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Category: FAQs

Florida Trust Code — what you need to know

FAQs Apr 19, 2021

The Florida Trust Code is a set of statutes. It sets the groundwork for all Florida trust matters. Everything from the trustee-beneficiary relationship. Creating and ending trusts. And, of course, judicial proceedings like lawsuits and removal actions. To get a plain-English background of this body of Florida law, keep reading. We will point you to the most important parts of the trust code. Whether you are a beneficiary, trustee, or adult child of a beneficiary or trust creator. And, yes, if you got cut out of a trust, there’s information for you, as well. If you would like to see a number of focused, informative Florida Trust & Probate Videos for free. Click HERE for an outstanding video library on important Florida estate and trust legal topics. Now, let’s show you what to read in the trust code, and we’ll name specific statutes for your to read. This is “user-friendly”. There is a link to more information on the part we are writing about, so you can read or learn more on a particular topic if you want. The Background First, you should know the background. The Florida Trust Code is a set of statutes. These statutes are found at Florida Statutes Chapter 736. The trust code is similar to the Florida Probate Code and the Florida Guardianship Code. How? They set forth what our legislature wants you to know about those particular topics. Why mention them? Because they can all interconnect. If you have a guardianship of a wealth […]


Florida Trust Challenge: what is it?

FAQs Apr 16, 2021
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To watch a FREE VIDEO about a Florida Trust Challenge, CLICK HERE. Trust lawsuits in Florida seem to be on the rise. That could be because Florida residents use POUR OVER WILLS that leave their money to a trust. Increasingly, these days wills are, in many ways, “just “a method to transfer property to a trust. Many times, a trust is the real entity that leaves inheritances. You may have a probate or an estate, but the REAL money is in the trust. Admittedly, beneficiaries can be concerned. After all, who is being put in charge of YOUR inheritance and millions of dollars? To read about a Florida Trustee Being Sued for Breach of Fiduciary Duty, CLICK HERE. To learn more about a Florida Trust Challenge, keep reading. Oh yes, here’s a tip. If you have a pour over will and there is a probate. Objecting to just the will may not be enough. You may have to file a second lawsuit. A Florida Trust Challenge. Defining a Trust Challenge “A Florida Trust Challenge is typically an attack on the validity of the trust” says Florida Trust Litigator John Pankauski. The attack can be on the entire trust, or just a part of it, like a specific inheritance. Sometimes, family members or beneficiaries file a challenge to who is going to be the trustee or successor trustee. To read about REMOVING A TRUSTEE or SUSPENDING A TRUSTEE, click on those links. But a trust challenge is often synonymous with a […]


Florida Breach of Fiduciary Duty

FAQs Apr 15, 2021

A Florida breach of fiduciary duty is serious stuff. It can bring damages to beneficiaries or an estate or a trust. And a whole lot of trouble to a bad trustee or personal representative or POA. We have previously written about excessive compensation and removing or suspending a trustee. We have also written about this topic of FIDUCIARY DUTY before. Now, let’s lay it all out there in plain English. And from a standpoint that other Florida Legal Blogs may not take . What is a Fiduciary? Before we define Florida Breach of Fiduciary Duty, let’s make sure you have the background. First, a trustee owes DUTIES to her beneficiaries. Same for a PERSONAL REPRESENTATIVE. Trustees and personal representatives are fiduciaries. Fiduciaries are those who volunteer to perform certain tasks for others. I say “volunteer” because no one can be forced to serve others or be a fiduciary. Even if you are nominated or named in a will or trust. If you don’t want to serve, decline. Fiduciaries, most of the time, are entitled to reasonable compensation. A Power of Attorney, also called an attorney-in-fact, is also a fiduciary. Don’t be confused. Even though the Power of Attorney Law uses the word “agent”, a POA is a fiduciary. Standards of a Fiduciary There are certain “rules of the game.” Standards. If a personal representative or trustee acts badly or steals money or takes secret fees, they can be SURCHARGED. But civil theft is not necessary for a fiduciary to be […]


Does a Trustee Own the Property?

FAQs Apr 14, 2021
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Trust beneficiaries have a lot of rights under Florida law. That’s because Florida Trustees owe a lot of duties to their beneficiaries. Sometimes, beneficiaries don’t trust their trustee. Sometimes, beneficiaries think the trustee is stealing from the trust. When they are not. There is often confusion about the trustee “owning” property. Let’s discuss and explain in Plain-English does a trustee own the property? We have previously commented on REMOVING a trustee, a trust SURCHARGE and also beneficiary RIGHTS. Now, let’s focus on ownership of trust property. Trust Property + Bank Accounts A trustee holds “legal” title to trust property. That has also been described as “record” title. Usually in the context of trust owned real estate. But who really owns trust property? The beneficiaries may think that they do. And of course, the trustee is the one in charge. A trustee is the record owner. Her name should appear on any deeds to trust-owned real estate. And Bank Accounts or financial accounts. It’s proper to identify the title of “trustee,” and to identify the trust by its name and date, in the title on the account, or the deed. An example of this is: “Jane Smith, IV, Trustee of the Emma Smith Trust, dated October 1, 1967.” That tells the world that the trustee does not own the bank account or real estate individually or personally. Sometimes, new beneficiaries freak out. “The trustee is putting her name on the deed!” they complain. Or, ” The trustee is taking the bank […]


What is a contingency fee?

FAQs Apr 10, 2021

A contingency fee has been described as the “keys” to the courthouse. They can help clients who might not otherwise afford an experienced attorney, to hire one. But a Florida client should know the ups and downs, pro’s and con’s. So, what is a contingency fee? For a FREE VIDEO on Florida Contingency Fees, CLICK HERE. Will He Take My Case? Hiring an attorney is tough. After all, how do you know that she is competent and will work hard for you? But, that’s true of any service provider, right? I mean, whether you are hiring a dry cleaner, an architect or a lawyer, you do your homework. But when it comes to Florida estates and trusts, some family members need a probate lawyer that they can’t afford. In many instances, they need a lawyer who specializes in FLORIDA PROBATE LITIGATION. And, you know what I’m going to say next. Some clients want an experienced, smart, aggressive PROBATE TRIAL ATTORNEY. That’s understandable. But the traditional method to pay lawyers is expensive ! And those probate trials take time. With all the discovery, hearings, witnesses and evidence. If there were only a way to hire a good probate litigator in Florida who would take your case and get paid later. That helps you start to understand what is a contingency fee. Why a contingency fee? Let’s define a contingency fee. A contingency fee is when the Florida lawyer takes a % of your recovery or inheritance or damages which you may […]


What is Standing in a Florida Probate?

FAQs Apr 10, 2021

Understanding what is standing is a key to Florida probate proceedings. Want to contest the will? Well, you need standing. Do you want financial information about the probate assets? Same comment. You need standing. We have previously discussed HEIRSHIP in Florida probates and who can CONTEST THE WILL. Let’s dig a bit deeper into this legal definition of standing in Florida probates. The Florida Probate Code The Florida Probate Code is found HERE in the Florida Statutes. You can read all about probate and personal representatives and accountings. But there is very little information about standing. What is standing is a legal concept. Explained and defined by the Florida Appellate Courts. Think of it as the “connection” someone must have to a lawsuit or legal matter. After all, not everyone can participate in a Florida probate. Or a lawsuit. They don’t have a right to. Some “Jane” or “Joe” can’t just walk in off the street and get involved. You need some connection to the deceased Florida resident, her property, or the people who are involved. What is Standing Defined In Florida probates, you have to be an “INTERESTED PERSON” to participate. An interested person means that you are going to be affected by what’s going on. Now, interested person is different than an “indispensable party.” An interested person in the Florida Probate Code means any person who may reasonably be expected to be affected by the outcome of the particular proceeding involved. You can read all the definitions at […]


Is a Trust Accounting Order Appealable?

FAQs Apr 4, 2021
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Trust beneficiaries want to know their rights. How much do they get from the trust? And trustees have an obligation to give their beneficiaries relevant information and annual accountings. So, what if a Florida Probate Judge orders the trustee to complete an accounting? What if the trustee does not want to do that right away? Is a trust accounting order appealable right now? A March 31, 2021 appellate opinion from Florida’s 3rd District Court of Appeal sheds light on trust appeals. We have previously provided solid, insightful Trust Law Commentary on BENEFICIARY RIGHTS, Removing a Florida Trustee, and even Suspending a Florida Trustee. Florida Trust Code Whether or not you can appeal a trust case order depends on two things. First, you need to understand Florida Trust Law. Florida Trust Law is found in the Florida Trust Code at Chapter 736. To watch some great FREE TRUST VIDEOS on beneficiary rights and getting information about your trust, CLICK HERE. The other thing you need to understand is the Florida Appellate Rules. Read the Florida Rules of Appellate Procedure. Focus on Fla. R. App. Proc. 9.170. That appellate rule creates opportunities and potential pitfalls. Some trust orders must be appealed within 30 days or you lose your right to have them reviewed later. If you miss the deadline, then the order you don’t like becomes a final, non-appealable order. But understanding whether or not you can appeal now can be less than clear. Florida Trust Accounting Appealable Now? In this March […]


What is an Heir in Florida Probates?

FAQs Apr 4, 2021
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What is an Heir in Florida Probates? Heirs inherit millions and millions of dollars from Florida Estates each year !! Heirs is a similar topic to NEXT OF KIN. The definition may just surprise you. Florida Probate Code Definition– understanding the legal definition of what is an heir in Florida probates The Florida Probate Code has a set of definitions. What is the definition of an Heir? “Heirs” or “heirs at law” means those persons, including the surviving spouse, who are entitled under the statutes of intestate succession to the property of a decedent An estate that has no will is called an intestate estate. Put another way: a probate of a Florida decedent that died without a will is called an intestacy. Property passes to Heirs by way of intestacy. The intestacy laws in the Florida Probate Code are found RIGHT HERE. Or, to phrase this another way: the statutes of intestate succession can be found by CLICKING HERE. Now, before we move, let’s focus on what is an heir in Florida Probates. Spouses are heirs !! Does it matter if the spouse of the decedent was only married for 10 seconds? No! 50 years? Nope. Does it matter if the surviving spouse, widow or widower was a nasty person? No. None of that matters. The only thing that matters is whether a spouse signed a PRENUPTIAL AGREEMENT or a POSTNUPTIAL AGREEMENT. If you think the marriage was the product of fraud, read THIS. To watch a great, FREE […]


Is the Florida Will Valid: a free legal video for family members, heirs & beneficiaries

FAQs Mar 28, 2021
post about Is the Florida Will Valid: a free legal video for family members, heirs & beneficiaries

Heirs, adult children and beneficiaries of Florida probates + estates have asked for this ! A definite guide + legal commentary that answers the question: is the Florida Will Valid? For a free video on this Florida probate topic, CLICK HERE. What Makes a Will Valid? Under Florida law, a will is valid if it was signed properly and the person signing knew what she was doing. 2 witnesses are needed. The person signing the will and the two witnesses must all sign at the same time in “the presence of each other.” The person making the will needs to have a general understanding of what she is doing. This means that they should understand that the document is a will, that they are disposing of property at death. Leaving property at death. When they die. One should have an idea of what property they own, and who their family members are. Not only is mental competency important. But the will signer must be free of any pressure, force or UNDUE INFLUENCE. A will that is caused by an INSANE DELUSION or fraud is void. For more commentary on how to sign a Florida Will, CLICK HERE. Florida Probate Code The Florida Laws on wills are found online, free of charge. Just google Chapter 732, Part V. Or, you can CLICK HERE. This part of the total Florida Probate Code sets forth the rules for valid wills. Those laws tell you who may make a will in Florida. And how […]


What is a Florida Revocable Trust?

FAQs Mar 27, 2021
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Everyone has a Florida Revocable Trust ! Billions and Billions of dollars are put into them. And family members, in-laws, outlaws, heirs and mis-fits all inherit from revocable trusts every day. So, what really is this estate planning tool or vehicle? For an authoritative, easy-to-understand, Plain English and FREE “one stop shop” on revocable trusts, CLICK HERE. To read more about Family Trusts, consider reading John Pankauski’s book, Pankauski’s Trustee’s Guide: 10 Steps to Family Trustee Excellence. Want more, including a recent revocable trust opinion and statutes? Keep reading. 2020 Palm Beach Trust Case A revocable trust is often an important part of one’s Florida Estate Plan. Like a Last Will, it can leave money and property to select beneficiaries. It has been described as an instrument, an estate planning vehicle, a document. A revocable trust is all of that and more. Most wills today are POUR OVER WILLS which leave everything to a rev trust. The rev trust then distributes inheritances out. The creator of a trust is called the “grantor” or “settlor.” Typically, you are your own trustee when you create such a trust. When you are longer a trustee, you can appoint a successor in your trust document. On August 5, 2020, the Palm Beach Appeals Court issued an important opinion. This appeals court is known as the 4th District Court of Appeal. They issued their opinion on Florida Revocable Trust in the case of Schlossberg v. Estate of Kaporovsky. This trust appeal explained what a revocable […]