It’s not often that Florida probate courts – especially the local Broward County probate court – makes international news, but that’s what happened recently when the mother and wife of a missing man appeared before local Probate Judge Mark A. Speiser to fight over what to do about controlling the finances and property (estate) of Guma Aguiar.
The Missing Florida Millionaire: Guma Aguiar
Granted, this is an intriguing story complete with a real mystery as to what has happened to Mr. Aguiar. As of this post, his whereabouts and his condition, both mental and physical, are unknown. Guma Aguiar was last seen leaving his Fort Lauderdale mansion aboard his fishing boat on June 19, 2012. The boat was discovered shortly after midnight aground on Fort Lauderdale Beach but Mr. Aguiar was not there and he hasn’t been seen or heard from since. He is known to suffer from bipolar disorder, and it’s uncertain what has happened to the man. Given the fact that he is a multimillionaire with international ties, this story is making the newswires across the globe.
Florida Probate Court Sees Fight Between Mother and Wife of Missing Man
What is making the news, however, isn’t so much the official search into where Mr. Aguiar might be, but instead the news relates to the Florida probate court clash between the wife of Guma Aguiar and the mother of his four children, Jamie Aguiar, and the mother of the missing millionaire, Ellen Aguiar. And it’s Florida law as applied by Florida probate judge Mark Speiser that decides what happens here.
Which Judge Speiser did. Sort of.
Last week, in a packed courtroom, it was announced that the attorneys for both sides had negotiated an agreement (approved by the Court) where one of Mr. Aguiar’s lawyers would act as mediator on the Aguiar legal expenses and where Northern Trust N.A. (the entity named personal representative of Mr. Aguiar’s estate in his will) would continue to oversee his assets.
Neither the wife nor the mother would make decisions regarding Mr. Aguiar’s holdings: the third party, Northern Trust, would be doing so except when legal fees were involved, then the lawyer-mediator would come into play.
This doesn’t solve everything. It only answers what happens to Aguiar’s Florida assets. He also has over $40 million in assets in the country of Israel and controversies over those Israeli assets will be dealt with in the Israeli courts.
Larry Tolchinsky’s Tip:
The saga of Florida millionaire Guma Aguiar isn’t over, and we all hope that he’s found alive and well and this story doesn’t have a tragic ending. However, already one good thing that can come from this news coverage of a family in crisis: it sheds light on how extremely important it is to have end of life planning in place so your family can be protected against the inevitable. Death and taxes, as the old saying goes, are the only two things that are certain in this life and in many ways, that’s true.
Mr. Aguiar did have a power of attorney in place (naming his mother). That was wise. Do you have a power of attorney naming someone to act on your behalf if you become incapacitated (say from an accident or illness)?
Mr. Aguiar had a will in place, with an independent third party already set up to be responsible for his estate when he passes. Do you? If not, do you know what happens under Florida law to your property should you die unexpectedly without a valid Florida will?
Do you understand that without a solid estate plan in place, your family members could be in a Florida courtroom like the Broward County Probate Court in these news stories, fighting a much bigger and messier fight – even a war – for a conservatorship or over an estate? The documents already prepared by Guma Aguiar in the past came into play in the hearing last week to help this wife and this mother quickly find an agreeable resolution to how things should be handled. The estate planning worked.
Hopefully, Guma Aguiar will be found soon and his children will still have a father with whom they can share holidays and special times. Hats off to Mr. Aguiar and his advisers though: no matter what the outcome of this mystery, estate plan documentation was prepared which did its job when needed: and the lesson here for all of us is that having an estate plan in place is important. It’s important for our families.
If you have questions or comments, please feel free to Chat with Larry in the comments below, at firstname.lastname@example.org or (954) 458-8655.