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Community Activist Flower Shop at Center of Estate Battle

SproutMattie Young battled to maintain her mother's legacy of a lifetime of service to a Florida community. Young is the daughter of the late Veronica Shoemaker, who was a Fort Myers community activist for many decades. Mattie struggled to keep the flower shop bearing her mother's name, after a contested will struggle that threatened her mother's legacy.

The Fort Meyers news-press.com reported on this saga in Shoemaker estate issue settled; florist shop stays open. Family members apparently reached an agreement that assured Mattie would continue to run the Veronica S. Shoemaker Florist Shop in the Dunbar community its founder served for decades.

"It's important that her legacy here, her legacy in the community and her spirit continue," Young said.

Veronica Shoemaker's will was challenged in court by her granddaughter Latoya Shoemaker, the daughter of her late son who died in 1982. Latoya argued that her grandmother lacked capacity to make a will, because she was suffering from the effects of Alzheimer's disease. Latoya claimed at one point in the dispute, that the signatures of Veronica Shoemaker were forgeries. The suit stated that Veronica Shoemaker was diagnosed with Alzheimer's in 2007.

Veronica’s will left the florist business to her daughter. She noted that, as she faced advancing age, Mattie had worked to maintain the store's place in the community. Veronica Shoemaker died Jan. 21, 2016, and the will was filed in probate court in June. It was challenged a month later.

An agreement was struck with the help of a mediator and was filed in court. The trial scheduled to begin that week, was canceled.

Although some of the terms of the agreement were kept confidential, Mattie, her niece Latoya Shoemaker and her brother Bennie will be given equal shares in what remains of Shoemaker's estate, after the final expenses are paid and any property sold. The will filed in court had provided for only a 10% percent share for Latoya.

Mattie will continue to operate the flower shop that her mother founded 42 years ago. She expressed relief that the episode was over and her mother's name will remain prominent in the community she inspired and served.

"She put everything she had into this corner," Young said at the store at the corner of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and the former Palmetto Avenue Extension, renamed Veronica Shoemaker Boulevard in honor of the first black person to win election to the Fort Myers City Council.

Reference: (Fort Meyers FL) news-press.com (April 26, 2017) Shoemaker estate issue settled; florist shop stays open

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Media Mogul Headed to Trial Over Billion-Dollar Estate and His Capacity

Man reading documentMedia mogul Sumner Redstone is going to trial over ex-girlfriend Manuela Herzer's claim that he is mentally incompetent. This may intensify the competition for control of his $3 billion holdings in Viacom Inc. and CBS Corp., according to Bloomberg's "Redstone Faces Competency Trial amid Fight over Media Empire."

A Los Angeles probate judge asked whether it was wise for the 92-year-old to name Viacom CEO Phillipe Dauman as his agent in charge of his health care decisions rather than a family member. Judge David Cowan, who will decide the case without a jury, said he isn't confident things "are all patched up" between Sumner and his daughter Shari Redstone. Herzer contends that Redstone is incapacitated and manipulated by those around him.

At least one shareholder has sued the boards of Viacom and CBS, accusing them of wasting millions of dollars paying Redstone when he was unfit to take an active role in the businesses. He stepped down as chairman of both companies only last month, days after he was examined by a psychiatrist designated by Herzer as part of her court case.

The control of Redstone's 80% voting stakes in Viacom and CBS will pass to a family trust if he becomes incapacitated or dies. Shari Redstone and Dauman are two of the seven members of that trust. Redstone's Viacom and CBS holdings are exempt from the lawsuit, as the family trust that will take control was established long ago.

Herzer, who describes herself as Redstone's longtime companion and caretaker, alleges he wasn't able to make his own decisions when he removed her from his advance healthcare directive and evicted her from his mansion last fall. Redstone's lawyers claim Herzer's ulterior motive is to contest her removal from his will. She apparently stood to inherit $50 million plus Redstone's $20 million home before she was cut out of his estate plan.

Reference: Bloomberg (February 29, 2016) "Redstone Faces Competency Trial Amid Fight Over Media Empire"

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Key Documents Are Essential before Signs of Dementia

DementiaIn the beginning stages of dementia, someone who handles the family finances forgetting to pay bills is just one common warning sign. The spouse doesn’t know about it until the bank calls the house warning that the mortgage has not been paid in months and is in default. Accounting for the possibility of your own and your loved one’s eventual mental incapacity is a key part of any estate plan.

A recent articlein Physician’s Monthly Digest, titled “Dealing With a Loved One’s Cognitive Decline Is Simpler with Right Legal Documents in Place,”says that a healthcare proxy and a durable power of attorney are key legal documents to have before there are any signs of mental incapacitation. The documents allow you to designate another person to make medical and financial decisions on your behalf once you are unable to do so. This can be your spouse, an adult child, a friend, or a trusted adviser. Without a power of attorney, your spouse will need a court order to access any non-joint accounts that you have.

You should also draft a living will, or advance directive. That way your agent and your healthcare staff will have your instructions as to whether to administer life-sustaining medical treatment if you are in the late stages of dementia, terminally ill, or near death. The living will can take the burden off of your loved ones when it comes to making tough medical decisions like whether to keep you on life support or not.

You should also entrust someone else with the power to take control of your affairs with a healthcare proxy and power of attorney. These documents will only become effective when your medical staff decide you lack the wherewithal to make medical and financial decisions for yourself. The laws for these type of documents vary from state to state, so talk to an experienced elder law attorney about how it works where you live.

The original article also recommends that you make sure your loved ones not only know about these important documents, but also where you keep them. You should give copies of the executed documents to your appointed agents, and give copies of your healthcare proxy and living will to your healthcare providers. This simple step can help your doctors ensure that your wishes are respected.

Ensuring that you have the appropriate documents in place will give peace of mind to you and your loved ones. Contact an experienced elder law attorney. He or she can help you define your goals and can draft the documents accordingly.

For more information about estate planning, please visit my estate planning website.

Reference: Physician’s Monthly Digest (February 27, 2015) “Dealing With a Loved One’s Cognitive Decline Is Simpler with Right Legal Documents in Place”

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