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Florida Probate Blog

The Law Offices of Adrian Philip Thomas

Freezing Assets: Putting a Stop to Ongoing Injury

Written by on Jul 29, 2013| Posted in: Estate Litigation

We speak with clients everyday who worry that estate trust assets are going to waste or being actively misappropriated.  Some cases involve breach of fiduciary duties, while others may involve fraud or undue influence in the inception.  Though the facts and circumstances vary, the concern is the same: irreparable harm is occurring and time is of the essence. In these situations, an injured party can appeal to the courts and invoke one of the most powerful tools available to the judicial system, the injunction.  An injunction is a court order that prohibits a party from doing some act which injures another party.  Injunctions are a function of the court sitting in equity, meaning they address a harm that cannot be adequately addressed by filing a lawsuit and receiving later damages from the offending party.  For example, if a trustee is actively melting down priceless family heirlooms to sell for scrap […]

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Grounds for Florida Will Contest

Written by on Jul 11, 2013| Posted in: Estate Litigation

Many families, upon the death of a loved one, along with dealing with the obvious associated pain, also unfortunately are presented with the situation where they believe that there may have been questionable circumstances involved in the process of the preparation and drafting of the Will. The question arises, are there actually grounds to contest the Will? The first consideration in making this determination is whether the Will was properly executed. IN RE Estate of Blakenship 122 So. 2d 466 (Fla. 1960) declared that the requirements for execution and qualification are governed by statute and F.S. 732.502 sets for the requirements for proper execution. A general roadmap requires scrutiny of, at the very least, some of the following issues: F.S. 732.501 indicates that the testator must be of sound mind and at least 18 years of age or an emancipated minor. The Will must be in writing, signed at the […]

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Florida Trust Lawyer

Written by on Jun 28, 2013| Posted in: Estate Litigation

The Florida Trust Code continues to grow and respond to the suggestions of the Florida Bar and Florida Trust Lawyers. A recent example is the recent enactment of Senate Bill 492 which made a number of changes which were recommended by Florida Trust Lawyers participating in the Florida Real Property, Probate, and Trust Law Section of the Florida Bar. One of the more significant changes of the Florida Trust Code used by Florida Trust Attorneys, which becomes effective October 1, 2013, is the expansion of the long arm jurisdiction of Florida Courts to adjudicate trust disputes. Many Florida Probate lawyers and Florida Trust attorneys remember the lesson from Pennoyer v. Neff, a SCOTUS opinion from 1878 which held that service over a person or property physically within a state confers jurisdiction to that person or property. But what happens when a beneficiary of a Florida trust has a dispute with […]

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What is a Spendthrift Trust?

Written by on Jun 18, 2013| Posted in: Estate Litigation

A valid spendthrift provision prevents a beneficiary from transferring his or her interest in the trust as well as prevents creditors or assignees of the beneficiary from reaching any of he trust funds until they are dispersed to the beneficiary.

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Judicial Modification of Trusts

Written by on Jun 4, 2013| Posted in: General

Trusts are created for a variety of reasons.  Whether it is for tax and creditor protection or because the beneficiary is still a minor, there may be myriad reasons for their preparation.  Nevertheless, the initial purpose behind the execution of a trust may get lost or become impractical as time passes or the circumstances that were present at the time of its execution are no longer present or have changed making judicial modification of trusts necessary. In contemplation of such changing of circumstances, the Florida legislature enacted Fla. Stat. §736.04113 which allows a trustee or a qualified beneficiary to petition the court for an order to modify or terminate a trust in the event that settlor’s purpose behind executing the trust is no longer being satisfied.    The statute states, in relevant part, as follows: (1)    Upon application of a trustee of the trust or any qualified beneficiary, a court at any time may modify the […]

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Lost or Destroyed Will

Written by on May 16, 2013| Posted in: General

What happens when the Decedent’s original Last Will & Testament cannot be found? It is well-settled under Florida law that when an original will that is known to have existed cannot be located after the death of the decedent, the presumption is that the testator destroyed the will with the intent to revoke it. In re: Estate of Parker, 382 So.2d 652 (Fla. 1980). Often, a family member will have a copy of the Will and will offer it for probate and ask the probate court to admit the Will as if it were an original.  Then, the proponent of the lost will (the person offering the copy for probate) has the burden of introducing competent, substantial evidence to overcome the presumption that the will was destroyed by the testator. Lonergan v. Estate of Budahazi, 669 So. 2d 1062 (Fla. 5th DCA 1996). The Parker court said that the first […]

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ADRIAN THOMAS LAWYER REPUTATION

Written by on Apr 18, 2013| Posted in: General

“The way to gain a good reputation is to endeavor to be what you desire to appear.”  ~ Socrates The lawyers at Adrian Philip Thomas, P.A. strive to be competent and passionate advocates for their clients while maintaining high levels of professional courtesy and ethical conduct.  For twenty years, we have been serving the needs of clients with probate administration and estate litigation disputes throughout the State of Florida.  We are proud to have earned the gracious thanks of many clients over the years. Dear Adrian, Oh happy days!  I could not have found finer legal representation.  I will be eternally grateful to you.  Thank you so much.  You took on a complicated case over multiple jurisdictions made overly complex so I could never prevail.  Your staff, your firm, absolutely everyone attended to me with the utmost courtesy, skill and promptness.  Thank you, Adrian, for fighting so hard for me.  Warmest regards, E.S. To […]

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Inheritance Dispute Lawyers

Written by on Apr 8, 2013| Posted in: Estate Litigation

 Remedies Available in Florida Courts Tortious interference with an inheritance is a relatively new but widely recognized tort that is currently accepted in Florida and half of the United States.  Many other states have reported cases from their state Supreme Court or appellate level addressing the tort, but declining to determine whether it is recognized.  Clearly, the trend is moving toward national acceptance and recognition of the tort. The importance of availability of the tort cannot be understated.  It serves many purposes, especially in Florida, where elderly and vulnerable adults are preyed upon by unscrupulous persons seeking to financially exploit Florida’s elderly citizens.    The tort provides a remedy in the form of money, a civil remedy, to a person who believes that another has wrongfully interfered with an inheritance.  The remedy is awarded by the civil court, not the probate court, and the money award is paid by the person […]

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What are the fiduciary duties of a trustee?

Written by on Apr 1, 2013| Posted in: Trust Litigation

“The trust of the innocent is the liar’s most useful tool.”  Stephen King Our firm is contacted by many trust beneficiaries who have never received a trust accounting, and they are not aware of the fiduciary duties the Trustee of the trust has to the trust beneficiaries.  Often, the trust beneficiaries place faith and trust in the Trustee to administer the Trust in accordance with the law and what is morally correct.  They are surprised to find that the Trustee of a Trust has specific fiduciary duties to all of the beneficiaries of the trust, which include, but are not limited to the following: 1)     Under Florida law, a trustee has a duty to administer the trust in good faith, in accordance with the terms and purposes of the trust, and in the interests of the beneficiaries pursuant to Fla. Stat. § 736.0801. 2)    The Trustee owes the trust beneficiaries a […]

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ATTORNEY’S FEES AND COSTS IN BREACH OF FIDUCIARY DUTY MATTERS

Written by on Feb 27, 2013| Posted in: Probate Litigation

In the Florida Probate Code, the legislature has taken into account the various attorney’s fees and costs incurred during an estate or trust proceeding, including when there are contested matters and allegations of breach of fiduciary duty.  No attorney can guarantee that your attorney’s fees will be paid from the other side; however, there are several statutes that allow a petitioner to seek such financial relief. Fla. Stat. 733.106 states, in relevant part, as follows: (1)   In all probate proceedings costs may be awarded in chancery actions …. (3)   Any attorney who has rendered services to an estate may be awarded reasonable compensation from the estate. (4)   When costs and attorney’s fees are to be paid from the estate, the court may direct from what part of the estate they shall be paid. Fla. Stat. 733.609 states, in relevant part, as follows: (1)    A personal representative’s fiduciary duty is the […]

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