VanNess & VanNess, P.A.

Determining asset distribution of a decedent

When a Florida resident dies, his or her beneficiaries may enter into disputes over who should get the decedent's personal property. This may occur even if the decedent had a will or trust specifying what was to happen to that property. In some cases, the property may only hold sentimental value as opposed to being worth anything on the open market. Examples of sentimental items may include family pictures.

There are steps that can be taken to avoid such issues. First, it may be a good idea to have a conversation with family members prior to incapacity or death. Second, individuals may grant a trusted friend or relative the ability to act under a power of attorney over financial or health-related decisions. Another trusted individual should be named as executor of the estate or as trustee.

It is important to note that written plans are binding while oral plans may not be. Therefore, it is often a good idea to put into writing who gets certain property or what an individual's wishes may otherwise be. In fact, it may be even better to start making gifts or transferring assets while still alive to have greater control over how they are distributed to heirs and other beneficiaries.

Working with an attorney may make it easier when drafting estate planning documents. Legal counsel may be able to ensure that they are prepared and signed in accordance with state law. It may also be possible to make revisions or other amendments to documents that already exist. Regularly reviewing an estate plan may be beneficial as life events such as a divorce or the birth of a new child or grandchild may change what the owner wants to do.

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