After many years and hundreds of cases, we have learned that the facts are always the same in a general sense, but have infinite variety as to the particulars. There is always an elderly person, usually alone, and a predatory relative, friend, or caretaker who takes advantage of the loneliness and dependency of old age.
Estate, guardianship, and trust litigation are developing areas of the law in Florida. The large elderly population has created a hotbed for abuse and subsequent litigation. Because probate, guardianship, and trust work generally do not involve litigation, most practitioners in those areas are reluctant – and wisely so — to litigate an issue themselves. Litigation is full of pitfalls that make it a hazard for attorneys who do not specialize. Our most frequent attorney referrals come from estate planning and probate practitioners who correctly identify an issue while planning or administering an estate and realize that litigation is necessary. Some of the “red flags” are:
- An elderly parent comes in with one of his children to prepare new estate planning documents that change the beneficial interests of all of his children;
- A child with substance abuse issues decides to file a Petition to Determine Incapacity against an elderly parent even though the parent has complete estate planning documents that should eliminate the need for guardianship;
- A decedent who was dying of cancer and on heavy medication signs a new will or a deed near the end of his or her life;
- A child contacts you to advise you that she just found out a parent died a few months ago, the estate has been administered, and she never received any disclosure;
- A client with estate planning documents dies and the estate has numerous joint bank accounts with only one of the decedent’s children or with a friend or caretaker;
- A widow or a widower marries near the end of life and, notwithstanding a premarital agreement, creates joint accounts with the new spouse thereby cutting out the children the premarital agreement was designed to protect.
If you have identified an issue and would like to discuss it further before recommending litigation to your client, please call our firm to discuss the matter. We co-counsel cases throughout the State of Florida and pay fees to co-counsel in accordance with the division of fees rules promulgated by The Florida Bar. Please feel free to call or email.
515 East Las Olas Boulevard
Sun Trust Center, Suite 1050
Fort Lauderdale FL 33301