What Can We Learn From Tom Carvel’s Estate Plan?

Tom CarvelTom Carvel (yes, of Carvel Ice Cream), the creator of soft serve ice cream and one of the founding fathers of the franchise system in America passed away in 1990 with an estate valued at $67 million.

A sticky mess, with over 18 years of litigation and more than 40 attorneys involved, around $28 million was drained from the estate to pay legal fees. Thinking he was covering all his bases, Carvel appointed SEVEN personal representatives/executors to manage his estate upon his death. I could have told him that having so many hands in the pot turned out to be a recipe for disaster. The Carvel dynasty fighting arose between Carvel’s secretary of 38 years (obviously), his lawyer (strange), and his niece on behalf of Carvel’s wife, Agnes (clearly).

The lesson here is straightforward, don’t have too many chefs in the kitchen, especially when the chefs have conflicting interests. But beyond that, in Florida, we have unique rules as to who may serve as a personal representative.

To qualify to serve as a personal representative in Florida, an individual must be either a Florida resident OR, a spouse, sibling, parent, child, or other close relative of the decedent. An individual who is not a legal resident of Florida and is not closely related to the decedent cannot serve as a personal representative.

Additionally, individuals are not qualified to act as a personal representative if they are either younger than 18, mentally or physically unable to perform the duties, or have been convicted of a felony. A trust company incorporated under the laws of Florida, or a bank or savings and loan authorized and qualified to exercise fiduciary powers in Florida, may serve as the personal representative.

There you have it folks, these roles are important. If you have a bunch of people listed as Personal Representatives and don’t think they’ll get along, now’s the time to make these changes. It makes sense to have a plan we know won’t be problematic.

Call our real estate and estate planning lawyers today at (954) 832-0885 to discuss your real estate and estate planning questions. Schedule an appointment today by giving us a call.

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