How Can I Contest a Will?

Challenging a will is not an easy thing because the court views a will as the last wishes and voice of the decedent. Anyone who may have something to gain from the estate has a right to contest a will, but they must have the grounds to do so.

A person may challenge a will based on one or more of the following criteria:

contest a will–          Lack of testamentary capacity: When a will is challenged on this ground, it is usually on the basis that the decedent suffered from some kind of mental incapacity, such as senility, dementia, insanity, or was under the influence of a mind-altering substance. Minors are not considered to have testamentary capacity unless they are married or serve in the military. The witnesses who signed the will usually will testify as to whether or not the decedent had testamentary capacity at the time the will was written.
–          Fraud, forgery, or undue influence: You may contest a will on this ground if the decedent was manipulated into leaving all or much of the estate to the manipulator.
–          New Trumps Old: If there is a newer, valid will than the one going through the probate process, then the new will trumps the current will. This is why dates on wills are so important.
–          Validity: In Florida, the will must be signed by two witnesses. If the will is not considered valid according to Florida state law, then you have grounds to contest it.

If you think you have grounds to contest a will currently going through probate, then you should contact a probate attorney to discuss your rights.

*Image courtesy of Stockfreeimages.com

Why Should You Hire an Attorney as Your Real Estate Closing Agent?

A real estate closing is the final transaction of real property between buyer and seller. On the closing date, the property is officially transferred from buyer and seller, but there is much more to the closing process than meets the eye.

It is a good idea to hire a real estate attorney to assist you with:

Closing Agent–          Reviewing and negotiating specific terms of contracts, such as the purchase and sale agreement.
–          Requesting title searches, surveys, mortgage payoff letters, condominium and homeowner’s association documents for the property, etc.
–          Preparing or evaluating all legal documents for the closing, such as the warranty deed, title policy, mortgage, HUD-1 settlement or closing statements, and more.
–          Properly recording all documents.

If the title search is not done correctly or there are missing documents, the buyer could end up with unknown liens or encumbrances on the property that will become their responsibility.

Under Florida law, it is a third-degree felony for anyone besides a lawyer to give legal advice, including realtors and title companies. This means that if anything goes wrong during the closing process, and legal action needs to be taken, you could incur an overwhelming additional cost. In order to protect yourself and your investment, you should hire an attorney as your closing agent so that if any problems occur, they can be resolved in a reasonable amount of time with minimal additional costs.

*Image courtesy of Stockfreeimages.com

Family Petition for Citizenship

Family PetitionOne of the paths to U.S. Citizenship can be in the form of a family petition. U.S. Citizens and Legal Permanent Residents (LPRs) may petition for relatives to immigrate to the United States. U.S. Citizens may petition for parents, spouses, siblings, and children. LPRs may petition only for spouses and children.

Grandparents, aunts, uncles, in-laws, and cousins cannot sponsor a relative for immigration, and you must be at least 21 years old to petition for a parent.

There are two different categories when filing a family petition: immediate relatives and family preference categories. There is an unlimited amount of visas available for “immediate relatives” of U.S. Citizens. These include unmarried children under 21, spouses, parents, and widows/widowers under certain circumstances.

Family preference categories are subject to a limited number of visas. If the total number of qualified applicants exceeds the number of available visas, then applications are put on a wait and processed in the order they were received.

The length of time to process the petitions varies from case to case. Mistakes on the application, failing to follow instructions, and missing documentation can delay the process. An immigration attorney can help you through this process by ensuring that you apply for the right visa category and that all of your paperwork is filled out correctly.

If you choose to petition without an attorney, mistakes may be made and your petition could potentially be delayed or denied.

*Image courtesy of Stockfreeimages.com

If your home is NOT a Short Sale, Say So!

NOT a short saleIf you are selling your home and it is not a short sale, say so on the listing.

Because of the housing crash and foreclosure crisis, short sales have gotten a bad rap for taking too long to close. Banks are getting better about approving short sales, but it usually takes weeks or months, and, in some cases, buyers become so frustrated that they back out of the deal.

A study by real estate professors at Florida International University and University of Southern Mississippi shows that by advertising your real estate property listing as “NOT A SHORT SALE,” it will sell quicker and for more money. The study concluded that, on average, homes advertised as not short sales sold eight weeks faster and sold for 2-5 percent more.

Source: Sun Sentinal

Weird Wills Part 2

Celebrity Fever

Audrey Jean Knauer, who died in 1997, left $300,000 to her favorite celebrity, Charles Bronson, whom she had never met in person. Her family contested the legality of the will, but in the end, Bronson ended up taking $150,000 from the stranger he had never met before, claiming that he planned to donate it to charity.

“Beam Me up, Scotty”

When Gene Roddenberry, the creator of the original Star Trek series, died, his ashes were flown into space on a Spanish satellite and shot out as the satellite orbited earth, per his request.

(Wo)man’s best friend

Carlotta Liebstein, a German citizen who died in 1991, left 139 million Deutschmarks to her dog Gunther III and his heir, Gunther IV.

weird willsInanimate Heir

Leo Tolstoy, the famous Russian Novelist who died in 1910, left all of his possessions to the stump of a tree in his will.

Pringles

Frederic Baur, the creator of Pringles who died in 2008, requested through his will that his ashes be interred in an empty Pringle container. His children were wary of the request but followed their father’s wishes.

What weird things would YOU put in your will?

Leave a comment or email us. We’ll post the best answers next month.