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Florida Probate Blog

Category: Estate Litigation

ELDERLY EXPLOITATION vs CIVIL THEFT

Written by on Mar 1, 2010| Posted in: Estate Litigation

DISTINGUISHING DAMAGES SOUGHT BY FIDUCIARIES AND INDIVIDUALS UNDER FLORIDA STATUTES §415.1111 and §772.11 When trying to decide between which cause of action to file against a person who has committed financial exploitation against or theft from a vulnerable or disabled adult, one must first establish who has been damaged, the vulnerable or disabled adult themselves, or an individual with an expectancy in inheritance or other interest expected from the vulnerable or disabled adult, and whose expectancy or interest was lost or diminished as a result of the exploitation or theft against the vulnerable adult. Pursuant to Fla. Stat. §415.1111, “A vulnerable adult who has been abused, neglected, or exploited . . . has a cause of action against any perpetrator and may recover actual and punitive damages for such abuse, neglect, or exploitation.” [reproduced below] The action may only be brought by the vulnerable adult, or that person’s guardian, by […]

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Substituted Parties

Written by on Feb 24, 2010| Posted in: Estate Litigation

What Happens When a Party Dies During a Lawsuit? One of the hotly-contested issues among Florida probate lawyers in the context of inheritance lawsuits involving beneficiaries of wills and trusts is whether and to what extent appellate courts have jurisdiction over orders entered in Florida lawsuits involving last wills and testaments and lawsuits involving Florida trusts, trustees and beneficiaries.  Generally, Florida Rule of Appellate Procedure 9.110, which governs “Appeal Proceedings to Review Final Orders of Lower Tribunals and Orders Granting New Trial in Jury and Non-Jury Cases,” applies to proceedings that seek review of orders in probate and guardianship matters that finally determine a right or obligation of an interested person as defined in the Florida Probate Code.”   The dissenting opinion in one recent case in the First District Court of Appeals in Florida dealt with the issue of whether the  a court’s determination of whether notice of was properly served […]

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Probate Appeals

Written by on Jan 5, 2010| Posted in: Estate Litigation

The issue of what probate rulings are appealable in the context of will contests and probate litigation is complicated, confusing, and subject to debate among jurists and attorneys in Florida.  Generally, the issue is governed by appellate rules, which authorize appeals of “orders entered in probate and guardianship matters that finally determine a right or obligation of an interested person[.]”  Due to the ambiguity of the language of the rule, the Florida Supreme Court has offered guidance in the form of comments to an amendment to one of the rules: “[I]n probate and guardianship proceedings it is not unusual to have several final orders entered during the course of the proceeding that address many different persons.  An order of the circuit court that determines a right, an obligation or the standing of an interested person as defined by the Florida Probate Code may be appealed before the administration of the […]

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‘Til Death Do Us Part

Written by on Dec 11, 2009| Posted in: Estate Litigation

In Florida, can a spouse be disinherited? Several years ago, the Florida Legislature enacted HB 301 effective October 1, 1999, for decedents dying on or after October 1, 2001 (known as the elective share statute). This law changed a long-standing rule that spouses could be disinherited. Florida courts now repeatedly interpret and apply the new elective share statute in a manner consistent with the recognized strong public policy favoring protection of the surviving spouse against being disinherited. The question often arises as to whether assets placed by a decedent into an irrevocable trust are subject to a claim by the surviving spouse under the new elective share statute. The answer depends on the specific facts of each case and on a court’s understanding of what assets constitute the decedent’s “probate estate.” First, one must analyze the definitions written into law by our elected officials in Tallahassee and Washington.

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Appealing Probate Court Orders

Written by on Dec 1, 2009| Posted in: Estate Litigation

Client:   What happened at court? Lawyer:   Justice Prevailed. Client:   Appeal Immediately! Appealing a probate ruling is no easy undertaking and requires special care, attention, and a firm command of the governing rules and decisional case law. One of the first things examined by an appellate attorney is whether the order from which an appeal is sought is a final order. The question is uniquely challenging when a probate lawyer is confronted with an order arising from an adversarial proceeding in a Florida probate court.  Initially, the trust and estate lawyer will examine the probate order in the context of Rule of Appellate Procedure 9.110(a) (2), which provides that the review of an order by the appellate court is authorized when there is an order entered in probate “that finally determines a right or obligation of an interested person as defined in the Florida Probate Code.” This rule operates to broaden […]

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Probate Litigation

Written by on Nov 16, 2009| Posted in: Estate Litigation

Fourth DCA overturns Broward Probate Court’s eviction of son from his deceased mother’s apartment. My blog has previously discussed the Fourth District’s view, articulated in Herrilka v. Yates, 13 So.3d 122 (Fla. 4th DCA 2009) on the limitations on an estate fiduciary in taking or encumbering homestead property.  Herrilka involved a dispute between two women who both claimed to be married to the decedent; consequently, a curator-Christine Yates-was appointed to marshal the estate assets.  One of the women, Mrs. Herrilka, occupied the real property that was, without dispute, the decedent’s homestead.

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The Duties of Remaindermen

Written by on Nov 3, 2009| Posted in: Estate Litigation

Court Allows Claim for Establishment and Foreclosure of Equitable Lien My practice is frequently faced with inquiries regarding the rights of remaindermen.  A remainderman is the person who inherits or is entitled under the law to inherit property upon the termination of the estate of the former owner. Usually this occurs due to the death or termination of the former owner’s life estate, but this can also occur due to a specific notation in a trust passing ownership from one person to another. For example, if the owner of property makes a grant of that property “to John for life, and then to Jane,” Jane is entitled to a future interest, called a remainder, and is termed a remainderman. As is often the case, the remaindermen and the life estate owner don’t always get along.  Sometimes, the friction is caused by what the remaindermen perceive as the life estate owner’s […]

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Legal Comity

Written by on Oct 27, 2009| Posted in: Estate Litigation

Florida law holds that in personam jurisdiction may be acquired in probate proceedings by consent, by voluntary general appearance of an interested person, or by an interested person asking the court for affirmative relief. One court has held that minimal actions by a beneficiary in an estate administration were deemed to be a waiver of objections to personal jurisdiction for the separate matter of determining the ownership of contested assets that were located with the estate beneficiary in the State of Ohio. Markowitz v. Merson, 869 So.2d 728 (Fla. 4th DCA 2004).

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Pre-Marital Agreements and Joint Property

Written by on Oct 2, 2009| Posted in: Estate Litigation

Therefore, while Sharyn Turchin was absolutely correct that a gift is presumed under Florida law when property is purchased by one spouse but placed in the names of both parties, this presumption does not apply when the antenuptial agreement specifically designates how the jointly held property is to be distributed. Thus, Sharyn was entitled to only one-half of the proceeds from the sale of the Coconut Isle property that was left in the parties’ joint account. With respect to the proceeds from the satisfaction of the Aqua Vista mortgage, the court, again relying upon the terms of the prenuptial agreement, ruled that she had no right to or interest in the proceeds.

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Descendants by Blood

Written by on Sep 15, 2009| Posted in: Estate Litigation

This case illustrates the difficulties faced by courts when confronted with the conflict between social policy and the law’s goal of giving legal effect to the desires of a person as expressed in their will or trust.

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