A recent story of an abandoned property may underscore for Florida readers what can happen if estate planning is avoided. A woman lived in her small 1100-square-foot home for many years. She shared the place with her husband until his death. The woman’s health declined over the ensuing years, and dementia set in. without any estate planning measures in place. She was well liked, but her health issues turned her ornery, and she refused to see a doctor.

She was cared for by a county home-care worker up until her house caught fire on July 4, 2007. A neighbor rescued the woman, but she ended up in a convalescent home at age 92 with no apparent heirs and a brother-in-law from Florida. Neighbors had tried to get her to sign a quit-claim deed to the woman who had been caring for her, but she refused. Five years later, her home is still abandoned.

The city of Los Angeles hired a private contractor take care of the property, which is surrounded by an 8-foot chain-link fence, which neighborhood residents find to be an eyesore.

The city is waiting for the home to go through probate, but probate cannot take place until a family member comes forward. However, with no apparent heirs, it could be a while before any progress is made. When the probate issues are finally resolved, Los Angeles anticipates reimbursement for its expenditures on a sale of the property as a lien protects its interest.

When the woman was in decent health, the execution of a last will and testament could have resolved some estate planning issues. By taking no steps to plan, an individual leaves the issue for others to deal with. As can be learned from this story and others like it, creating a comprehensive estate plan can go a long way toward ensuring your wishes are followed and relieve the burden from others.