Guardianship And Estate Planning: Who Is In Charge?
December 1, 2011
A recent court decision in another state underscores why it is important for Florida residents to engage in careful estate planning, including the necessity of periodically checking to ensure that existing plans still meet the needs of the parties involved.
In the case, an estate named an executor and alternative executor, along with a two irrevocable trusts. When all was said and done, an appeals court decided a lower court had gotten involved where it was not necessary, and simply directed the judge to follow what the deceased person had originally planned.
The original 1992 will designated the deceased’s wife as executor and named his niece as the alternate executor. When the man died in 2008, he had outlived his wife and one of his two sons. The son who died was divorced and had twin daughters. The niece, acting as executor, established two irrevocable trusts for the twins and arranged for the shares to be delivered to herself and the surviving son as trustees. The ex-wife instead moved to compel distribution directly to each beneficiary.
A guardian appointed for the twins disagreed with each proposal and suggested the court appoint a corporate trustee, which the lower court judge did. Ultimately, the appellate court ruled that the judge had overstepped his bounds, determining there were no grounds for the twins’ mother to challenge the fitness of the niece’s actions as executor. The appellate court held there was no evidence that bad feelings would interfere with the administration of the trusts.
This case demonstrates how complicated estate planning issues can become in a family setting, whether in Florida or someplace else. It also shows that courts will give strong credence to the wishes of the deceased and the individuals appointed to act on behalf of the estate.