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CAN I SUE FOR CIVIL THEFT IN FLORIDA?: a look at a civil remedy in Florida probate & estates

Uncategorized Dec 19, 2013

“Where did my inheritance go?”

“Who took my money?”

Often, some beneficiaries of Florida estates are disappointed when they don’t receive an inheritance.  Or, sometimes a Florida will or a Florida estate leaves you less of an inheritance than you expected.  “Where did the money go?  I thought mom or dad were worth a lot more than that” you wonder.

Well, if you find out that someone has taken some of your inheritance, one of the first things some Florida beneficiaries do is wonder “What can I sue them for?”  Sometimes, the issue of civil theft comes up.

Civil theft is a Florida cause of action to recover damages.  Civil theft is also referred to as a Florida lawsuit and may be related to seeking damages for conversion or fraud.

A recent opinion from a case in West Palm Beach’s appellate court was just handed down yesterday, which sheds light on the civil theft cause of action in Florida.  Civil theft must be proven.  You must demonstrate that someone improperly exercised control or use over property that was not theirs: it was yours.  You also have to prove criminal intent.  Embezzling funds?  That may be civil theft.  Using someone’s money improperly?  It might be civil theft.  What about the probate setting?  What if someone improperly used your mother’s or father’s money during their life and how, after their death, your inheritance is gone.  Could that be civil theft?  What if someone with a power of attorney misused funds for his or her own benefit?  How about during the Florida probate process?  If a Palm Beach County probate suffered losses because someone with access to estate funds improperly used them or took them, does an estate beneficiary have a rigtht to sue for civil theft?

Knowing what rights you have to your inheritance, as an estate beneficiary in a Florida probate, may make the difference between getting a big inheritance, and getting no inheritance at all.  For a copy of the recent civil theft case, email michelle@pankauskilawfirm.com