are all over the news. Earlier this year, a Tesla Model S was in "autopilot" when it crashed into and killed a pedestrian on a Florida roadway. The vehicle not only failed to stop at a stop sign, it also plowed into a parked car at the same three-way stop intersection. While this particular accident is still under investigation, there have been other devastating problems with the autonomous driving features on newer cars.

The idea of self-driving cars sounds exciting. After all, vehicles don't daydream, and they certainly don't have to control the antics of children in the backseat. However, car accidents involving self-driving cars call into question - who is actually to blame? What obligations do the "drivers" of these cars owe to drivers and passengers of other vehicles sharing the road? Is the "driver" of an autonomous vehicle liable for the injuries caused to others in an accident? Who really bears the responsibility when technology takes over?

Avoiding car accidents with summer road trip safety

Avoiding car accidents with summer road trip safety. We all know that one of the great things about summer is the opportunity to explore the country. Unlike vacations at other times of the year, the kids are out of school and there is no rush to get home so they don't miss class time.

With extra time on the road and many like-minded travelers speeding by, you are at a greater risk for a car accident. It's important to stay safe as you take to the open road on exciting adventures.

Estate planning and the risks of writing your own Will

Estate planning and the risks of writing your own Will bear discussion. The internet is full of websites ready to sell you a template to write your own Will, which seems easy enough to accomplish by yourself. Determining what goes into your Will must surely be as simple as taking an inventory of what you have, and then deciding who will get it when you pass away. 

Writing your own Will, however, is not a do-it-yourself project. Many factors make writing a Will more complicated than you realize. For starters, if you don't follow the laws of your state, or any irregularities in the signing of your Will arise, a court could determine that your Will is invalid. Your estate would then be handled as if you had no Will at all. The court will name who handles your estate, and determine who inherits your assets - not only in what order, but also how much each beneficiary will receive. 

Estate Administration begins with appointing the right personal representative

Estate administration begins with appointing the right personal representative. Remember this when you consider your Last Will and Testament. Along with creating a valid estate plan, naming a trusted personal representative is critical to ensuring your wishes are followed when you pass away because you will not be around to speak for yourself. 

The responsibility of the administration of an estate rests solely on the personal representative (someone appointed by the Court if there is no Will, the person named as the PR in a Will, or an alternate if the appointee is unable, unwilling, or not qualified to serve). The personal representative will act at the direction of a qualified attorney. The probate court oversees the administration process to ensure the estate is handled according to Florida law. If you create a valid estate plan, safeguards are in place so assets are distributed according to your wishes. If a person dies without a Will in Florida, a personal representative is appointed by the Court to handle the administration of the estate. You take the risk that this person may not be someone you would have chosen while you were alive.  

Estate planning to reduce probate assets

Estate planning to reduce probate assets is a worthy goal. After all, you spend a lifetime working to acquire assets that can be passed on to upcoming generations. As you establish your legacy and contemplate the future of your loved ones, it is important to consider what to include in your estate planning portfolio. You can discuss this with an experienced attorney, and also learn what your loved ones will need to do after you pass away.

The thought of your estate going into probate may seem intimidating, causing you to seek an estate plan that avoids the probate process. 

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