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Naples Law Blog

Florida developer wins zoning case

A Framingham developer won approval for a proposed subdivision with a new street along the streets of Winch and Grove Streets. The subdivision would include four single-family homes, and the land surrounding it would remain untouched. While the plans were approved, the subdivision will not be built.

According to reports, the developer applied for and gained zoning approval as a way to freeze the zoning laws so that he can build a much larger project of 70 senior living units. Developers are allowed to seek zoning approval so that they can freeze the projects under existing zoning laws. Since the proposed subdivision was approved, any changes that the city makes to its zoning bylaws will not have an impact on the site for eight years.

Have you read your own will lately?

Creating a will and putting other estate planning documents in place in an important part of determining the legacy that you want to leave behind and making your wishes understood to your loved ones.

Many of us put this off for a number of reasons, but eventually get around to creating our will and estate plan. While this is certainly better than never getting around to creating an estate plan at all, making the most of these legal tools requires returning to them from time to time and reviewing them for anything that needs updating.

Lawsuit filed over cellphone tower zoning issue

For some Florida businesses and homeowners, the construction of new projects like cellphone towers can lead to disputes over land use. One Florida-based mobile tower development company is appealing in Pennsylvania county court against the denial of an exception to construct a tower. Vertical Bridge Development LLC had sought an exception from the zoning hearing board in Doylestown to build a 120-foot mobile phone tower. While zoning board members expressed opposition to the aesthetics of the project, the company said that the tower was necessary to improve local wireless coverage.

Vertical Bridge wants the court to find that it is entitled to a special exemption from zoning rules that would allow it to construct the tower on property it leases. The tower is constructed in a manner resembling a tree, with antennas located at 95 feet and 105 feet that would aid in transmitting wireless signals for major cellphone companies. In addition, the company wants to tear down an unoccupied home currently located on the site. This would enable it to meet a regulation that only commercial property can share space with a mobile phone tower.

Proposed zoning changes in Florida

All over the state of Florida, there is controversy about the impact of zoning changes to existing neighborhoods. Many of these changes are occurring in Cape Coral City, and residences are expected to raise many concerns to the city council. Changes made to local zoning laws need to be approved through council hearings and then through the state land planning agency. According to the city manager, the proposed zoning changes are meant to make new building faster, fairer and more predictable.

According to a city planner involved with the issue, there are four main issues at debate: zoning codes, zoning maps to match new zoning districts, amendments to the comprehensive city plan and future land use maps. All of these changes need to be consistent with the existing city code. Many of the changes are designed to revitalize areas of the city that haven't seen economic activity in nearly two decades.

Probate and creating an estate plan

Some Florida residents who are planning for the future of their assets might want to avoid having their estates go through probate. One way to do this is by making heirs the co-owners of assets. However, the disadvantage here is that the co-owner also has access to those assets while the estate owner is still alive.

Another method is to use transfer-on-death provisions. However, many experts agree that the best way to avoid probate is with a revocable trust. Assets placed in this kind of trust can be distributed without having to go through probate.

Naples residents warily eye zoning requests

On the one hand, you have your house, your yard, your neighborhood and you want to protect your quality of life. On the other hand, affordable housing is scarce and people who work in your town can’t afford to live in your town.

When plans are announced to build apartment complexes comprised of hundreds of units in your backyard, what is a resident to do?

IRS files a claim against Aretha Franklin's estate

Florida residents may remember that Aretha Franklin passed away in August 2018 from cancer. According to the IRS, her estate owes over $6.3 million in unpaid income taxes from 2012 to 2018. The organization is one of many interested parties listed in documents that the singer's sons filed in Oakland County Probate Court. Specifically, the government says that the singer owes an estimated $2.1 million from 2015 and roughly $500,000 from 2016 and 2017.

The figures from 2016 and 2017 include taxes and fees on top of the original balance owed. It is not yet known how much in penalties and interest will be assessed for other tax years until the exact amounts owed are known. An additional claim was made for $1.5 million in taxes owed from 2010. An attorney for the estate says that it had paid $3 million in back taxes owed.

Tools available to avoid probate

Florida residents have many different options as it relates to transferring assets. Assets that are in the name of the deceased person only will have to go through probate unless other arrangements are made. For example, a beneficiary designation could be made on a home, car or investment account. This would trump any language in a will, and it would also allow for the asset to be transferred to the beneficiary when the current owner of the asset passes away.

The use of a transfer on death (TOD) designation on an asset such as real estate can be ideal for those who want to retain control of an asset while still alive. With such a designation, a child or other beneficiary would have no ownership interest in the property until after the current owner passes on. To create a beneficiary designation on a vehicle, an individual would need to follow a few basic instructions from the local DMV.

Preparing an estate plan for the death of both spouses

Following the death of George H.W. Bush just a few months after his wife's death, some Florida couples may have wondered how their estate plans would be affected if one died shortly after the after. Sometimes called "broken-heart syndrome," this is not an unusual occurrence when a couple has been together for a long time. There are steps people can take to help ensure that assets are still transferred smoothly even if this happens.

A survivorship provision requires a spouse to live for a certain amount of time after the death of the first spouse. With this in place, if spouses die just a few hours or days apart, it may be possible for their estates to pass through probate together. However, this would not have been useful in the case of the Bushes since there was a longer gap. In such a situation, there might be a question as to who assets will pass to. With a qualified disclaimer, the spouse can choose to waive a claim on assets so they go directly to the next beneficiary.

3 children of late singer Glen Campbell end estate dispute

Country music fans in Florida remember the hits of singer and songwriter Glen Campbell fondly. His passing in 2017, however, resulted in three of his children contesting the validity of his will that excluded them from any inheritance. The children have now chosen to dismiss their bid for a portion of their father's estate. Their legal filings did not explain their reason for dropping the matter.

Campbell's other five children and his wife, who was married to him for the last 34 years of his life, were the beneficiaries of his will that was completed in 2006. The three excluded children were born during Campbell's previous marriages. When they contested his will, they claimed that their father had lacked the mental capacity to create a valid will. Alzheimer's disease eventually led to his death.

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