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Florida Probate Blog

Posts Tagged: Probate Litigation

Contesting a Will in Florida

Written by on Aug 7, 2019| Posted in: Probate Litigation

Contesting a will in Florida can be done in two ways and for the following reasons: Petition to Revoke Probate.  If a will has already been admitted to probate and no deadline prevents a contest, then a petition to revoke probate of the will can be filed to begin a will contest. Objection to Petition for Administration.  If a will has been offered for probate but not admitted to probate by the court, then an objection to the petition for administration can be filed contesting the will.  Undue Influence.  Undue influence is the most common grounds to contest the validity of a will in Florida.  Undue influence is a type of fraud and the general allegation is that the wrongdoer asserted so much influence over the decedent that the will is the product of the wrongdoer’s desires and does not reflect the true desires of the decedent.  For more information about […]

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Lawyer-Client Privilege Does Not Apply to Estate Planning Attorney’s Files in challenge to a Decedent’s Estate Planning Documents

Written by on Mar 28, 2019| Posted in: Estate Litigation

Lawyer-Client Privilege Does Not Apply to Estate Planning Attorney’s Files in challenge to a Decedent’s Estate Planning Documents In general, an attorney’s file is protected by the evidentiary lawyer-client privilege; however, in the contest of estate litigation – will contests and trust contests – an estate planning lawyer’s file is not protected by the privilege and is subject to being produced in litigation discovery. Vasallo v. Bean, 208 So.3d 188 (Fla. 3d DCA 2016) Plaintiffs in probate and trust litigation cases are frequently forced to spend considerable time and money compelling the decedent’s estate planning attorney to produce his or her file and to answer questions at depositions.  Sometimes the objections and motions for protective order come from the defendant.  This is common when the defendant, who is the alleged undue influencer, is also the decedent’s personal representative and attempts to assert the decedent’s lawyer-client privilege to conceal his or […]

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Attorney-Client Privilege in Probate Litigation

Written by on Nov 18, 2016| Posted in: Probate Litigation

Death, Lawyers, and Loose Lips:  Third District Court of Appeals Clarifies Distinction Between Ethical duty of Confidentiality from Evidentiary Privilege The attorney client privilege dates back to the English Common Law of the late sixteenth century making it the first privilege the law recognized for confidential communication.  For example, see Dennis v. Codrington, 21 Eng.Rep. 53 (1580) (finding “A counselor not to be examined of any matter, wherein he hath been of counsel”).  Thus, it is generally accepted by Florida probate lawyers that the ethical rule of attorney-client confidentiality limits disclosure of information acquired during the scope of the representation.  The only exception is where the client consents to the disclosure.  Rule 4-1.6(a) of the Florida Rules of Professional Conduct articulates the prohibition of disclosure of confidential information: “A lawyer must not reveal information relating to representation of a client…unless the client gives informed consent.”    The sanctity of the […]

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Priority in Florida Probate Proceedings

Written by on Nov 26, 2013| Posted in: Probate Litigation

It is often the case that people pass away with real property located in various states.  What occurs when there is a bona fide dispute over where your loved-one was actually domiciled on the date of his or her death?  What if there is a question as to which state should administer the estate?  The 4th District Court of Appeals recently heard a matter where there was such a dispute.  The late mother of the appellant died in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 2011.  The appellant subsequently opened a probate proceeding in Philadelphia seeking to probate a 2010 Will.  When the mother’s surviving husband received notification of this proceeding, he subsequently filed a petition to open a probate administration in Palm Beach County, Florida, asserting that this 2010 Will was invalid due to undue influence and requested that the estate probate her 1991 Will instead. The appellant (son) objected to the Florida […]

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Probate Litigation

Written by on Nov 16, 2009| Posted in: Estate Litigation

Fourth DCA overturns Broward Probate Court’s eviction of son from his deceased mother’s apartment. My blog has previously discussed the Fourth District’s view, articulated in Herrilka v. Yates, 13 So.3d 122 (Fla. 4th DCA 2009) on the limitations on an estate fiduciary in taking or encumbering homestead property.  Herrilka involved a dispute between two women who both claimed to be married to the decedent; consequently, a curator-Christine Yates-was appointed to marshal the estate assets.  One of the women, Mrs. Herrilka, occupied the real property that was, without dispute, the decedent’s homestead.

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Bad Heir Day

Written by on Oct 28, 2009| Posted in: General

State v. Marshall ends after six month trial. “Money is like manure; it’s not worth a thing unless it’s spread around.”—Brooke Astor I have previously written about Meryl Gordon’s recent book Mrs. Astor Regrets: The Hidden Betrayals of a Family Beyond Reproach as an outline of what can happen when wealth meets the dysfunctional family. As readers may know, the late philanthropist Brooke Astor’s probate estate was the subject of litigation and criminal charges in New York. Brook Astor inherited over $60 million when her husband died in 1953. Amazingly, between then and 2003, she changed her last will and testament no less than 38 times. Evidently, Ms. Astor detested her son, Anthony Marshall’s third wife, Charlene, and began making changes to her will at the end of her life to insure that Charlene did not inherit any of the family fortune. Prosecutors charged in an eighteen count indictment that […]

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Power of Attorney – What happens when the holder says no?

Written by on Mar 16, 2009| Posted in: Probate Litigation

Can an agent’s failure to make gifts create liability for intentional interference with an expectancy?When someone executes a Power of Attorney in favor of another person, usually a trusted relative or friend, its vests enormous power and duties on the agent. With this power and responsibility comes potential liability if the agent acts in a manner that falls short of the law’s expectations. The question of how far that liability stretches is frequently an issue that is fiercely disputed in probate court. A recent opinion from the Georgia Supreme Court explores the issue of whether an agent’s failure to make changes to a last will and testament directed by the principal can constitute the basis of an intentional interference with an expectancy claim. Generally, the law in Florida and most other states that recognize the tort of intentional interference, hold that in order to state a cause of action for […]

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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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Mediations and Settlement Agreements

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

Third District Court of Appeals Opinion Serves as a Reminder to address crucial issues. A candid discussion between counsel regarding settlement and mediation is generally a good idea at some point in any type of litigation, especially will and trust contests and similar probate issues. Since these cases are almost always inter-family case, settlement should be attempted to try to keep the family intact. A good settlement is usually a division of assets that neither side particularly likes, but with which both sides can live. It is generally a good idea to include at least a discussion of these items in any probate settlement agreement: • A mutual release; • Determination of the validity of the will (if it is agreed that the will is invalid, then a prior will must be admitted to probate and the estate fiduciary must be appointed. If the will remains valid, the estate fiduciary […]

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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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