A Tale of Forty Heirs

Do you have an estate plan?  We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: If you don’t have an estate plan, the State of Florida has one for you and it may not be the one you want.  The majority of Americans likely do not have a relevant and proper estate plan.

Not having a proper estate plan could require an unintended probate for those you leave behind.  Probate is not necessarily a bad thing and is very appropriate in many circumstances.  But let’s consider a case where a lack of planning resulted in unintended consequences for one family.

Jerry lived with his uncle, Arnold, in Arnold’s house. Jerry assisted in the home maintenance, cooking and general help. Arnold had no spouse and no children. It is probably safe to assume that Arnold wanted Jerry to inherit his home when he died. Arnold died without a will so his estate passed according to the intestacy laws of the State of Florida. Having left no spouse or children, it was necessary to go to the “family tree” to determine Arnold’s beneficiaries.

Jerry agreed to serve as the personal representative of his uncle’s estate. An heir search company was hired to locate the beneficiaries of the estate, Arnold’s intestate heirs. The result: over forty (40) beneficiaries were determined to exist in at least four (4) different countries. It took several years to administer the estate. Arnold’s house is now owned by over forty individuals. Jerry is not even one of them. Where does Jerry live now? Who pays the property tax? Who does the yardwork? Who is in charge of the house? Probably not the outcome Arnold really wanted. Prior planning could have avoided this result.

Don’t let this happen to you. With proper estate planning and counselling, you can minimize unintended consequences, leave your legacy how you want, to whom you want, and the way you want.

The Law Offices of Hoyt & Bryan assists families in the protection of their loved ones by focusing their practice in the areas of Estate Planning, Probate and Trust Administration, Elder Law including Medicaid and VA Planning and Special Needs Planning, Pet Planning, Business Succession Planning and Real Estate.  The founders, Peggy Hoyt and Randy Bryan, are both dual board certified by the Florida Bar in Wills, Trusts and Estates as well as Elder Law.  Hoyt & Bryan is the only law firm in Florida with the distinction of two attorneys with these certifications. We offer many complimentary educational workshops each week in our Learning Center at The Law Offices of Hoyt & Bryan and monthly workshops in the Auditorium of One Senior Place in Altamonte Springs. For more information please contact our office at 407-977-8080 or visit our website HoytBryan.com.