client portal
  • Legal Leaders logo
  • Blue Forbes logo
  • AVVO 10.0
  • Top 100 Lawyers badge
  • Daily Business Review Newspaper
  • Legal Elite 2012 Badge
  • Top Rated Lawyers
  • The American Lawyer, Adrian Philip Thomas

Florida Probate Blog

The Law Offices of Adrian Philip Thomas

Probate:  Enforcement of Prenuptial Agreement

Written by on Dec 3, 2018| Posted in: Probate Litigation

In the recently-decided Kellar v. Estate of John W. Kellar, 43 Fla.L.Weekly D2381a, the Fourth District Court of Appeal reminded us that a prenuptial agreement is a contract and is enforced in probate like a creditor claim. In Kellar, Decedent and his wife executed a premarital agreement, in which Decedent agreed to make a will in favor of his wife; however, during Decedent’s lifetime, his son had Decedent execute a new will excluding the wife in favor of himself.  Upon Decedent’s death, wife filed a petition seeking to admit the will favoring her and Decedent’s son filed a counter-petition seeking to admit the will favoring him.  Wife challenged son’s will on the grounds of undue influence.  The lower court found “[t]he wife presented competent, substantial evidence to raise the rebuttable presumption that the son exerted undue influence over the decedent to procure the decedent’s revocation of his will favoring the […]

read more

Will Devising Property to Fiancee Survives Subsequent Marriage and Divorce

Written by on Sep 27, 2018| Posted in: Estate Litigation

Ex-wife 1 – Incapacitated Father 0: An Unreasonable Conclusion Based on Statutory Construction  Gordon v. Fishman, 43 Fla.L.Weekly D1969b In 2005, Ron Priever executed a will devising property to his then fiancée, Silvia Gordon.  Priever and Gordon married in 2007 and divorced in 2013.  Mr. Priever died in 2015, leaving no spouse and no children and never having changed his will; however, Priever was survived by his incapacitated father, Bernard, who was the ward of a guardianship.  Bernard’s guardian petitioned for administration, treating the estate as if Priever died without a will, which would leave Bernard the intestate beneficiary.  The court granted the petition and appointed the guardian as personal representative.  Thereafter, Gordon filed Priever’s original will with the court claiming that she was the beneficiary under the terms of Priever’s will executed before their marriage and divorce.  The guardian objected, claiming that once Priever and Gordon divorced any interest Gordon had […]

read more

Bank Accounts: ownership intent trumps legal form of ownership

Written by on Sep 4, 2018| Posted in: Probate Litigation

Lorraine Kowalski and her husband, Leon, were legally married but separated for approximately sixteen years when Leon died in 2015.  At the time of his death, Leon was living with his long-time, live-in girlfriend, to whom he devised the majority of his estate in a Last Will and Testament.  Lorraine sought an elective share of the estate.  During the probate proceedings, a special master was appointed to determine certain issues, among them Leon’s interest in a bank account in Lorraine’s sole name.  The special master found that Leon owned 50% of the account and that Leon’s share should be distributed to Leon’s estate.  The trial court confirmed the special master’s report and Lorraine appealed.  The appellate court affirmed. In 2006, Lorraine and Leon sold their business and received $3,445,066 which Lorraine held in an account in her sole name.  Over the years, Leon would ask Lorraine for money when he […]

read more

Florida Probate Nonclaim Statute Does Not Apply to Beneficiaries

Written by on Sep 1, 2018| Posted in: Probate Litigation

HEIRS ASSERT CLAIM TO INTESTATE SHARE OF ESTATE 45 YEARS AFTER DECEDENT’S DEATH:  FIFTH DISTRICT HOLDS THAT FLORIDA’S 2-YEAR NONCLAIM STATUTE DOES NOT APPLY TO CLAIMS ASSERTING BENEFICIAL INTEREST IN ESTATE Helen Watkins had two daughters, Bernice Wallace and Helen Mansell.  In 1971, Watkins died intestate (without a last will and testament) owning a parcel of real property in St. Augustine, Florida.  Nearly 30 years later, Wallace and Mansell filed a petition for summary administration alleging they were the sole heirs at law.  The property was conveyed to Wallace and Mansell and Mansell sold her interest to Wallace.  Another 16 years lapsed and Mansell’s three biological children, who had been legally adopted by Watkins in 1963, filed a petition to re-open summary administration to claim their intestate share of Watkins’s estate.  Wallace objected and asserted, inter alia, that Florida’s nonclaim statute, s. 733.710(1), Fla. Stat., which provides: Limitations on claims […]

read more

Discovery of Trust Documents

Written by on Feb 13, 2018| Posted in: Trust Litigation

Boren v. Rogers, et al, 43 Fla. L. Weekly D274c In 2014, Ann Boren filed a complaint seeking to invalidate two trusts, one executed in 2013 and the other executed in 2014, on the grounds of undue influence.  The allegations in the amended complaint were that Evelyn Rivera befriended the decedent, Elaine Mullins, late in life while the decedent was in failing health and suffering from cognitive deficits and unduly influenced Ms. Mullins to execute the two trust instruments which excluded Ms. Boren from them.  Ms. Boren alleged that but for this undue influence she would have been a beneficiary.  The drafting attorney, Thomas Rogers, was also the named trustee of both the 2013 and the 2014 trusts.  In defending the lawsuit, Mr. Rogers argued that Ms. Boren lacked standing to challenge the trusts “because the trust was initially created in 1992 and ‘was amended and/or restated in 1996, 2000, […]

read more

Delayed Discovery Doctrine Applies to Undue Influence Claims

Written by on Jan 12, 2018| Posted in: Probate Litigation

Flanzer v. Kaplan, — So.3d — (2017 Wl 5759041) – Gloria and Louis Flanzer created a philanthropic trust in December 2005. By its terms, the trust became irrevocable at its creation. Louis died in June 2013 and Gloria died in March 2015. In November 2015, Jan Flanzer sued to challenge numerous estate planning documents executed by her parents, including the philanthropic trust.  Jan Flanzer alleged that during a period of time from at least 2001 until her mother’s death, the Trustees maintained a fiduciary relationship with her mother and served as her personal accountant, business and financial advisor, and attorney.  According to the complaint, Gloria Flanzer had diminished mental capacity during this period and was emotionally and mentally susceptible to the undue influence of the Trustees. Jan Flanzer further alleged that the Trustees exploited their confidential relationship with Gloria Flanzer to alienate and ultimately eliminate Jan Flanzer from her mother’s estate plan.  In Count V of Jan Flanzer’s complaint, she alleged that […]

read more

Premature Discharge of Personal Representative

Written by on Jan 11, 2018| Posted in: Probate

In re: Estate of Lillian L. Unanue (43 Fla.L.Weekly D70a) – On November 17, 2016, the co-personal representatives of the Estate of Lillian Unanue (“Estate”) filed a final accounting and petition for discharge.  The documents were served on the beneficiaries, including Robert and George Unanue.  The probate court entered an order of discharge on December 5, 2016, just 18 days after the petition was filed.  Subsequently, on December 16, 2016, Robert and George filed timely objections to the final accounting and petition for discharge, but the estate was already closed.  In the appeal, Robert and George sought reversal of the order of discharge because it was entered prematurely and curtailed their right to object to the accounting.  The Second District Court of Appeal agreed, citing Florida Probate Rule 5.400(b)(6), which states, in pertinent part, that “any objections to the accounting, the compensation paid or proposed to be paid, or the […]

read more

Ownership of Safe Deposit Box Contents

Written by on Jan 24, 2017| Posted in: General

Who owns the contents of a safe-deposit box when two people are on the box and one dies? The answer may depend on what is specifically provided in the lease or rental agreement with the bank.  In other words, does the bank have a written policy regarding who owns and/or who can enter the box in the event of death of one of the co-owners?  If the bank does not have specific rules, the Florida law provides that if a safe-deposit box is rented or leased in the names of two or more lessees, access to the safe-deposit box will be granted to either of them, regardless of whether or not the other lessee is living or competent.  But is access to the box the same as ownership of the content of the box?  First, there is no parallel statute that determines the ownership of the contents of safe deposit […]

read more

Due Process, Death and Taxes

Written by on Jan 9, 2017| Posted in: General

I have written extensively about the application of the due process requirements under both the Florida and United States Constitutions in previous blogs and cannot resist touching upon a recent opinion in a state court case applying federal due process law:  Kimberly Rice Kaesterner 1992 Family Trust v. North Carolina Dep’t of Revenue 789 S.E.2d 645 (N.C.Ct. App. 2016). New York probate and Florida probate lawyers understand that it has long been the law of the land that the fact that beneficiaries of a trust are not residents does not deprive property subject to the trust a situs in the state where the trustee is domiciled.   Typically, the trust property is taxed to the holder of the legal title—the trustee—or where the property is located.  The tax is not imposed on the trust beneficiary. In fact, Chief Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes and the United States Supreme Court has ruled that […]

read more

Trust Revocation: No Magic Art is Necessary

Written by on Dec 27, 2016| Posted in: Uncategorized

The Uniform Trust Code §602(c) provides that a settlor may revoke or amend a revocable trust by substantial compliance with a method provided in the terms of the trust or by any method manifesting clear and convincing evidence of the settlor’s intent.   Section 736.0602(3) of the Florida Trust Code is identical to the Uniform Code with respect to the revocation of trusts.  What is Clear and Convincing Evidence?  Florida trust lawyers know that ‘clear and convincing evidence’ is evidence that is precise, explicit, lacking in confusion, and of such weight that it produces a firm belief or conviction, without hesitation, about the matter in issue. BDO Seidman, LLP v. Banco Espirito Santo International, 38 So.3d 874 (Fla. 3d DCA 2011).  The standard of proof has also been described as an intermediate standard of proof, more than the ‘preponderance of the evidence’ standard used in most civil cases, and less than […]

read more
Page 1 of 3712345678...Last

We can make a difference.
Call now for a complimentary consultation.
Toll Free 1-800-249-8125

Phone: (954) 764-7273
Fax: (954) 764-7274

Suntrust Center
515 East Las Olas Blvd, Suite 1050
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33301