Plenty of people aren’t exactly excited to talk about their own deaths, but it’s vital that you prepare for what will happen when you’re gone. That includes by planning how your assets and property will be divided. The recent passing of soul music legend Aretha Franklin shows what can happen when a person dies without an estate plan.
Franklin passed away at her Detroit home in August at the age of 76, following a battle with pancreatic cancer. The 18-time Grammy award winner was known for her iconic voice and a long string of hits, which started after she was noticed by a music producer in New York at the age of 18. She left behind a lifetime of musical inspiration, but she didn’t pass a long a will, trust or any other instructions for how her $80 million estate should be divided.
That means Franklin’s estate will have to go through what can be a lengthy legal process called probate. The process is designed as a way to gather all the deceased person’s assets, identify and pay any legitimate creditors and distribute the remaining property. It’s also an opportunity for anyone who says he she is entitled to a piece of the estate to come forward and make their case.
The probate process typically starts when a personal representative—someone designated to act on behalf of the deceased person—files a petition in local court. A judge assigned to the case will then request the representative to provide a wide and comprehensive range of information regarding Franklin’s assets and debts. The judge will eventually also determine how those assets should be divided, in accordance with state law, after any debts are paid.
The Importance of Having a Will or Trust
The probate process can be streamlined by making a will before you die. It can be avoided largely or altogether by opting for a living trust instead of a will. Either option allows a person to clearly indicate who gets what assets when you pass away.
South Floridians who want to plan how their estates will be settled can go a long way by consulting a Miami probate lawyer to consider drafting a will and/or using a living trust to avoid probate administration. If you die without a will, your assets will be distributed to your heirs in a line of priority established by Florida law. Surviving spouses are first in line, followed by descendants like children, grandchildren and parents.
Contact a Miami Probate Lawyer at Hoffman & Hoffman P.A. Today
If you or a loved one is considering changing or drafting a will or trust agreement, it’s important to seek the counsel of a seasoned legal professional. An attorney guide you through the legal process, ensuring that you understand your rights and options every step of the way.
Hoffman & Hoffman is a South Florida estate planning law firm whose attorneys help people manage their assets and decide how property will be distributed in the event of their death. We are pleased to represent clients throughout South Florida, including in Ft. Lauderdale, West Palm Beach and Coconut Grove. Contact us to speak with an attorney today.