Gary Coleman’s death is a lesson to us all
As reported in the press, Gary Coleman made a will while he was married giving his estate to his wife. He then reportedly divorced. What is the probable disposition of his estate? Most states, including Florida, provide that a divorce voids any any provision in a will for a former spouse, who is treated as if he or she died at the time of the divorce. If a person wishes to provide for a former spouse after divorce a person must make a new will. In Gary Coleman’s case his estranged parents will inherit his estate. Because Gary and his parents were estranged the end result is probably something that Gary would not desire. What if Gary Coleman had made a trust which made gifts to his spouse? Would those gifts be void if they divorced? Yes, the Florida Trust Code provides that any provision in a trust for a former spouse is voided by a divorce, and that the former spouse is treated as if he or she died at the time of the divorce. What is the lesson here? Keep up with your estate planning documents as changes occur in your life.
Estate tax is a matter of timing
A Texas tycoon who died in 2010 may be the first American billionaire to pass his fortune to his children and grandchildren tax-free. Had he died in 2009 his $9 Billion fortune would be taxed at the 45% rate. Had he died in 2011 the tax would be at the 55% rate. Because Congress allowed the tax to lapse for one year, the billionaire’s four children and four grandchildren stand to collect billions that in any other year would have gone to the US Treasury. The 2010 estate tax lapse is apparently on the minds of many people. A recent Law and Order television segment dramatized extending the lives of terminally ill persons so they would die in 2010 to take advantage of the estate tax lapse. To read a full report on the Texas billionaire in the New York Times go to http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/09/business/09estate.html?emc=etal
Ask Bob Dear Bob,
My elderly aunt recently decided to alter her estate planning documents. She has a will made in 1998 which gifts her entire estate to my sister and me. She then made a will in 2005 which gifts one half of her estate to a male friend, and the other one half to my sister and me. She has had a falling out with her male friend and she destroyed the will she made in 2005. Does this mean that the will she made in 1998 is her valid will? My sister and I are the daughter of my aunt’s deceased sister and her only blood relations, except for a brother of my aunt who lives in Nevada and seldom has contact with my aunt. Thank you, Vivian from Naples. Dear Vivian, Florida statutes section 732.508 provides that if your aunt destroys her 2005 will the 1998 will is not revived. If your aunt does destroy the 2005 will she then dies “intestate”, meaning that she dies without a will. One half of her estate will be inherited by her brother who lives in Nevada, and your sister and you will inherit one-quarter each of the estate. If your aunt desires to give her entire estate to your sister and you she must make a new will. Contrast this result with a case where the 2005 will is challenged because it is not properly signed, for some other reason it is found to be invalid by a court of law after your aunt’s death, rather than being revoked by her before her death. In such a case the 1998 will would be valid under the doctrine of “dependent relative revocation” which provides that if a will which a person intended to make is invalid an earlier will is honored if it can be shown the maker of the will would have intended to have the earlier will be their last will if the later will is invalid. Complicated? Yes, but this area of the law is very complex. People must pay attention to their estate planning.
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