In Florida, when you create your estate plan, it’s probably your goal that you loved ones all go through the process easily and seamlessly to receive the assets you set aside for them. But what happens when that is not possible? What happens to your estate if there’s a conflict or dispute over whether the documents are valid or if someone alleges that an executor or trustee is not following the law or adhering to their duties? This can lead to a probate dispute such as a will contest that can delay distribution of assets and cause other issues in the proper closing of an estate.
A Florida probate disputes attorney knows that these disputes can range from minor to serious and can take time as well as money from the probate process. Hiring the right legal counsel to assist with addressing these disputes can be instrumental for minimizing the costs in terms of time and expense as well as ensuring that key stakeholders understand the process of the dispute management.
As a probate disputes in Florida lawyer can tell you, there are many different ways that you could wind up in probate court, handling a conflict or dispute after a loved one has passed away. It is imperative to have the support of proper legal counsel when you find yourself facing this situation. In some cases a will challenge could be involved and in others it might not. There are times when adversarial matters arise in probate that might be referred to as probate litigation or estate litigation.
Understanding Probate Litigation
When a deceased person’s last will and testament is offered for probate, Florida law imposes many different requirements. For example, heirs and creditors are all afforded limitations, privileges and rights that must be followed strictly. The will itself is eligible to be reviewed and not every party who could be considered an interested party to the estate is satisfied with the result of the will’s provisions. Probate litigation frequently includes a will contest but is not the only type of probate litigation that can occur.
Many surviving family members use probate litigation to pursue an array of what they consider to be injustices with the support of a Florida probate dispute attorney. This is typically initiated when a person receives a notice of administration from the Florida courts. This notifies all interested parties about the death of the decedent and informs them of the filing of a will for probate. In the event that any of these parties has an objection to the probate proceedings, this notice also informs those individual parties of the time period in which they have to pursue a claim.
Legal Basis Issues for Probate Disputes
Under Florida law, there are specific requirements for making a valid will. Fla. Stat. § 732.501 et seq. Improper signing of the will, intentional interference with an expectancy, lack of mental capacity, undue influence and duress are all examples of disputes associated with probate administration in Florida. The three primary types of probate litigation are mistakes in execution, claims of undue influence and lack of testamentary capacity. Florida statutes 732.502 outlines the execution requirements that enable a will to be classified as valid in the state of Florida. A will that does not meet these provisions is classified as invalid under Florida law. If the will was improperly executed, an interested party can bring a probate dispute claiming this. Undue influence involves allegations that the person making the will was coerced by another person who is placed in a role of control and trust.
Lack of capacity claim is based on the allegation that at the time the will was executed, the individual creating that will did not have the appropriate mental ability to understand the loved ones and family members who had received such property and how the will disposes of such property.
Probate litigation, however, can involve a broad array of different types of claims, such as concerns over:
- Determination of heirs due to intestacy statutes under Florida statutes 732.101.111.
- Will construction.
- Breach of fiduciary duty claims against an appointed executor.
- Construction of a vague will or the disappearance or death of beneficiaries.
- Removing a fiduciary.
- Improper accounting.
- Surcharge actions.
A Florida probate litigation lawyer can assist you with this process so that you know what to anticipate and how to respond.