A recent settlement involving the estate of the late Jacksonville financial adviser Wayne McLeod is the latest example of how legal complexities can encroach upon the timely resolution of an estate. At the time of his suicide, McLeod's financial services firm was under investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission. This investigation revealed that McLeod's alleged financial planning prowess was actually a large "Ponzi" scheme.
A significant portion of McLeod's estate will now be used to repay the defrauded investors. McLeod's wife will keep some of her jewelry and approximately 25 percent of the life insurance proceeds. The amount she is receiving is significantly less than what a spouse would typically receive.
While McLeod's Ponzi scheme is a rare example, it serves to highlight the role an experienced estate planning attorney can play in preparing for your future. Effective estate planning requires the individual to consider the quality of their investments, not just the allocation of assets. Ponzi schemes are successful because individuals are lured by guaranteed returns. The promises of riches often cloud the investors' judgment. An experienced estate attorney can help you sort out a variety of complex decisions and be a dependable source of information. While the attorney cannot offer specific financial advice, a fresh set of eyes may be able to sniff out a clearly illegitimate investment opportunity.
An Estate Planning Attorney Can Help You Perceive Risks
While federal authorities such as the SEC or IRS are particularly powerful adversaries in estate-related litigation, a host of potential claimants can make the probate administration process contentious and time-consuming. Disgruntled family members, unsecured creditors and alienated business clients can all descend on an estate settlement and create obstacles to a smooth disposition of funds and property.
Many potential issues can arise in probate litigation, including arguments over health care directives, allegations of undue influence on the person who created the will, and concerns about the proper execution of trust documents. An attorney with demonstrated trial experience can explain the complexities of Florida probate law and help you understand the best legal strategy for protecting your interests, whether you are an executor (personal representative), a named beneficiary of a contested will, or a person who seeks to have provisions declared invalid.
It is never too early to begin planning for your estate. Affirmative steps now can prevent headaches for family and friends down the road.