My father passed away last week and I had to travel across 4 states to get to him in Florida before he died. When he died, the lease on his condo was expiring within 5 days (in a gated community where his vehicle could not remain) so I had to move his personal belongings out. My father died in Florida and I had to get his belongings back to Virginia and the only option I had was to use his vehicle. It was properly registered, he had insurance, and I also have vehicle insurance. In that state of grief and rush to secure all of his things it never came across my mind that moving the car could cause problems in the future. We do have a replacement title coming in the mail, and we have contacted a lawyer, though he will not be in the office for a couple of days. Hopefully the car can be claimed as exempt property under Florida probate laws, if not, I am prepared to do whatever the probate court says needs to happen with the car. I'm just very worried because while dealing with the death I couldn't think of anything else to do. Am I in trouble? What should I do next?
Of course, the answer depends on the circumstances, but it doesn't sound like your use of the vehicle was egregious. Assuming the probate code and rules are followed concerning the disposition of your father's assets, including the vehicle, the worst thing that might happen is that another beneficiary accuses you of devaluing the car by driving it an extra thousand miles or so. Unless it's a very expensive or collector vehicle, the monetary impact of the additional miles is probably negligible. You mentioned the possibility of the vehicle being an exempt asset; it may indeed be eligible, but specifically how that works out will depend on whether there was a will. Your probate attorney is your primary source of information, so I encourage you to come to the meeting prepared with documents, facts, and all your questions written down.
My comments are not intended to establish an attorney-client relationship, are not confidential, and are not intended to constitute legal advice. Proper legal advice can only be given by an attorney who agrees to represent you, who reviews the facts of your specific case, who does not have a conflict of interest preventing the representation, and who is licensed as an attorney in the state where the law applies.
Your actions are certainly understandable. that you've already contacted an attorney is a good thing and so long as he or she is licences in Florida, you'll get good guidance. What happens with the car will depend on whether or not your father had a Will and whether or not he had a spouse or children in addition to you. I'm sorry for your loss.
You probably should not be in any trouble for having driven your father's car to VA. You ask whether it will be considered exempt property in FL. In FL, "exempt property" has the meaning of being exempt from the claims of creditors. This does include vehicles, as well as other assets. In order to claim the assets as exempt property, you will have to file a petition to have it designated so, but you have plenty of time for that. For now, rest easy for the next couple days waiting for your attorney to get into the office knowing that you are not going to jail for driving the car. Your attorney, if he/she is licensed in FL should be able to discuss the details of probating your father's estate in FL.
Years licensed, work experience, educationLegal community recognition
Peer endorsements, associations, awardsLegal thought leadership
Publications, speaking engagementsDiscipline