As Florida residents get older and decide to start thinking about the various estate planning decisions that need to be made, one of the key goals in mind is to usually help their heirs and beneficiaries avoid probate court and lengthy litigation over control of assets. And these are situations that can affect any person, not just the super wealthy.

One estate planning attorney who has a history of being in the middle of probate battles involving celebrities and other wealthy clients, said one of the biggest problems he encounters is second or third spouses being pitted against children from a first marriage.

The attorney's main advice is that if an estate plan does not try to divide assets equally between children of a first marriage and any other spouse other than the first one, the case will be doomed for litigation.

He used the example of the late Grateful Dead lead singer Jerry Garcia, who had children with different wives and married a third woman just before he died. There was lengthy litigation over how his assets would be divided.

Another case where one beneficiary could try to get the upper hand is a child who takes over care of an ailing parent. That person could get joint control of assets, which means that child would assume control when the parent dies. The names on accounts in this case would hold more weight than a will because the child is still alive.

The attorney recommends making sure a second spouse gets whatever was listed in a prenuptial agreement if there was one. He also recommended appointing an independent fiduciary or trustee to handle matters.

Source: Reuters, "The big lessons from celebrity estate wars," Amy Feldman, Jan. 26, 2012