Florida Probate Litigation
Probate is the term used for the administration of an estate after the death of a testator (the person who made a will). Probate litigation is the legal process associated with disputes in probate. This litigation can involve complicated matters of fact and law, and often determines how an estate is divided among beneficiaries. Because estates are divided up from a pool of finite assets, the bequest of all beneficiaries could be affected by a will contest filed by just one of them. These matters are often highly emotional and viciously contested.
If you are the beneficiary of an estate subject to a will already in dispute or have questions about raising your own will contest, you need a highly-skilled an experienced probate litigation attorney to help resolve the contest and wrap up the estate. Complex probate matters are difficult enough without the added burden of grieving and arguing among family members and other beneficiaries. Call the Law Offices of Travis Walker and let us help you get your rightful share of the assets to which you are entitled.
What is Probate Litigation?
When probate litigation results from a dispute involving an estate, the uncontested probate proceedings of administering a will then go through an adversarial court process.
These adversarial proceedings include contesting a will, or a codicil (amendment to a will), on grounds of:
- Forgery or alteration of instruments
- Interpretation of a trust or will’s terms
- Undue influence or duress in writing the will
- Identification of new interested parties
Probate litigation can also include other issues around the will or estate, such as:
- Abuse of power of attorney
- Appointment or removal of personal representatives
- Breach of fiduciary duty among personal representatives
This is not an exhaustive list, and several other types of legal challenges can be made to a will, as well as other circumstances that can bring a case to probate disputes and litigation.
When is Probate Litigation Necessary?
Probate litigation can be necessitated by the actions of several actors. This can include wrongful acts of an interested party, such as:
- a beneficiary pressuring a testator
- an individual with a fiduciary obligation engaging in inappropriate self-dealing
- an executor carrying out the terms of the will incorrectly
Even when everyone acts appropriately, the testator may have caused the contest by:
- disinheriting a family member who may have statutory rights to inherit
- using vague terms that lead to varying interpretations
- offering conflicting documentation of asset values or distribution intentions
Though some states enforce “no contest” clauses and penalize those who challenge a will, Florida law does not. Florida law also allows a will to be challenged at any time before probate is complete.
Parties to Probate Litigation
Several parties can be involved in probate litigation, such as:
- Personal Representatives who are the people or institutions appointed by a testator to carry out the terms of their will.
- Trustees who function as the legal owner of any assets in a trust, handle trust assets, file taxes for the trust, and may distribute the assets according to the terms of the trust.
- Beneficiaries who receive assets from an estate.
- Spouses who cannot be disinherited under Florida Probate Law.
- Family members, friends, and others who believe they have been wrongly disinherited.
- Fiduciaries who act on behalf of another person with a legal obligation to put their clients’ interests ahead of their own.
Common Disputes at the Center of Probate Litigation
One of the central aims of any will is to avoid conflict between grieving family members. However, even the best-drawn documents can still result in family members contesting a will. While each family situation is unique, this can often include:
- Several marriages. This can lead to issues with estate documents due to revisions or creating conflicts between beneficiaries from several different marriages or other relationships.
- Interpretation issues. Overly complicated or vague estate plans can cause reasonable yet conflicting interpretations.
- Disputes regarding the inventory of the estate. Such as property that is unaccounted for or inconsistent accounts.
- Disputes among family. Such as when one sibling is given more of the estate.
- Heirs being left out including, children from previous relationships that many family members may not have known about, or wrongfully disinherited heirs.
- Invalid will. A will must satisfy specific standards according to Florida law and may not be enforceable if they do not.
- Disputes regarding the disbursement of the estate.
- Undue influence such as someone inappropriately pressing the testator to give them a larger share of the estate.
Your Three Steps to Moving Forward
- Call our office and set up an intake call with our Client Happiness Coordinator.
- Attend a virtual or in-office consultation so we can better understand your case and determine how we can help guide you to success.
- Retain our firm so we may lead you through the legal process as quickly and painlessly as possible.