I have a question regarding my mother who is now 85 years old. She had a will written up in which my brother was listed as the executor of the will and my sister as the co-executor. My mother is not a wealthy person and has 2 properties in Florida. This is basically 95% of her estate and retirement investment. My sister a few years back talked my mother into signing a quit claim deed which signed the properties over to my sister. This was done with no knowledge of the transaction to any of the other family members. Is there any ethical laws that say my sister should notify the family or even my brother as executor of the will being the she was co-executor?
1 Answer from Attorneys
My advice based on the information provided:
1. Under Florida law the will has no legal effect until the death of your mother and the will is determined to be your mother's last will.
2. Often, in the situation described by you, elderly persons will transfer real property such as a residence to a family member. Such transfer is effected in order to avoid Florida probate. Such transfers without consideration are gifts; therefore, depending on the amount of value and other issues, there could be gift tax issues.
3. Although there are no "ethical laws" demanding that your sister inform other family members of the transfer, especially the co-executor named in the will, such communication between family members minimizes the later disputes, objections, bad feelings, and other results of such secret transfers. And, the avoidance of probate, if that is the objective, could have been accomplished by 1) a quit claim deed that merely transferred a half, joint interest, with right of survivorship; or 2) a simple living trust readily available in Florida. Why was the transfer not communicated to other family? That is my question.
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