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Florida Probate Blog

Category: Guardianship Litigation

Can a guardian change the trustee of a ward’s trust?

Written by on Jul 27, 2015| Posted in: Guardianship Litigation

Choosing someone to act as your successor trustee upon your death or incapacity is not a decision that you should take lightly. Not only does that nominated successor trustee have a duty and obligation to carry out your wishes, but that trustee also has a fiduciary obligation to act prudently and appropriately for the benefit of the subsequent beneficiaries. However, what if that nominated successor trustee turns out to be a bad choice? What if the settlor of the trust is determined to be incapacitated and cannot alter the terms of the trust? The 5th District Court of Appeals of Florida in Rene v. Sykes-Kennedy, 156 So.3d 518 (Fla 5th DCA 2015) recently dealt with such an issue wherein a person who created a revocable trust was subsequently determined to be incapacitated. The person had nominated a granddaughter to serve as the successor trustee of the trust upon the person’s […]

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Written by on Feb 20, 2014| Posted in: General

FLORIDA PRENEED GUARDIAN AS PART OF YOUR ESTATE PLAN Everyone’s estate plan is different.  Some people are content with having only a will and trust to manage and distribute their financial assets after death.  However, others find it appropriate to name a specific person to take care of their personal and financial well-being in the event that he or she becomes incapacitated during his or her lifetime.  The Florida legislature has provided such an avenue through the enactment of Fla. Stat. 744.3045, which is the law dealing with a preneed guardian. The statute states that “[p]roduction of the declaration (of a previously-designated preneed guardian) in a proceeding for incapacity shall constitute a rebuttable presumption that the preneed guardian is entitled to serve as guardian.  The court shall not be bound to appoint the preneed guardian if the preneed guardian is found to be unqualified to serve as guardian.”  What if […]

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Termination or Suspension of Durable Powers of Attorney

Written by on Sep 19, 2013| Posted in: General

Often times we are contacted by clients that inquire as to whether or not a Power of Attorney can be terminated and/or suspended for their elderly loved one who becomes incapacitated.  Typically this issue presents itself when an elderly loved one is requested or coerced to execute a Power of Attorney in favor of another family member during a period of time when their capacity may be compromised.  In some circumstances, the Power of Attorney may validly executed and later abused after elderly loved one’s capacity comes into question.  A valid Power of Attorney is a very valuable tool when properly utilized and likewise can be disastrous if abused.  It is not uncommon for us to receive inquiries from clients who discover that their elderly loved one is being financially exploited by someone abusing a Power of Attorney.  A Power of Attorney is a writing that grants authority to an […]

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Florida Guardianship and Examining Committee Reports

Written by on Jan 16, 2013| Posted in: Guardianship Litigation

When there are concerns that a loved-one may have limited mental capacity, it may be appropriate to petition the Court for implementation of a guardianship.  However, courts view guardianships as a last resort, and they will not usually grant them if there is a sufficient less restrictive alternative to guardianship.  Examples of these less restrictive alternatives would be a power of attorney, a healthcare surrogate, and/or a trust. Nevertheless, there are times when courts have to intervene and initiate a guardianship.  Once a petition to determine incapacity is filed, the court orders that three (3) examining committee members assess the alleged incapacitated person’s mental health and they provide recommendations to the court as to whether or not they believe that a guardianship should be initiated by the court. However, there has been some recent case law that may shed some light as to how strictly the court should consider these […]

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Written by on Dec 10, 2012| Posted in: Guardianship Litigation

Under Florida law, prior to the appointment of a permanent guardian but after the filing of a petition to determine incapacity, a probate court may appoint an emergency temporary guardian (“ETG”) for the person and/or property of an alleged incapacitated person. Before the appointment of an ETG, the court must specifically find that there appears to be imminent danger that the physical or mental health or safety of the person will be seriously impaired, which would be sufficient grounds for the appointment of an ETG of the person. Likewise, if the court determines that the person’s property is in danger being wasted, misappropriated or lost, then an ETG of the property may be appointed. Until recently, there was no clear guidance as to what effect the appointment of an ETG had upon the ability of the alleged incapacitated person to make changes to his or her estate planning, particularly in […]

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Florida Guardianship: Examining Committees and Due Process

Written by on Nov 8, 2012| Posted in: Guardianship Litigation

THE RIGHT IN FLORIDA TO CONFRONT EXAMINING COMMITTEE MEMBERS IN A CONTESTED INCAPACITY GUARDIANSHIP PROCEEDING The Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution, and Article I, Section 9 of the Florida Constitution, provide that no person shall be deprived of their fundamental rights without due process of law.  Procedural due process under the Florida Constitution guarantees to every citizen the right to have that course of legal procedure which has been established in Florida’s judicial system for the protection and enforcement of private rights applied in his or her case.  For these reasons, the Florida Legislature has required that in the adjudicatory hearing on a petition alleging incapacity, the partial or total incapacity of the person must be established by clear and convincing evidence.  The procedures to determine incapacity and the minimum requirements to comply with due process have been codified by the Florida Legislature at Florida Statute §744.331.  These […]

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Due Process in Guardianship and Incapacity Proceedings

Written by on Oct 19, 2012| Posted in: Guardianship Litigation

Losh v. McKinley 86 So.3d 1150 (Fla. 3d DCA 2012) When the Florida Guardianship Law (F.S. Chapter 744) was enacted more three decades ago, its then progressive legislative intent was clearly stated within the statute and still remains in effect today.  The statute unequivocally demands that it is to be liberally applied and construed to ensure that the least restrictive form of guardianship is made available; that viable alternatives to guardianship are considered prior to adjudicating a person incapacitated and that due process protections are to be afforded to every person who may become subject to guardianship and incapacity proceedings within the State of Florida.  In a recent Third District Court of Appeals case, Losh v. McKinley 86 So.3d 1150 (Fla. 3d DCA 2012), these fundamental protections were again upheld as public policy mandates due process for these individuals prior to a trial court’s removal of his or her rights. […]

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Capacity to Create a Trust in Florida

Written by on Sep 21, 2012| Posted in: Guardianship Litigation

Florida guardianship lawyers frequently encounter disputes in connection with what rights a vulnerable adult should have judicially delegated to a guardian.  Those disputes often develop into contests regarding the duration of those delegated rights and whether and to what extent the rights can and should be restored to the alleged incapacitated person.  Many factors and variables enter the legislatively created mechanism for determining these issues. Sometimes, prior to, during, and even after incapacity proceedings, the Florida guardianship lawyer will discover that a family member or other person has orchestrated the execution of a will or trust by the alleged incapacitated person.  These situations present difficult legal and ethical issues for the Florida guardianship attorney. The Florida Trust Code contains a section providing that “a trust is created only if: (a) the settlor has capacity to create a trust.”  §736.0402(1)(a).  Proceedings to determine the competency of a person are controlled by […]

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Florida Guardianship Attorney’s Fees

Written by on Mar 30, 2012| Posted in: Guardianship Litigation

FLORIDA GUARDIANSHIP ATTORNEY’S FEES Lawyers in Florida who handle contested guardianships and inheritance disputes concerning Wills and Trusts frequently encounter issues regarding what law is to apply to fee dispute resolutions.  As practitioners, it is always important to provide the correct and applicable law to the trial court so that the issue may be resolved appropriate through application of the correct law in existence at the time the dispute arose to the specific facts and circumstances leading to the fee dispute. A case illustrating the importance of guiding the trial court with the correct law was issued by the Second District Court of Appeals in the Guardianship of Kay RC (Fla. 2nd DCA, case number 2D10-5956, March 9, 2012).  This case involved a lawyer who represented the guardian of the ward.  The guardian discharged the attorney and retained another law firm and the first lawyer applied for fees relating to […]

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Florida Guardianship

Written by on Aug 10, 2011| Posted in: Guardianship Litigation

After a judicial hearing is held and the ward is found to “lack the capacity to manage some or all of his/her property or to meet at least some of the essential health and safety requirements of such person”(§ 744.102(12), Florida Statutes), the proceeding for an involuntary guardianship is implemented.  The Court may appoint either a plenary or limited guardian, depending on the extent and severity of the ward’s incapacity.  In a plenary guardianship, all of the Ward’s delegable rights are delegated to the guardian; no rights are reserved for the Ward.  § 744.102(9)(b), Florida Statutes.  These delegated rights are found in § 744.3215(3)(a-g) and include the following: to contract; to sue and defend lawsuits; to apply for government benefits; to manage property or to make any gift or disposition of property; to determine his or her residence; to consent to medical and mental health treatment; and to make decisions […]

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