Articles Tagged with probate litigation attorney

Florida probate law pretty clearly establishes the right of children to inherit a portion (or all) of a parent’s estate when he or she dies without a will (intestate estate). Further, Chapter 732 of Florida Statutes doesn’t make any distinction indicating a child born out-of-wedlock is any less entitled to an inheritance than one born to parents who are married. However, in a case where it is the father who has passed and the child was born out-of-wedlock, paternity must be established in order for that child to receive that inheritance.probate litigation

Generally, there are two ways this happens:

  • A court order, typically following some type of biological testing.
  • A signed acknowledgment by the father while he was alive.

A recent Florida case raised an interesting question that could be applicable to future probate litigation cases involving intestate estate where paternity is disputed. The Florida Supreme Court recently weighed in on the question of whether one can establish paternity when someone else is already presumed so by law. Continue reading

Being left out of the will of a parent, grandparent or other loved one can sting emotionally, but you might not be completely without legal options. It’s important to discuss the circumstances with an experienced Fort Lauderdale probate lawyer who can help walk you through the possibilities. contest a will

Although sometimes there is little expectation of an inheritance due to long-term erosion of the relationship, for many adult children and grandchildren, the news can come as something of a shock. The decision of whether to take action is a difficult one and will probably depend at least partially on what the odds are you’ll be successful in obtaining an equal share or at least a fairly-negotiated settlement with the named heirs.

There are a number of ways you may be able to challenge if you are left out of a will, all of which are time-sensitive so getting a probate lawyer involved as soon as possible is an imperative. Continue reading

A South Florida attorney has filed three lawsuits in Palm Beach County against his siblings – one trust, one probate and one tort – and another in Broward Circuit Court – alleging his siblings committed fraud in influencing their elderly mother to alter her previous estate plan and give them millions of dollars in gifts over the course of her life. In addition to his siblings, he named a brokerage firm (which had frozen all accounts from the estate), as it held accounts for both the family-owned real estate companies and his siblings. undue influence probate

The siblings’ father reportedly left behind a real estate of fortune of more than $100 million. By coercing their mother, plaintiff alleges, the siblings engaged in something called undue influence.

Undue influence happens when someone close to the person who has or is making a will manipulates or pressures that person to alter that will in some legally significant way. We see a lot of examples of undue influence in cases against caretakers, close family members, nurses, agents – even attorneys. These cases often are tough to build because we must show whether the alterations or transfers were consistent with the person’s previous statements of intent (verbal or written). The court will want to see whether the person who wrote the will (the testator) truly intended to make those chances that unfairly impacted the plaintiff. It would be their right to do so, and it’s still important to note that even if there is some evidence showing the person was susceptible to undue influence, we still need to show the actions were not the true intention or free will of the testator.  Continue reading

There are copious amounts of information available online about do-it-yourself estate planning. But just because you can doesn’t mean you should, the same way it’s always a bad idea to represent yourself in court – even if you’re an attorney. This is not a leaky shower repair you may be able to amble your way through – this is your financial future, and the best means you have of keeping yourself and your loved ones out of probate litigation. probate litigation attorney

Although reason it’s better to have something than nothing at all (64 percent of Americans don’t have a will – 55 percent of those being parents), the fact is if you are not experienced in handling these types of complex legal matters and anticipating certain contingencies, you may end up creating even more of a mess. Far too many people underestimate the complexity of their estate. It goes beyond simply divvying up the contents of a bank account. Everything – from identifying an executor or trustee to updating your beneficiary lists to gifting money to minors – all of these things require careful consideration.

Drafting your estate plan should come only after a well-thought-out estate and financial plan. If all you do is “fill-in-the-blanks,” that is not reflective of such a process. Further, one size does not fit all, and you also need to be sure that the document you have completed meets all the requirements for what is valid in your state. For instance, F.S. 732.502 requires two witnesses to properly execute a will in Florida, while Pennsylvania requires three. Further, these witnesses must sign in the presence of the testator and each other, which generally requires a self-proving affidavit. Usually, it’s the drafting attorney who signs these affidavits in your presence, but if you do-it-yourself on the internet, you won’t have this option. Continue reading

The Pew Research Center reported last year that a record 61 million Americans live in multi-generational households. That’s nearly one-fifth of the population. This means finances of aging parents, grandparents and adult children and grandchildren are sometimes intertwined. This does not necessarily mean that upon a loved one’s passing that debts will automatically be transferred to relatives, even those you live with. However, probate litigation attorneys in Fort Lauderdale recognize many people don’t fully understand the debts for which they may be responsible, and which they are not.probate litigation

In general, no person is responsible for the debts of another while the debtor is alive – or dead. There are exceptions to this, though. For instance, spouses are often held accountable for each other’s medical debts in life. Relatives who co-sign or are also listed on loans may be responsible – that goes for student loans, car payments, mortgages, credit cards, etc. In death, a debtor’s outstanding obligations typically become the responsibility of “the estate.” The estate consists of all property, savings and debts. The process is much easier if there is a living trust in place, but if not, probate is the process of sorting through how those debts will be paid off and how property will be transferred to living beneficiaries.

To protect their inheritance, family members may need to start dealing with debts before probate has officially opened. That means keeping current on those administrative bills (i.e., mortgage, HOA fees, property taxes, utility bills, storage fees, etc.) until the probate estate is opened, and sometimes until the estate closes. Then there are the “final bills,” which can include income taxes, cell phones bills, credit card bills and retirement accounts. Beneficiaries of an estate probably should not pay out these final bills until the personal estate representative/ executor has settled the estate. A probate litigation attorney can help you sort through the details and determine the best way to protect your inheritance while still ensuring the estate meets its obligations. Continue reading

Any experienced probate litigation lawyer in South Florida is familiar with the stereotypical “evil stepmother” trope. It’s not necessarily that there may not be truth to it in some families, but it more often than not really comes down to the fact that in so many probate, estate and trust cases, the interests of the surviving spouse (more likely to be the stepmother) so often conflict with those of adult stepchildren. It’s fair to say that a significant portion – bordering on half – of contested wills, trust contests, life estate challenges, elder financial abuse allegations, deed revocations – involve some type of conflict between adult stepchildren and stepmothers.probate litigation

This is certainly not to say that stepmothers are “evil” in all or even most of these scenarios. What it does highlight is the fact that so many conflicts in matters of estate involve this dynamic and it’s indicative of the fact that an increasing number of families are blended and this inevitably can create long-simmering tension that can spill over into disputes over estate property, beneficiary rights to a trust or an inheritance.

The Pew Research Center reported just a couple years ago that in 1960, 73 percent of children were living in two-parent family households. By 2014, that figure dropped to 46 percent. The number of single-parent households rose from 9 percent to 26 percent during that time. Sixteen percent of children live in so-called “blended families,” with a stepparent, step-sibling or half-sibling. And of course, these figures reflect family structures in childhood; those single parents often go on to get married as the children get older or reach adulthood. There is also an increasing trend toward cohabitation among elderly paramours, which might further complicate matters legally. Continue reading

An arbitration panel has awarded more than $34 million to the estate of the co-founder of the Home Shopping Network, finding that bank Morgan Stanley, along with its broker and branch manager, engaged in unauthorized trading, breach of fiduciary duty/ constructive fraud, negligence, negligent supervision and unjust enrichment. Arbitrators additionally concluded the bank violated Florida law against exploitation of vulnerable adults. elderlyman

These damages involve actions over a three-year period from 2009 to 2012, and involve investments in banking and financial services. At the time, the decedent was alive, but suffering from severe dementia, of which he died in 2012, according to InvestmentNews.com. The bank insists there was evidence the accounts were profitable and were managed in accordance with their client’s wishes, a view clearly not shared by arbitrators. Decedent’s widow stated her primary hope was that the case would spur greater protections for elderly investors.

Good probate litigation attorneys in Fort Lauderdale know that so often, we don’t recognize an elderly loved one is being financially exploited until after the individual dies. Although the aforementioned case is unique in terms of the scope of the exploitation, the circumstances themselves aren’t all that rare, and we’re likely to see quite a bit more cases in the coming years, as the American population ages. Continue reading

The AARP reports that roughly 60 percent of American adults lack proper estate planning, with only 4 in 10 having a will or living trust. This isn’t shocking news, but it is concerning, considering that settling an estate with no will in Florida is often a challenging endeavor. Although older adults tend to have a better handle on these records (which makes some sense, given that as we age, we face the reality that estate planning is important), it’s wrong for younger generations to assume it isn’t necessary, even if they aren’t wealthy. A will stipulates things like what will happen to your small children if you and your spouse die, who can make financial and health care decisions for you in the event you’re incapacitated. probate litigation attorney

The term “intestate succession” refers to the distribution of one’s estate when one dies absent a valid will. The process varies from state-to-state, but generally follows that one’s surviving spouse and other heirs will receive decedent’s possessions in order of descent.

Florida’s intestate succession laws are outlined in F.S. Chapter 732. It should be noted that state laws can frequently change, so it’s important to discuss your options with a probate litigation lawyer if you have concerns about your rights and obligations.  Continue reading

Hopefully as you enter the new year, you aren’t grappling with a financial hangover due to the holidays. Regardless of where you stand, the new year is a good time to take stock of your finances and make sure you have a strong estate plan in place, not only for your own security but that of your family. Many of the disputes that arise in Florida probate litigation can be headed off with proper estate planning to start. estate planning attorney

One of the primary reasons people avoid estate planning is because they erroneously assume it’s something reserved for the wealthy and maybe the elderly. The fact of the matter is, pretty much everybody has an estate and people tend to underestimate the confusion or even animosity that can arise among surviving loved ones regarding the contents of that estate. That includes the care and well-being of any young children you have, should something happen to you and your spouse.

A review of your estate planning documents may not sound like a particularly festive way to being a brand new year, but it is a smart one. You’ll want to make sure that your will, trust and powers of attorney still comply with your wishes. And if you don’t have these in place, it’s time to make it one of your resolutions to do so. Continue reading

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