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Florida Probate Blog

Posts Tagged: probate

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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Exempt Property & The Pretermitted Spouse

Written by on Nov 14, 2008| Posted in: General

Fourth District Court of Appeals provides guidance on determination of exempt property.In Florida, the law provides that the surviving spouse of a decedent (or the decedent’s children if no surviving spouse) has a right to a share of the decedent’s “exempt property.” Exempt property Exempt property is defined in the Florida Probate Code as including: (1) household furniture, furnishings, and appliances in the decedent’s usual place of abode, up to a net value of $10,000 as of the date of death;(2) all automobiles held in the decedent’s name and regularly used by the decedent or members of the decedent’s immediate family as their personal automobiles;(3) Florida prepaid college program contracts purchased and Florida college savings agreements established under statutes;(4) all benefits paid pursuant to the statute which provides for death benefits for certain teachers and school administrators. See Fla.Stat. § 732.402(2).

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Testamentary Capacity: Do We Need Legal Reform?

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

Previous blog posts have discussed the fundamentals of will contests in Florida. These actions occur when a will is offered for probate (See Post dated October 28, 2008 What is the Definition of Probate) which is always after the testator has died. One of the most common grounds for a person seeking to invalidate a will offered for probate is that the will was executed at a time when the testator (the person signing the will) lacked testamentary capacity. The legal standard for testamentary capacity is that the testator knew the nature and extent of his or her property, the natural objects of his or her bounty (property) and the contents of his or her estate plan. See, In re Estate of Tolin, 622 So.2d 988, 990 (Fla. 1993). Since the person signing the will isn’t alive to testify or be examined in order to determine testamentary capacity, the court […]

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Settlement Agreements and Mediation in Probate

Written by on Nov 5, 2008| Posted in: Probate Litigation

Third District Court of Appeals Upholds Terms of Settlement Agreement Between BeneficiariesThe sanctity of the signed settlement agreement was confirmed on October 29, 2008 when the Third District issued its opinion in Charles Brindle v. Richard W. Brindle, –So.2d–, 2008 WL 4722746; 33 Fla.L.Weekly D2528a (Fla.4th DCA October 29, 2008). Brindle originated in the form of two competing orders from the civil and probate benches in Monroe County. The first order adopted and approved a written settlement agreement by which the sons of the decedent, Dorothy Brindle, resolved a will contest among themselves and agreed to a global reallocation and distribution of all of their inheritance given to them under Dorothy’s will. Fast forward two years, when the Personal Representative of Dorothy’s estate (who also signed the settlement agreement) discovered during the course of asset distribution that there were insufficient assets in the estate to pay the expenses. Monroe County […]

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Florida Intestacy

Written by on Oct 31, 2008| Posted in: General

  Should a distant heir have inheritance rights from a relative the heir didn’t even know? In Florida, and many other states, the traditional law governing intestate succession provides an inheritance to the intestate decedent’s “next of kin” without regard to how far removed (e.g., emotionally, geographically or familiarity) the relative taking the inheritance is from the decedent. (See, Fla. Stat. § 732.103 allowing collateral inheritance either through the great-grandfather or to “next of kin.” ) This concept is nothing new, it has been with us for ages. For example, the Bible provides an intestacy schedule for the Israelites that allows for inheritance by the closest relative:

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Attorney’s Fees: Ask and You Shall Receive

Written by on Oct 29, 2008| Posted in: General

Fourth District Court of Appeals Reverses Broward County Probate Judge’s Order Requiring Trustee and Lawyer to Repay Fees to the Estate. Wintter & Associates, P.A. v. Terry Kanowsky, . 33 Fla. L. Weekly D2471a; — So.2d —-, 2008 WL 4643358 (Fla.App. 4 Dist, October 22, 2008.). David Mercer, the executor of the Estate of Blanche Heische, and trustee of the Sixth Amended and Restated Declaration of Trust of Blanche Heische testamentary trust, submitted his final accounting to Broward County Probate Judge Mel Grossman. Because the trustee had performed what he considered “extraordinary” services in connection with work to clear title to a parcel of real property devised to him through the testator’s will, the trustee included extraordinary fees in his accounting. The residual beneficiary of the trust, Terry Kanowsky, objected to the “extraordinary” fee request in the accounting. Following an evidentiary hearing, Broward County Probate Judge Mel Grossman determined that […]

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