Articles Tagged with probate litigation

No one would dare question the late Aretha Franklin’s claim to the Queen of Soul title. However, claims to the estate she left behind may be a bit more difficult to establish. That’s because the “Rolling in the Deep” singer died without leaving a will. probate litigation lawyer

Legally, this is referred to as intestate property. In Florida, we has a statutorily established intestate succession procedure, as outlined in Chapter 732 of Florida Statutes. It’s basically a default guideline for how ones property can lawfully be distributed when someone either dies without a will or whose will has been deemed improperly devised. An individual’s right to the estate and in what proportion is specified based on his or her relationship to the decedent, as well as those of other claimant. It’s important to point out that Florida intestacy could be either partial or whole, depending on whether a person’s will is non-existent/ invalid OR whether only some portions were generated/ validated.

There are a lot of scenarios outlined in an effort to make the process as streamlined as possible. However, if you are a claimant in an intestate property case, it’s wise to have a Fort Lauderdale probate attorney who can help you navigate it with more ease and ensure you receive your fair share. Florida probate litigation laws are lengthy and complex and/ or subjective in several areas, so it’s best to have someone advocating for you in proving your claim is best aligned with your loved one’s wishes.  Continue reading

Family inheritance is slated to be a major legal battlefield in the coming years, as it is estimated approximately $30 trillion will be inherited over the course of the next 30 years. Inevitably, that’s going to mean descendants – children and grandchildren – will be squabbling over their fair share by contesting Florida wills.Florida will contest

What Drives a Florida Will Contest?

While there are those who may feel unjustly entitled, another catalyst setting the stage for significant fights over inheritance is the fact that many adult children and grandchildren have not been able to save sufficiently for their own retirement. Some may have been living under the assumption that an inheritance will fund their retirement, while others, thanks to stagnant wages and student loan debt, have simply not been able to scrounge enough together to live beyond paycheck-to-paycheck. Also contributing is the fact that those who were raised between the 1960s and 1990s are increasingly having to take on caretaking responsibilities of dependent parents, which can also sap their financial resources.

Elder adults may wish to help ward off some of these conflicts by having frank discussions with their children and grandchildren about what is available and the plans for distribution. Exact dollar amounts and an itemized breakdown aren’t necessary, but it’s important to make your wishes clear. Continue reading

The Florida court system allows for professional guardians to be appointed for those who are “incapacitated.” As defined by Florida law, a person who is incapacitated is an adult who has been determined by a court to lack the mental capacity to manage at least some of his/ her property or to meet at least some essential health and safety requirements on their own. It’s a process that is outlined in Chapter 44 of Florida StatutesFlorida guardianship attorney

As noted by the Florida Bar, any adult can petition the court to decide the incapacity of another person, establishing their case with factual information. As the case proceeds, the court will appoint a three-member committee (typically two doctors and some other expert, depending on the nature of the case). There is usually some type of examination of physical health and mental health as well as an assessment of one’s ability to function. The person alleged to be incapacitated will have an attorney appointed to represent them during these proceedings (though they are free to hire their own, if they choose). After analysis, the panel will submit their own report of findings to the court.

If two of three panel members conclude the individual isn’t incapacitated at all, the judge has to dismiss the petition. However, if the majority finds the person can’t exercise certain rights on their own, the court will schedule another hearing to determine whether the individual is partially or totally incapacitated. At the end of those proceedings, a guardian will be appointed at another hearing, unless there is some other alternative that is less restrictive.  Continue reading

It is an unfortunate reality that some people have no qualms using undue influence for the purpose of obtaining “gifts” from an individual who is elderly, ill or weak. Our Florida probate attorneys have seen these cases arise most frequently in cases involving nursing home residents, elderly parents or ailing grandparents. Those who allege “undue influence” (which is a specific charge in probate litigation) are usually surviving loved ones doing so with the intention of challenging the validity of a lost loved one’s will, trust or inter vivos transfer (transfer of property made during one’s lifetime).probate litigation

Proving undue influence is not a simple matter or low bar. One has to prove that the victim’s mind was “so controlled or affected by persuasion or pressure, artful or fraudulent contrivances or by the insidious influences of persons in close confidential relations” that he or she isn’t knowingly or voluntarily acting of their own accord, but instead carrying out the will of someone else. This was outlined in the precedential 1925 Florida Supreme Court case of Peacock v. Dubois.

In most cases, it is the plaintiff asserting undue influence who typically has the burden of poof. Prior to 1971, the burden of proof in these cases was reached with enough evidence to raise the undue influence presumption, at which point the proof burden shifted to the defendant, who then had to prove it didn’t occur. Then there was the key Florida Supreme Court case of Carpenter v. Carpenter, justices ruled that even the establishment of an undue influence presumption didn’t shift the proof burden to the defendant, at least as it pertained to will contests. About a decade later, the court decided the same rule in cases alleging inter vivos transfers. Continue reading

Some people consider estate taxes enemy No. 1 when it comes to their inheritance. However, what’s much more likely to become problematic is family conflict. These aren’t necessarily new issues, but they are becoming more prevalent as increasingly more American families are blended, life expectancy has stretched and baby boomers are aging into their golden years.probate litigation attorney

A recent poll by TD Wealth revealed 44 percent of attorneys, accountants and trust officers in Florida indicated family conflicts were the biggest snag when it comes to estate planning. Part of the problem is people have unrealistic expectations. While most expect to inherit more than $100,000, Ameriprise Financial reports most people receive less than that. Almost 7 in 10 of those expecting an inheritence were never told how much they should expect, which led to substantial confusion and conflict.

Another issue is people increasingly have multiple ex-spouses, one or both my have children from prior unions and one spouse may be much younger than the other. These are fact patterns we know have the potential to lead to trouble. Such is the case in probate litigation conflict in Indiana that the state supreme court in Indiana has just agreed to consider. In Gittings v. Deal, an adult woman claims she was removed from her father’s estate by her stepmother, and subsequently her stepbrother raked in more than $3 million in profits on property she claims they should have shared.  Continue reading

If you are estranged from a parent and he or she does, can you expect an inheritance? The answer is: Not automatically. probate litigation attorney

Just because one is the biological child of a decedent does not necessarily in and of itself entitle that child rights to stake a claim on their mother or father’s estate.

No one is under any legal option to leave adult children – or anyone else – anything from their estate. Minor children are handled differently under the law, as the state recognizes they are entitled to a certain degree of support that might otherwise have been given had the decedent lived. But there is no guarantee of the same kind of expectation for children over the age of 18.

This is where an experienced probate litigation attorney should be called in, to examine whether there was a will or trust and if so, what the language of that document indicates. If these documents exist but there is no specific mention of a child – estranged or otherwise – or indication the parent intended to leave that person out of the will, that child may have the basis to pursue probate litigation to plausibly assert the conceivable allegation that the parent simply “forgot” about them.  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

Altering a will to disinherit a family member is within anyone’s right, though it can lead to conflict. Probate litigation attorneys in South Florida at The Ansara Law Firm know there are ways to minimize the potential for warring family interests or a contested will after your death. contesting a will

Because contesting a will in Florida can be successful under a number of circumstances, ensuring your wishes will be followed as you have outlined requires working closely with a probate lawyer in drafting these changes.

Recently, the passing of a popular South Florida sports broadcaster sparked a fierce – and sadly public – feud between his adult children and his wife/ mother of his two youngest children, both minors. According to The News-Press in Fort Myers, the broadcaster wrote his oldest son and daughters from his first marriage out of his will in June 2015 – the day after receiving a stem cell transplant from his oldest son. He died about 1.5 years later, though his oldest didn’t learn of the change in his will until this past December, when his stepmother asked them to sign formal documents promising not to contest the will.  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

Contact Information