FILLING THE BLANKS

RothLawAppeals, Trusts and EstatesLeave a Comment

The Florida Supreme Court found itself compelled to hold last month that a recently departed woman’s will did not pass all her property to the people she wanted to.  The reason for what the Court itself called an unfortunate result is simple.  The lady in question wrote her will using a preprinted form, and the resulting document did not actually do what she meant it to.

Justice Barbara Pariente wrote a very sensitive concurrence.  She used her time to acknowledge that legal services were not cheap, but reminded the people she serves that using supposed alternatives often turns out to be “penny-wise, pound-foolish.” 

The will that was the object of the Florida Supreme Court’s opinion was a simple will by most standards, one of a kind nicknamed “I love you wills,” meant to pass everything to the person closest to her.  But even that simple will, on a preprinted form, failed to carry out her intent because it was written in a way that did not cover property she acquired after it was executed.  Imagine, then, the situation created by more complex situations.  Maybe the beneficiaries are not the people closest to the decedent; or it is complicated by multiple marriages and divorces; or the estate planning, as should often be the case, includes one or more trusts calculated to best give effect to a person’s final wishes.  One would not download the blueprint for a new home off the internet.  The foundation to your loved ones’ future should not be laid without professional help either.

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