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Pensacola Family & Estate Planning Legal Blog

Who is considered next of kin when it comes to an estate plan?

Intestacy brings with it a whole slew of problems. People who believe they are entitled to a piece of the pie in terms of a deceased person's assets need to meet next of kin requirements outlined under Florida law. This is one of the reasons that having an estate plan is so important and the reason that dying without a will causes so much chaos in most families.

Firstly, if the deceased has a spouse and he or she doesn't have any descendants, the assets will go to the spouse once everything passes through probate. If the deceased has descendants that aren't related to the surviving spouse such as kids from a prior relationship, for instance, the spouse will get half of the probated estate while descendants will get the other half. Things can become a little complicated from here.

Does military deployment affect divorce rates?

Being a member of the military can be rewarding, but it can also be stressful on relationships. Florida couples who have one or both spouses on active duty may find it difficult to maintain open lines of communication, especially during times of deployment. It would seem that married military couples may head to divorce court more often than their civilian counterparts, but statistics show that's not necessarily true and may even be less likely to occur.

There are a number of reasons this may be true. For one thing, the military encourages marriage and service members have a steady income, benefits and additional support for their families. There are sections of the military, however, that these things don't seem to apply so readily. The divorce rate rises when the military spouse is a woman.

Reviewing your estate plan upon divorce

Divorce brings many changes into one's life. Among the many issues you will have to deal with, reevaluating your estate plan ranks fairly high.

One issue to consider is that your financial situation may now change significantly. During property division, you may have to split some assets and sell others. You may also have to factor in ongoing alimony or child support payments you have to make in the coming years. As such, the composition of your potential estate at this time can change. Thus, you may want to start by reviewing and updating any list of assets included with your will.

Parental responsibility: Putting off divorce for kids not wise

Putting off divorce for the kids' sake may not be the wisest move. In exercising parental responsibility, Florida parents have to weigh in on what is in the best interests of their children, and that may be not remaining together as a couple. Putting divorce on hold for the kids' sake may not be what is best for them at all, especially if they're living in a world of animosity, hostility and anger.

No one gets excited about divorce. It's often painful and filled with raw emotions, but staying in a situation that is negative for everyone involved may be worse in the long run. Many parents, especially of younger children, may feel guilty believing they will be tearing the family apart by separating, but experts say staying together for the children will not repair a broken marriage. Many children are, in fact, happier when their parents have ended an unhappy union.

What counts as marital property in a Florida divorce

If you are facing a divorce in Florida, asset division is among the many important issues you need to handle. Generally, the rule is that the spouses keep their respective separate assets and divide marital assets in an equitable way. 

Figuring out which assets are marital can present some complicated questions, especially when those assets are high-value or complex. In some cases, a spouse may attempt to conceal income or property to avoid division. Courts tend to penalize this type of conduct quite heavily.

Some celebrities have made costly estate planning mistakes

The estates of some of the rich and famous can go far in teaching a lesson in how not to plan for one's death. When it comes to estate planning, Florida residents can learn a lot when looking at the estates of celebrities like Michael Jackson, Prince, Whitney Houston and Aretha Franklin. None of them had all-encompassing estate plans and left their heirs losing out on millions of dollars because of it.

One of the primary lessons learned from these estates is that assets don't have to have an exact evaluation, but there should at least be an estimation of their value. This is especially true if the deceased had special circumstances connected to some of these assets like patents, valuable art pieces or expensive antiques. At least Michael Jackson had two well-known attorneys acting as executors of his estate and not someone without the legal acumen to administer the estate.

Will substitutes can be assets in Florida estate planning

Having a well-rounded estate plan can mean the difference between angst and peace of mind for loved ones and other beneficiaries. A will is an important component of estate planning in Florida; however, there are some substitutes that can be used when it comes to property. This type of property can be transferred without being probated.

There are different types of will substitutes when it comes to property. Property can be held in joint tenancy or a living trust could be set up to allow a property like a cottage or income property to sidestep probate. There is also tenancy by entirety for married couples in which the co-owner of the property has a right of survivorship, so the property is automatically transferred to the spouse upon the death of the other owner. The same can be accomplished between individuals who are not married through a tenancy in common with right of survivorship.

Making divorce less painful for high-worth couples in Florida

A businesswoman has taken it upon herself to try to ease the pain of marital breakups. She is the CEO and founder of a website/app that aims to make divorce easier on couples, including high-net worth couples. This may be of help to Florida spouses who are finding going through a divorce to be a miserable experience and who may need assistance organizing their affairs. 

The service she is offering is not meant to be competitive, but rather to be a tool for people going through a divorce and for other professionals who help them. The site offers tools such as worksheets to take stock of assets and debts. It also gives family and relationship information based on a set of questions it asks users; allows for easy calculations of family income and living expenses -- something that is required for alimony payments and child support. 

Does collaborative law work for high-asset divorces?

Thanks to media coverage of high-profile divorce cases, it may appear that divorce among the wealthy means thousands of dollars spent on litigation that lasts for years. This costly, lengthy process brings out the worst in the parties involved.

Perhaps you have heard of alternative methods, specifically collaborative law. You want to try it but you are unsure if it works for divorces with numerous, complex assets. The good news is that the collaborative approach can be effective for high-asset cases.

Does a single mom have to name dad on birth certificate?

Not all birth certificates include the name of the child's father. Many people in Florida may believe that it is a parental responsibility to name the father; however, what many people don't know is that the father has to be in agreement with his name being on a birth certificate if the couple aren't married. He also has to sign the certificate on which he's named.

There could be a good reason why the father should be included on a child's birth certificate. It may actually be in the best interests of the child. For example, if the child's father dies, the child could possibly receive death benefits from Social Security. What it doesn't mean is that it would be easier for the father to obtain custody of the child since he could petition for custody at any time, based on the child's best interests, even if he's not on the birth certificate. Paternity, of course, would have to be formally established first.

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