Florida Probate Lawyers
Estate, Trust, Probate and Guardianship Litigation
Adrian Philip Thomas, P.A. is a boutique law firm specializing in probate litigation, trust litigation, estate litigation and guardianship litigation. The Florida probate lawyers at the firm also handle uncontested Florida probate, trust, estate and guardianship administrations.
Nearly 30 years ago, founding partner Adrian Thomas began his practice of law in the estate planning and estate administration areas. He soon realized that Florida’s large, affluent elderly population made it a hotbed for abuse and subsequent estate litigation. Then 20 years ago, Mr. Thomas decided to open his own Florida probate law firm specializing in estate and trust litigation. The boutique law firm has represented thousands of clients in estate-related disputes, both prosecuting and defending, across the State of Florida. The causes of action include undue influence, lack of capacity, tortious interference with an inheritance and breach of fiduciary duty.
The Florida probate lawyers at Adrian Philip Thomas, P.A. know there are only a handful of fact patterns and you see them over and over again. Sometimes it is a second marriage and the surviving spouse who was entrusted to honor an estate plan diverts the money to his or her own children; sometimes it is a ne’er-do-well child who returns to “assist” an elderly parent and ends up helping himself or herself to the assets; sometimes it is a caregiver who exploits the elderly person dependent upon them; sometimes is it a paramour who interferes with the parent-child relationship; and sometimes it is a trustee who is being arbitrary or vindictive with the beneficiary. One thing is certain, with the biggest wealth transfer in history of approximately $30 trillion dollars from Baby Boomers to Gen X or Millennials, there is no end in sight to the issues giving rise to Florida probate litigation.
Florida probate and trust litigation are complex areas of the law and require specialized knowledge. You would not go to a family practitioner if you needed brain surgery and you should not go to just any law firm if you need representation in a Florida probate or trust litigation matter. It is an abstract and nuanced area of the law fraught with traps for the unwary.
Thank you very much!- M.L.
Thank you again.- A.V.
Thank you again for all your hard work and attention to detail.- K.S.
Robert and his team are just outstanding in every way.- P.V.
Again, thanks to you and your firm for doing a great job for another of my clients.- L.D.
What is Undue Influence?
Undue influence, as it is required for invalidation of a will, must amount to over-persuasion, duress, force, coercion, or artful or fraudulent contrivances to such a degree that there is destruction of the free agency and will power of the one making the will. Mere affection, kindness or attachment of one person for another may not of itself constitute undue influence. Heasley v. Evans, 104 So.l 2d 854, 857 (Fla. 2d DCA 1958).
How can a Florida probate lawyer help you?
Experienced estate attorneys always counsel families to avoid a legal fight – if they can. When a loved one or family member dies, fights and controversies can arise concerning the property that must be distributed after death. At our firm, we believe that estate lawyers representing beneficiaries, heirs, friends, family members, or designated charities in the Last Will & Testament or other testamentary documents (for example, a Trust) should attempt at first to informally negotiate an honest, fair and prompt response to any estate dispute or probate problem. Florida probate lawyers see many emotional disputes over property because a large segment of the state’s population is retired senior citizens. Often, the experienced counsel of an estate attorney to the grieving parties can be enough to resolve the property issues quickly and in a satisfactory manner for everyone. Sometimes, a legal fight cannot be avoided – negotiated settlements In some matters, problems are more serious and probate lawyers will need to find a more structured resolution to the controversies. Whether a family is facing a Florida will contest, trust litigation or probate lawsuit, an experienced probate lawyer can organize a more formal settlement process and thereafter structure the settlement to protect the client’s rights. There will be occasions of wrongdoing — a full probate lawsuit in a Florida courtroom can be necessary Unfortunately, there will be occasions where the death of a loved one or family member may be followed by a lawsuit over his property — and this lawsuit will be a necessity. The veteran probate lawyers at Adrian Philip Thomas, P.A. have seen many situations where only a courtroom challenge can stop wrongdoing that has occurred. When a family member, second spouse, neighbor, or home health care aid improperly places himself into a Last Will and Testament or Revocable Trust — and that defendant refuses to negotiate fairly — it may become crucial for a probate lawyer to file a lawsuit and litigate the case in a Florida courtroom to have an inheritance or gift protected and returned. Adrian Philip Thomas, P.A. is a law firm of Florida probate lawyers respecting the wishes of the decedent while serving the interests of the client in both will contest and trust controversies Wills. Whether an estate dispute rises to the level of a Florida will contest or is best resolved by informal negotiations or structured settlements is an issue to be determined by an experienced Florida probate lawyer, who can honestly evaluate the merits of the case with a client.For example, in a Last Will and Testament dispute, an heir usually has some basic facts to support that he has been unfairly omitted from the will, removed from the trust, or not included in the estate administration or probate process. At our firm, experienced probate lawyers investigate these facts to determine whether a case exists. In the case of surviving spouses, Florida law provides an elective share for widow(ers) of up to 30 percent of the decedent’s estate in lieu of what the will provides.How? We believe that a good, aggressive estate lawyer combines the client’s beliefs with the opinion of the estate attorney. The probate lawyer take the facts and then adds the Florida statutory and case law that establishes clear rules regarding probate litigation and grounds for a will contest. Together, these will assist the client in making the final decision on whether to retain an estate attorney and to proceed with the matter. Mr. Thomas and his team of estate attorneys are very capable of combining these numerous factors to advise potential clients. What kind of lawsuits or will contest? Evaluating facts and evidence with an experienced probate lawyer like Mr. Thomas may lead to the conclusion that grounds exist to support a lawsuit for an undue influence claim (challenging whether the testator freely and voluntarily made a will) or a lawsuit based on lack of testamentary capacity (challenging whether the testator had sufficient mental capacity to understand the nature, details and ramifications of a Will).Regardless of the actual lawsuit filed, the analysis must be done in a comprehensive manner by an experienced Florida probate lawyer before engaging in estate litigation or a probate challenge. For example, the estate attorney may discover that the witnesses to the Last Will and Testament did not sign in the presence of the testator or each other, which causes the will to be invalid under Florida law, and presents additional grounds to file a lawsuit. What about trusts? Trust litigation may challenge the validity of a trust in a manner similar to a Florida Will Contest, where undue influence or lack of capacity are alleged, or it may include a trust construction proceeding, where an estate lawyer is hired to seek court interpretation of the document language to determine the rightful trust beneficiaries. Trust construction is necessary when the trust document is unclear or is contradictory regarding the identity of beneficiaries, the allocation of estate and/or income taxes, the interests of lifetime beneficiaries, interests of remainder beneficiaries or the operation of gift and distributive property provisions. The probate lawyer is hired to obtain the Florida judge’s decision on how the trust language should be read. Trust reformation is another specialized area of trust litigation. Here, the court is asked to reform or change a trust, either to fix a trust problem or to modify it to reflect the true intention of the testator. Sometimes, our firm is hired by a beneficiary to monitor the trustee’s activities or to compel a fair and accurate accounting. Other times, we are hired by the trustee to help ensure that he or she is doing the job correctly and not inadvertently breaching a fiduciary duty to the beneficiaries.
Want a meeting with a Florida probate lawyer at Adrian Philip Thomas, P.A.?
Adrian Philip Thomas, P.A. is located in central downtown Fort Lauderdale, Florida on historic Las Olas Boulevard, which is one block from the Fort Lauderdale courthouse where Broward County probate and trust disputes are litigated. While most meetings are scheduled during normal business hours, special arrangements can be made for conferences outside of those times – at night and on weekends. Just call and ask for an appointment.
I don’t live in Fort Lauderdale; Can an Adrian Philip Thomas, P.A. probate lawyer help me?
South Florida is home to approximately 5.5 million people and with its intense population and geographical size, clients are sometimes uncertain as to whether the lawyers of Adrian Philip Thomas, P.A. will handle a case in a specific geographical area. First and foremost, our firm is made up of Florida probate lawyers and the law firm represents clients dealing with probate and estate issues that involve Florida law. They can help clients anywhere in the State of Florida. However, our firm represents clients who are predominantly from the Tri-County area, which includes Broward, Miami-Dade and West Palm Beach Counties. Broward is comprised of the following cities Coconut Creek, Coral Springs, Dania Beach, Davie, Deerfield Beach, Fort Lauderdale, Hallandale Beach, Hollywood, Lauderhill, Lighthouse Point, Margate, Miramar | Oakland Park | Pembroke Pines | Plantation | Pompano Beach | Tamarac | Weston | Wilton Manors. Miami-Dade County has the following cities Aventura | Bal Harbour | Bay Harbor Islands | Coral Gables | Hialeah | Hialeah Gardens | Homestead | Key Biscayne | Miami | Miami Beach | North Miami | North Miami Beach | Pinecrest | Surfside. Palm Beach has the following cities Boca Raton | Boynton Beach | Delray Beach | Greenacres | Highland Beach | Hypoluxo | Juno Beach | Jupiter | Lake Park | Lake Worth | Lantana | Ocean Ridge | Palm Beach | Palm Beach Gardens | Royal Palm Beach | Wellington | West Palm Beach.