Articles Posted in Probate

While it is prudent for people with substantial assets to draft wills and appoint personal representatives of their estates to handle their affairs after they depart, doing so does not always mean that no conflicts will arise after they die. For example, a personal representative’s interests may be adverse to those of the estate, which may require the court to appoint an administrator ad litem. In a recent Florida opinion, a court discussed the purpose of appointing an administrator ad litem in a matter in which the decedent’s daughter and wife disputed how the estate should be handled. If you have questions regarding the administration of an estate, it is in your best interest to meet with a seasoned Florida estate planning attorney regarding your options.

History of the Case

It is reported that the decedent died in 2019, leaving behind a substantial estate that included ownership interests in a business and an art collection, both of which were valued at over $30 million. The plaintiff, who was the second wife of the decedent, was named personal representative of the estate. In 2020, the decedent’s daughter filed a petition for the appointment of an administrator ad litem, citing concerns that the plaintiff had a conflict of interest as the personal representative and challenging certain transfers that were made in the last months of the decedent’s life when he was suffering from dementia.

Allegedly, the plaintiff filed a motion asking the court to declare the proceedings adversarial in nature. The court rejected her reasoning and appointed an administrator, and the plaintiff appealed, arguing the appointment was too broad and that the court erred in finding the proceedings were not adversarial. Continue reading ›

Many people have children outside of marriage or adopt children, and such children are generally considered rightful heirs of their parents’ estates. While typically it is clear if a parent-child relationship exists, in some instances, parentage is disputed, and a person seeking to contest a will as an heir may be denied. This was demonstrated in a recent Florida opinion, in which the court discussed the evidence needed to establish paternity in a case in which a deceased person’s alleged daughter sought to contest his will. If you suffered the loss of a family member and have questions regarding your rights with regard to your loved one’s estate, it is smart to meet with a knowledgeable Florida probate lawyer to discuss your options.

Facts of the Case

It is reported that the decedent passed away in 2018, after which his will was submitted to probate. The will split his estate into equal shares that were provided to two individuals but failed to provide for the plaintiff. The will expressly stated that the decedent intentionally did not make a provision for the plaintiff, who the decedent referred to as his adopted daughter. It was revealed that the decedent dated the plaintiff’s mother when she was pregnant with the plaintiff but was not the plaintiff’s biological father. He permitted the plaintiff’s mother to list him as the plaintiff’s father on her birth certificate, purportedly to avoid stigma, but never financially supported or lived with the plaintiff.

Allegedly, the decedent’s relationship with the mother ended after three years, and he did not see the plaintiff again until shortly before his death. The plaintiff petitioned for revocation of probate and for intestate administration of the estate, arguing that she was the legal heir to the estate and the will was the product of undue influence. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the plaintiff, and the defendant, the representative of the estate, appealed. On appeal, the court found that the plaintiff lacked standing to contest the will and reversed the trial court ruling. Continue reading ›

Generally, people have the right to draft wills that distribute their property after they die in any manner that they deem fit. If a person lacks sound mind or is coerced or otherwise unjustly persuaded into making certain testamentary decisions, though, a will may be deemed invalid, and the courts may refuse to admit it into probate. In a recent Florida opinion, the court discussed the evidence needed to establish that a will is the product of undue influence and is void, in a matter in which the court ultimately found the will was valid. If you recently lost a loved one and would like to object to his or her will or otherwise need assistance with a probate matter, it is advisable to speak to a capable Florida probate attorney to determine your rights and possible courses of action.

Facts of the Case

It is reported that after the testator died in 2017, the defendant, who was her daughter and the personal representative of her estate, filed a formal petition for the administration of the testator’s 2003 will. The will dictated, in part, that the testator’s home in Key West was to be sold and the proceeds distributed among her five children. The plaintiff, one of the testator’s other daughters, was only to receive 4% of the proceeds of the sale, however, and the remaining children were to receive 24% each.

Allegedly, the will also granted a vacant lot to the defendant and ordered that the remainder of the testator’s assets be sold and the proceeds divided among the children, excluding the plaintiff. The plaintiff objected to the administration of the will, arguing that it was the product of the defendant’s undue influence. Two of the other children joined in the objection as well. The trial court found in favor of the defendant, and the plaintiff appealed. Continue reading ›

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