Generally, many years pass between when a testator drafts their will and their personal representative needs to locate it. A lot can change during that time. A testator’s property may decrease or increase in value. They may dispose of or acquire new assets. If there’s been a significant decline in the value of an estate since the will was first drafted, then the Florida probate judge will rely upon abatement process laws to guide them in dividing up assets among beneficiaries.
The process of abatement was created to help probate judges more effectively divide up an estate’s assets if their value had declined significantly between the time in which their will was written and they passed away. This process was intended to aid judges in determining how to better apportion assets among beneficiaries if this happened.
An abatement often occurs when a testator bequeaths more property than they have to distribute. This generally happens for one of three reasons.
It can happen if the testator’s spouse takes an elective share from the estate. This can cause there to be a reduction in assets that can be divided up among the remaining beneficiaries.
This can also happen if the expenses or taxes that the testator owed were so high that they decreased the value of the property that had been set aside for beneficiaries.
An abatement may also be necessary if the testator had a significantly higher net worth at the time that they drafted their will, but it declined significantly before their death.
It’s by following the abatement doctrine that judges know which gifts to reduce first. Most state laws require the probate court to first take away from residuary beneficiaries then to reduce general and specific ones. Judges in other jurisdictions are expected to prioritize testamentary intent when applying abatement rules.
Most individuals are told when they draft their wills to revisit them on occasion to make sure that they are reflective of their current financial state and their final wishes. Many testators don’t revisit them once they draft them though. An attorney in Miami can advise you how often you may want to update your Florida will so that your loved ones can receive everything that you wanted to leave behind for them when you’re gone.