What To Know About Estate Litigation in Florida

Estate litigation involves legal action regarding a will or trust. Sometimes when a person passes away, family members may be unhappy with various aspects of the deceased person’s will or trust. Other times a person may die “intestate” which means without any will or trust in place. In either case, family members should consult an attorney that specializes in handling probate cases. So, sound legal advice is recommended for most estate litigation cases.

Common Reasons For Litigation

In Florida, family members may contest a will or trust for a variety of reasons. Some common grounds include:

  • Lack of capacity- This happens when the deceased was not of sound mind when the will or trust was written.
  • Improper influence-Sadly, this occurs when a person takes advantage of an elderly person and influences them to change their will or trust to benefit a specific party.
  • Improper form- If a legal document, like a will or trust is not properly executed, it is invalid. For example, these documents must have witnesses during the signing process. If a will or trust was not properly witnessed, it is not a valid legal document.
  • Personal representative fails to carry out role- If the personal representative of the deceased person does not carry out the terms of the will or trust as written, family members may consult an attorney.
  • Guardian issues- In situations where no guardian was appointed for minor children, the courts get involved. Sometimes the decedent appoints a guardian that is no longer available. Other times grief stricken family members disagree with where minor children may be living after their parent’s passing. So, there are a few situations where guardian issues may involve the courts and attorneys.

Do All Estates Require Probate in Florida?

All estates do not go through probate in Florida. If a person passes away without a will or trust and has assets in their name ONLY, then probate is required to distribute property and monies. If property, bank accounts, insurance policies, annuities, 401K plans, and all assets have beneficiaries or joint owners, probate is unnecessary. However, without a will or trust all assets must pass through probate court if no beneficiary or joint owner is named.

Imagine a person has a $20,000 bank account and no beneficiary or POD listed on the account. If that person has established a sound estate plan with a trust, their heirs will be able to access the funds. However, without an established trust, the bank will not release the money. So, when a family member presents a death certificate and has no trust document to prove they are the rightful heir, the bank holds on to the money. The estate must go through probate to access the funds. So, it’s important to contact an attorney if a family member in Florida passes away without an adequate estate plan.

How An Attorney Can Help

An experienced estate litigation attorney is vital when dealing with wills, trusts, and probate administration. These matters are highly complex and emotional. Lawyers specializing in this area of law understand the courts and possess the necessary skills and experience to successfully navigate your case. For example, many times state and federal tax laws must be examined when settling an estate. Many people are unfamiliar with the procedures and requirements in this area. Consequently, if you are named as a personal representative of a deceased Florida resident, or you are involved in a disputed will or trust, contact an experienced estate litigation attorney.

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