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Naples Law Blog

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.

When to seek guardianship for an aging parent?

As your parents age, you have likely started to notice little changes in their behaviors. Maybe you noticed your mom forgot to take her medications or you dad didn’t pay the electric bill this month. Sometimes incidents like these are regular accidents, but sometimes they are signs of a parent’s deteriorating health.

If you have noticed signs of a parent’s deteriorating health, you may be wondering when is the right time to start taking over some of their responsibilities. There are several legal ways to do this, but you may be met with some resistance from your parent, who might view these changes as a loss of freedom. While it is important to work with your parent to maintain his or her freedom as long as possible, there is a point in which it is no longer in his or her best interest and you may need to consider petitioning for guardianship.

Dealing with the Florida probate process

Probate is the process of administering, organizing and sorting a person's estate after he or she dies. In cases where the person leaves a will, he or she is said to have died testate; without a will, the decedent is intestate. Florida law governs the probate process either way, and the probate court will administer, supervise and distribute the estate. Typically, the executor of the estate is named in the will.

If an executor is not named in the will, one will be appointed by the probate court. Probate begins when the executor puts forth the will for probate. The will should be probated with the court where the decedent owned real property or lived. The time required to complete the probate process varies from case to case, depending on factors like the number of debts and taxes outstanding, the number of heirs, the size of the estate and whether the will is being contested. The probate process is usually complete within 24 months after the date the person dies. In cases where the will is contested or there are lawsuits associated with probate, the process could take several years or decades.

Legal issues for small businesses

Owning a small business in Florida can be exciting. However, finding success also involves a lot of work. Most business owners have invested a lot of time, money and effort to see that their projects grow and expand.

Because of the stakes involved, it's important for business owners to be prepared in case a threat arises at some point in time. You should know how to address obstacles head-on before they can grow into larger problems. Being able to negotiate your position in contracts is also important so that you can secure provisions that protect your interests.

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