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Category: FAQs

Importance of Trust Protectors in Florida Estate Planning

FAQs Jun 3, 2023
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What’s the importance of trust protectors in Florida when many Floridians already have an estate plan? They have a POA, a living will, a will and a revocable trust. Where does a Trust Protector fit in? Understanding Basic Florida Estate Planning Documents Let’s start with a basic Florida estate plan: Trust Protectors Florida A trust protector is the creature of “hard thinking” trust lawyers. There’s no one definition for a trust protector. In the Florida Trust Code, the word “trust protector” is only used once. And not even defined. And, candidly, lawyers who “write” trusts have different takes on trust protectors and what they do or should do. Here’s a broad overview:


Who Are Heirs in Florida?

FAQs Jan 18, 2023
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Heirs can inherit an entire Florida probate. Like….. all the property of the dead Florida resident. BUT, there are rules. To learn more about whether you are an heir or not, keep reading, or click here. Florida Probates + Family Who are heirs in Florida? That class of “legal actors” are those who inherit under the laws of intestacy. There is a Florida statute right on point in the Florida Probate Code. Check out Florida Statute 731.201(20). These can include the surviving spouse (if any), adult or minor children, and, maybe, grandchildren (children of deceased children). To read more about intestacy, click here. Quick note: an heir may be different than an “interested person.” Remember, not everyone can participate in a Florida probate. You need some connection. That’s an interested person. And remember: often, one’s house or homestead is very, very valuable. So, find out how the house “goes” and see if you get a share. Who Are Heirs and What Do They Inherit? In Florida, a person has the right to dispose of her wealth as she sees fit. That means that she can leave it all to whomever she wants. You just can’t dis-inherit your spouse completely. A surviving spouse has a LOT of inheritance rights. Unless they signed a prenup. Children…………..that’s a different story. But, if there is no will, that’s called intestacy. Heirs inherit the entire estate in an intestacy. What some call an “intestate estate.” But remember, heirs only get paid after all the creditors, […]


Homestead Appeal

FAQs Jan 13, 2023
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A homestead appeal often means that there are millions of dollars on the line. So, you need a probate lawyer who understands both the intricacies of Florida homestead and also appeals. (To read about getting attorneys fees for your appeal, consider reading this). Experience Counts Let’s face it. Experience Counts. Homestead law is confusing. So are appeals. And sometimes there is “tension” between a 2nd, 3rd or 4th spouse and the deceased Florida resident’s adult children. But, in Florida, a surviving spouse or widow has VERY VALUABLE PROPERTY RIGHTS. Unless you signed a prenup. But even then, folks “fight” over what the prenup says. What its terms are. Who gets what? That’s why it makes sense to find a law firm that has handled appeals for years. And specifically homestead litigation and appeals. Here is a recent homestead appeal that got the client millions of dollars. The adult children of the deceased Florida resident “fought” the surviving spouse, who signed a prenup. The 4th District Court of Appeal reversed the Palm Beach County probate judge (who gave the spouse nothing). The DCA agreed with the lawyers for the spouse –she should get half of the homestead. When the appeal finished, the real estate market was on fire. The residence was worth millions. And the spouse got millions. Homestead Rights So, the surviving spouse has very valuable homestead rights. This includes a right to live in the deceased Florida resident (spouse’s) home. See Florida Probate Law 732.401. Or, under limited 6 […]


Florida Probate — secrets from the experts

FAQs Dec 28, 2022
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Do you really need a lawyer for the Florida Probate that you are involved in? You may not, after all. Find out some secrets from the experts to help you stay informed, up to date, and to receive your inheritance. (Yup, that’s right: it should not be that difficult!) For more perspective on this topic, click HERE. Florida Probate Process Explained Previously, we have written about the whole “estate-probate-inheritance” process. To read more about this topic, you can click here. But, let’s quickly go over some basic, important aspects that you NEED to know. First, if there is no will, then “heirs” inherit through intestacy. This includes the surviving spouse unless he signed a prenup or some waiver of inheritance rights. Second, in an intestate estate, adult children — NOT just minor children– inherit. And maybe even some grandkids. Intestacy is the passing of property from an estate to heirs. It’s a process with its own special rules. Why talk so much about this topic? Because today, lots and lots of people die without a will. Even those who had the money to afford an attorney to write one. It happens all the time. Third, to get your inheritance, you probably need to “open” a probate. Why? Because you probably want two things: first, a “personal representative” appointed to administer the estate; and two, orders from the probate judge that say you inherit. (This is true especially for real estate or homestead. When you go to sell it, the title […]


What is an Interested Person in Florida Probate?

FAQs Dec 18, 2022
post about What is an Interested Person in Florida Probate?

To raise an objection, to object to a will, or file something in a Florida probate, you must be an interested person. And while we have discussed this “weird”, obscure, estate concept previously (click HERE to read more for free), we are going to explain this in 5 easy steps or lessons. Heirs vs. Interested Persons What’s the difference between an “heir” and an “interested person?” To read about Florida heirship for free, click this LEGAL LINK. Heirs inherit the property of a Florida resident who dies without a will. That’s called intestacy. Or “intestate succession.” (For a free Florida video, click here. ) You can also read the legal definition at Fla. Probate Code Section 731. 201 (20). That’s DIFFERENT than an interested person. Yup……………….. the answer to your question that you are thinking about is “yes.” (An heir might not be an interested person). Why Does It Matter ? Well, first of all, you might want to participate in the probate. And, if you are an “heir”, and there is no will, you inherit! (probably !!) There is a special statute on what family members inherit. Actually there are two. See 732.102 and 732.103. Heirs who are a surviving spouse have one statute. Other heirs have another. Think of heirs as the surviving spouse + descendants or “blood” relatives. When you die without a will, that’s called “intestacy.” Think it’s not possible? Think again says Palm Beach probate lawyer John Pankauski. “I can’t tell you how many estates […]


Notice of Trust Florida

FAQs Aug 23, 2022
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What is a notice of trust? Learn the two types, who is entitled to this, and what you should look out for if you are a beneficiary. To see a short video on this topic, CLICK HERE. What’s the big deal? A trustee is required to tell her beneficiaries that she is a trustee. A trustee should send a writing to a Florida trust beneficiary within 60 days. This is the first notice of trust which we will discuss. You can also read the Florida Trust Code Statute 736.0813(1). What’s the purpose of this document? It tells the beneficiaries: The existence of the trust. That there is a trust which you are a beneficiary of. It identifies the trustee with an address. That way you know who is in charge of your money and who to contact. Why would you contact your trustee? To ask for money, accountings and other relevant information about YOUR trust. Annual accountings. It also tells you that you are entitled to a complete copy of your trust agreement. Just ask the trustee. What other relevant information might a trust beneficiary want? How about… Financial statements. Copies of sale documents for real estate that is sold. A list of all trust assets How much compensation the trustee is taking from your trust. Beneficiaries have a lot of RIGHTS. Trustees owe you a lot of DUTIES. Notice of Trust in Probate Court When the creator, or “grantor”, of a trust dies and the trust becomes irrevocable, there […]


Inheritance Lawyer in Florida — do you really need one?

FAQs Aug 22, 2022
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When do you really need an inheritance lawyer in Florida? Well, let’s first understand what one is. Then, we can discuss the most common times that people hire one. Finally, we’ll close by considering 6 factors to consider when you are interviewing one. What is an inheritance lawyer? An inheritance lawyer in Florida is one who can assist, counsel, guide or litigate legal matters for you. About what? Well, not everything. Involving inheritances. Property, property rights or money which you may get when someone passes away. Or… when a prior property interest ends. Like if you inherit a trust. OK…so…when? Under what circumstances? The most common are two areas of Florida law. Estates and probates. And Trusts. One may be a counselor. Informing and educating you about, for example, the probate process. Or how trusts work in Florida. Advising you on fiduciary fees, administration of an estate or trust. Giving you straight-talk and easy-to-understand explanations about what you are supposed to inherit and when. One may be an advocate. This advocate role of an inheritance lawyer will take a stand for you. Argue in court. File papers for you. And, also explain what court-filed documents are, what they mean, and how they affect you. An advocate is biased ! For you ! Most people want someone on their side. Or, one can be a probate litigator. You know, the type that isn’t afraid to “get dirty”. Who actually tries cases and handles appeals. They typically limit their practice to disputes […]


Marital Trusts in Florida — full time employment

FAQs Aug 22, 2022
post about Marital Trusts in Florida — full time employment

Marital Trusts were once set up to provide for a spouse and their children. But times have changed. Find out why these trusts are often the subject of serious, and expensive, litigation. The full time employment act for probate litigators? We have previously written about trust lawsuits among a widow, or surviving spouse, and adult children. Now, let’s re-examine this Florida Legal Concept and consider why there is so much litigation — and what you can do. How Did We Get Here? OK, here’s the scenario which we are talking about. Mom or Dad have a few bucks and die. Their estate plan leaves money and property in a trust. For her or his surviving spouse for lifetime. If there’s anything left in the trust when spouse dies, it goes to Mom or Dad’s adult children. Back in the 80’s and 90’s, you could only leave about $600,000 free of the estate tax. Everything over that was taxed. The tax act of 1986 changed all that with the marital trust. If done properly, this type of trust would benefit your spouse and then go to the kids. You got a marital deduction and paid the tax when the 2nd spouse died. Sounded good , right? Fast forward to the 2000’s and 2020’s in Florida. Lots of people get divorced Many re-marry. Many 2nd spouses, or 3rd spouses, don’t like their new spouse’s children. And vice versa. So, why is everyone still creating a marital trust for people who don’t get […]


Attorney That Deals with Inheritance

FAQs Aug 7, 2022
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Do you really need a lawyer to explain your inheritance rights to you? Not necessarily. And, even if you do, you might not need that attorney for long, or for much work. Knowing whether you need inheritance counsel is one thing. But how do you interview and select an inheritance lawyer to your liking? 5 things to consider. Straight talk, straight from the horse’s mouth. Do you even need an attorney that deals with inheritance ? Let’s face it: not everyone needs an inheritance attorney. You just don’t. Lots of times, a trusted family member is handling the Florida Probate with a good estate lawyer who everyone trusts. There are probate rules which provide for information sharing and disclosure. You know what’s going on, when, and how things are getting done. There’s no will contest, no fighting. But, what if the trust is not there? What if the executor or personal representative is not telling you what’s going on in the probate? “Many family members are let down when the estate executor does not communicate, let alone hides information” says Probate Litigation Attorney John Pankauski. Pankauski tries to reassure prospective clients who may not be trustful of their executor. He lets them know that financial data, assets, money, and property will all be disclosed. Or, should be disclosed. He points you to all the rights which a Florida estate beneficiary has under the Probate Code. And all the duties which an executor is required to follow. But what happens when […]


57.105– the Florida law for attorneys fees + costs for frivolous claims + suits

FAQs Aug 6, 2022
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Courts of law are NOT meant for fake claims or defenses. Someone filing a frivolous matter or claim may be sanctioned. They could be ordered to pay attorneys fees and costs under Florida Law 57.105. This law provides for fees if someone makes a claim that is not based upon the law and facts. A recent opinion tells you all you need to know. The Basics To read more about this attorney fee and sanctions topic, click HERE. 57.105 is a statute which provides for attorneys fees and costs under limited circumstances The purpose of that law was to diminish or discourage frivolous filings When is something frivolous? This statute provides for the award of fees and costs if a claim or defense is NOT supported by the law or the facts. This law SANCTIONS such conduct. The sanction is in the form of awarding the prevailing party attorneys fees. But be cautious. When awarding fees as a sanction, an expert must give testimony. See the August 5, 2022 case of Mitchell v. Flatt. Recent Case On August 3, 2022, Florida’s 4th District Court of Appeal issued its opinion in the case of Cadavid v. Saporta. This case dealt with injunctions and claims of a violation of a restraining order. It required the trial judge to carefully weigh the conflicting testimony of both parties. This opinion gives you, the reader, just about all you need to know about Florida Law 57.105. And, remember: failure to timely appeal a sanction order […]