When Siblings Fight Over a Parent’s Will in Florida

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.

For example, if you intend to leave a fair amount to charities or individuals other than your children, those are details that should be made known ahead of time, so there is less chance of dispute after your passing. We get that such conversations aren’t especially comfortable (some even consider them improper or impolite, and heirs may be hesitant to bring it up for fear of sounding callous). But the more that can be laid out clearly while one is of sound mind and body, the lower the chances that one’s estate will end up the subject of probate litigation.

Such discussions should include encompass their health, finances and estate planning. The reality is that by the time these discussions become relevant, it’s often too late because the elderly adult is suffering from a major illness, incapacity or even death.

What Happens if You Contest a Will in Florida?

First it’s important to point out that no one can contest a will before the death of the testator (person who wrote it), per F.S. 732.518.

There are tight deadlines for contesting a will. Florida statute gives a claimant just 90 days to weigh their options, gather the proper supporting documentation, hire an attorney and file a formal lawsuit contesting the will. If a Formal Notice of Administration was received before the will was entered into probate, that timeline gets shortened to just 20 days.

Grounds on which a will may be successfully contested in Florida include:

  • Was the will properly executed? This is a technical challenge, but it can be easier/ cheaper than challenging on merit. To be properly executed, the person making the will must be of sound mind and at least 18-years-old. The document itself must conform to F.S. 732.502, which requires it to be in writing, signed by the testator (or at his/ her direction) in the presence of two witnesses in the presence of each other and the testator.
  • Lack of capacity. The Florida Supreme Court has held that generally this means one understands the nature/ extent of his property, the relationship of the heirs who would receive it and the practical effect of a will. This could apply to someone whose will was created while he/she suffered from dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, but it could also be one who was under the influence of strong medication.
  • Undue influence. This alleges the testator’s mind was controlled by such pressure/ outside influences that the will was not created voluntarily.

If you are considering whether to contest a will, it’s important to contact an experienced Fort Lauderdale probate litigation attorney as soon as possible, given the deadlines and possible complexity of your case.

Call Fort Lauderdale Will Contest Attorney Richard Ansara at (954) 761-4011. Serving Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties.

Additional Resources:

The Shocking Reason Why Siblings Squabble Over Inheritance And How To Prevent It, Nov. 14, 2016, By Kerri Zane, Forbes

More Blog Entries:

Family Conflicts Are Top Threat to Your Inheritance, Estate Planning Key, May 14, 2018, Fort Lauderdale Probate Litigation Attorney Blog

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