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Strange probate litigation ends up in Florida appellate court

Everyone know that courts are in place to resolve disputes. Given the costs, administrative headaches and public nature of those courts, however, most disputes brought before them are high dollar matters. Nevertheless, probate litigation is still an area where less financially charged conflicts are being fought.

For instance, a Florida appellate court recently heard a case concerning the disposition of a person’s ashes. The 23-year-old had been killed in a car accident. He was not married, had no kids and did not leave a will. Since his parents were divorced, a dispute arose between them as to who would get possession of the ashes and how they would be distributed.

The father argued that the ashes were property and should be divided between him and the mother. The mother, on the other hand, cited religious reasons for not dividing the ashes and argued they were not property which could be split. The court ultimately agreed with the mother and granted a limited possessory interest in the ashes for the purpose of final distribution.

While the facts of that case may seem somewhat odd, probate litigation routinely involves emotionally charged issues between family members. These issues oftentimes involve the distribution of large assets but may just as easily involve the disposition of an estate issue which has only nominal financial implications.

The problem is, of course, that unless families and loved ones agree on the terms of a disposition, a court will be needed to confirm the intentions of a decedent. Proper estate planning can avoid a legal dispute among family members, but there is no guarantee.

Families that find themselves in a dispute over an estate matter should contact an estate lawyer to help guide them through the process. These attorneys can represent the interests of the estate or heirs as they work to enforce the wishes of a loved one.

Source: Wealthmanagement.com, “May He Rest in Pieces?,” John T. Brooks and Jena L. Levin, September 24, 2014

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