What Can We Learn From Fairy Tales?

Do you believe in fairy tales? An Italian prince marries a woman from Texas (not me lol), makes her a
princess, and gives her a castle with art literally spilling out of its windows. The princess Rita Jenrette
Boncompagni Ludovisi, a former actress, Playboy model, ex-wife of a U.S. congressman and New York real estate broker, who married the late Prince Nicolo Boncompagni Ludovisi, scion of one of Europe’s most aristocratic families, in 2009.

Following the prince’s death in 2018, the princess has been in an inheritance dispute with her three
stepsons that is meant to be resolved with the sale of the 30K square foot villa left to her, for her life, by the prince with instructions that if sold, the proceeds were to be divided between the (evil?) stepmother and the new princes.

The castle, valued at $325M, is best known for its Caravaggio painted ceiling, commissioned in 1597
depicting a scene with the gods Jupiter, Neptune and Pluto. Sadly, the property failed to sell after 5
attempts and recently, the stepmother was served with an eviction notice. Apparently, one of the walls of the castle has collapsed and blocked a nearby street (in my head this took place in a forest Lol), and a judge ruled that the castle was not being properly maintained.

So, what can we learn from this real life tale?

Here in Florida, we find ourselves with a life estate / remainderman situation quite often. Sometimes
it’s intentional. We draft a lady bird deed or life estate deed where spouses agree to have a property for life with a remainder going to children or back to the decedent’s family. We also create this life estate situation within in a trust where a spouse lives on the property for life without the option of selling, and then the trustee is instructed to transfer the property to a child or children after the passing of the surviving spouse.

However, the life estate / remainderman is also the default when only one spouse is on the deed and
the deceased spouse has children. This is per the Florida Homestead rules and happens all the time. In these instances, Florida is very clear that the life estate has a duty to not commit waste on the property. Since the surviving spouse only has a life estate, they don’t own the property outright, they have a duty to avoid permanently diminishing or altering the value of the remainderman’s future estate. Yes, the FL laws protect the remainderman from the life tenant.
So there you have it, we learn that in Florida a life tenant can’t commit waste on a real property and
must maintain the property. We also learn that quite often, fairy tales are just that, tall tales and real
life is much more real.

Portrait of Odelia Goldberg, Esq.

With over 50 years of combined experience, our probate, estate planning, real estate, elder law and asset protection attorneys provide peace of mind for our clients throughout South Florida.

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