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Florida Probate Blog

Posts Tagged: probate

Survivorship Accounts

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

Does creation of joint accounts with survivorship rights alter the dispositive provisions of a pre-existing last will and testament? The question of whether, and under what circumstances, a joint, Totten, or tentative trust in bank deposits can be revoked, either expressly or impliedly, by a written or oral declaration made by the settlor during his lifetime or by the terms of the settlor’s will is often debated among probate litigators and judges. There are few appellate opinions in Florida providing clear guidance for some scenarios. However, Florida and most other states follow the rule adopted by the Restatement of Trusts 2d §58 comment (c) that a tentative trust is revoked by the depositor’s will, if, by its terms, it indicates explicitly or implicitly that the depositor intended to effect such a revocation. Litsey v. First Federal Sav. & Loan Association 243 So.2d 239 (Fla. DCA 1971) (recognizing rule.)

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What is a Prenuptial Agreement?

Written by on Jan 30, 2009| Posted in: Estate Litigation

First District Upholds Integrity of Contracts in Recent OpinionA prenuptial agreement is a contract entered between partners before marriage, or civil unions in those jurisdictions recognizing those. The contract’s contents typically include provisions for the division of marital assets and spouse support in the event the relationship terminates. Prenuptial agreements usually arise in two very different legal contexts: (1) divorce and (2) probate. In Florida, the rules applying to these two vastly-different courtrooms are exclusive of one another. My experience has been dealing with prenuptial agreements in the probate arena, where the marital relationship has been severed not by divorce, but by the death of one of the spouses.

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Pretermitted Children

Written by on Jan 20, 2009| Posted in: Estate Litigation

Evidence Must Be Compelling to Disinherit What is a Pretermitted Child? A pretermitted heir describes a person who would likely stand to inherit under a Last Will and Testament, except that the person who wrote the Will did not know or did not know of the child at the time the Will was written. Many jurisdictions have enacted statutes that allow a pretermitted child to demand an inheritance under the Will Florida’s probate code provides when a testator omits to provide by Will for any of his or her children born after making the Will and the child has not received a part of the testator’s property equivalent to a child’s part by way of advancement, the child shall receive a share of the estate equal in value to that which the child would have received if the testator had died intestate, unless it appears from the Will that the […]

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Same Sex Couples and Probate

Written by on Jan 12, 2009| Posted in: Estate Litigation

How to Overcome the Disparate Impact of Succession Statutes, Inheritance Laws, and the Uniform Probate Code Laymen and probate practitioners may debate issues concerning same sex marriages. However, what is not debatable is that same-gender couples lack true donative freedom under current probate law. Brian Edwards explores the problems facing same sex couples in the enaction and enforcement of their testamentary plans in his recent and well written article, True Donative Freedom: Using Mediation to Resolve the Disparate Impact current Succession Law Has on Committed Same-Gender Loving Couples, 23 OHIO ST.J. ON DISP. RES. 715 (2008). Edwards suggests that mediation can be used to create a plan for same sex couples for enforcement of their donative intentions. He also argues that mediation can be used to solve problems and address other issues that typically arise between the surviving blood relatives and the surviving partner in a committed same sex relationship.

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Paternity: Can a Decedent’s Body Be Exhumed for Genetic Testing?

Written by on Jan 8, 2009| Posted in: Estate Litigation

State’s highest court authorizes opening of decedent’s grave to resolve a claim by an individual to be the decedent’s child. The rights of relatives to the body parts of their deceased family members has been the topic of much legal debate. [See Blog Entry dated September 19, 2008 Wait, Don’t Throw That Away! Do A Decedent’s Next Of Kin Have A Protected Right In The Decedent’s Blood Samples, Tissue, Organs And Other Body Parts That Have Been Removed And Retained By A Coroner For Forensic Examination And Testing?] The extent to which a court has authority over the dead body of the decedent was examined in the recent published opinion by the Maine Supreme Court in In re Estate of Kingsbury, 946 A.2d 389 (2008). Estate of Kingsbury involved the probate of the estate of Bruce H. Kingsbury, who died in 2006, leaving a will nominating his daughter, Robin Whorff, […]

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No Contest Clauses

Written by on Jan 6, 2009| Posted in: Probate Litigation

Alabama, Ohio, and 13 Other States Need to Follow Florida’s Lead Many decedents in a variety of jurisdictions place no contest provisions in their wills in order to prevent their family members from fighting over the inheritance following death. These clauses, sometimes referred to as in terrorem clauses are defined by Black’s Law Dictionary as ‘[a] provision designed to threaten one into action or inaction; esp., a testamentary provision that threatens to dispossess any beneficiary who challenges the terms of the will.’ For example, I have seen the clauses similar to this in many wills in an effort to avoid will contests: “If any beneficiary under this will in any manner, directly or indirectly, contests or challenges this will or any of its provisions, any share or interest in my estate given to that contesting beneficiary under this will is revoked and shall be disposed of in the same manner […]

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Adopted Adults: Court Applies Statute Preventing Adopted Adults From Receiving Inheritance.

Written by on Dec 11, 2008| Posted in: Estate Litigation

I’m always curious to see how remote the conclusion of a case involving application of a probate rule is to the legislative intent of the rule at the time of it becomes law. One such case recently surfaced in New England where the court’s application of a Rhode Island intestacy statute resulted in what may be considered an unjust and bizarre result. In Fleet Nat’l Bank v. Hunt 944 A.2d 846 (R.I. 2008) the court faced the estate administration of Art Hadley, a self-made entrepreneur and successful New England businessman, who died in 1941; survived by his wife, Frances and his two children, Thomas and Sarah. After Art Hadley’s death, Thomas married Betty, who had two children from prior relationships: Janet Hunt and Lucille Foster. A few years after Frances died, Thomas formally adopted Janet Hunt and Lucille Foster, both of whom were over eighteen years old. In 1993, Thomas […]

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Time to Draft New Rule for Probate Appellate Procedure?

Written by on Dec 1, 2008| Posted in: Probate Litigation

Fourth District Court of Appeals Ruling Reminds Practitioners of Need for Rules Clarification By Adrian P. Thomas The appeal of a probate court decision can be tricky. The appellate process is full of land mines, and the probate court appellate procedure is no exception. One of the most common issues that needs to be immediately addressed by the practitioner is to determine whether the appeal is premature. This question can be very challenging in the probate context because the administration of an estate and/or trust is a series of events that can be viewed as both temporal and final at the same time. What Probate Court Orders Can Be Appealed? One of the first rules to learn is that appeals may not be taken from interlocutory orders entered in the probate process. The party who wishes to seek appellate review of an order by the probate court is required to […]

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Florida’s Slayer Statute

Written by on Nov 26, 2008| Posted in: Estate Litigation

Why The Slayer Rule May Prevent the Slayer’s Estate From Benefiting From the Slayer’s Act By Adrian P. Thomas Nullus Commodum capere potest de injuria sua propria (No man can take advantage of his own wrong) Some readers may be familiar with one of my cases that has been in the headlines recently.  When appropriate, the Florida Slayer Rule can be applied to prevent an injustice and to preclude a killer from benefiting from the crime. Florida, like many other states, has adopted the Uniform Probate Code’s version of the Slayer Rule. See Fla.Stat. §732.802. Unif. Probate Code 2-803 (amended 1993), 8 U.L.A. 211, 211-12. The relevant part of the statute reads:

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Prenuptial Agreements and Probate

Written by on Nov 19, 2008| Posted in: Estate Litigation

Fifth District Rules Plain Language Govern Interpretation of Ante-Nuptial Agreement What is a Prenuptial Agreement? A Premarital or prenuptial or antenuptial agreement means an agreement between prospective spouses made in contemplation of marriage and to be effective upon marriage. The agreement typically speaks to issues relating to property and can involve virtually any interest or rights in any present or future real or personal property rights. Prenuptial agreements can also allocate rights and risks to the parties’ income and earnings, both active and passive.

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