Cynthia Crofoot Rignanese, Esquire
Thinking Globally, Practicing Locally in Central Florida Since 1990

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Animal Organizations Battle Family Over Inheritance

When people think about estate planning and distributing their assets in the future, they typically consider leaving their estate to other people. Usually those people who would inherit the assets would be children, other family members or maybe even close friends. But not everyone chooses to leave their estate to people. Some people have favorite charitable causes to which they choose to contribute their assets upon their death.

This may have been the situation for a Florida man who passed away more than a year ago at the age of 81. The man left an inheritance of $440,000, but where the money will end up remains in question.

Two organizations, the Save Our Cats and Kittens (SOCKS) and the Panhandle Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) recently filed court papers arguing that the man's will provided for the organizations to get the inheritance. The filings also allege that the man's family members, along with an attorney, have attempted to defraud the animal care groups by depriving them of getting the $440,000. The court papers also state that the family members agreed to turn over some of the deceased man's savings bonds, but PAWS and SOCKS assert that they still have not received those bonds.

Although the parties involved in this particular case are out of the ordinary for this kind of dispute, estate contests like this are not so unusual. People frequently contest wills and fight over what they think should be their rightful inheritance.

Regardless of how a person wants to distribute their assets, a thorough and properly executed will, along with other estate planning instruments, are the best guards against these kinds of legal battles. People in Polk County who are considering how to best set up their own estate plan should understand all of the legal nuances involved, as well as how they can best ensure that their wishes will be carried out in the future.

Rignanese & Associates is available to work with clients on their estate planning needs. Please reach out to us at our new headquarters at 203 Avenue A, NW, Suite, 101, Winter Haven, Florida 33881 at 863.294.1114.

On behalf of Kelly Kennedy of J. Kelly Kennedy, Attorney/CPA, P.L.L.C; J. Kelly Kennedy, Attorney/CPA, P.L.L.C. has merged with Rignanese & Associates, PLLC.

Source:, "PAWS, SOCKS launch legal battle over inheritance," Tom McLaughlin, Oct. 13, 2015

Cynthia Rignanese