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Who Inherits in Florida?

Probate Information Oct 11, 2021
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This is your 1-stop-shop for learning who inherits in Florida. If you are wondering about an inheritance. Or are involved in a Florida probate. If there is a will challenge or fight over a joint account. Here are the 5 secrets to inheriting in Florida. The Rule of 2 There are 2 quick & simple rules for who inherits in Florida. This is your jumping off point for finding out if you get an inheritance. It all starts with whether or not there is a will. And not just any will, but a valid last will. Here’s your #1 secret. A valid last will governs all property that was owned by the decedent individually. A decedent is a Florida resident who is dead. If she owned property in her own, individual, name, it will pass under her last valid will. I’m not talking about assets owned in a revocable trust or in a joint account or a POD (“pay on death”). [ Those assets “go” according to the beneficiaries who are designated.] Since one can have multiple wills, only the last valid will rules. (Most wills revoke all prior wills.) And it has to be valid. No undue influence or duress or mistake or insane delusion. Want to read about wills in the Florida Probate Code? Click this FREE LINK which will take you to the Florida Probate Statutes section on wills. Now, the #2 secret? Intestacy. Dying Without a Will in Florida — heirs take it all ! Intestacy […]

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Mediated Settlement Agreement

Probate Information Oct 11, 2021
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A mediated settlement agreement is often used to “ink” a deal in a Florida probate or trust dispute. IF the parties settle. They are contracts. But how do you enforce your deal if the other side is not doing what they promised to do? We have previously written about mediation agreements. Now, let’s focus on how Florida law does not let people get out of signed deals. Why Mediation? If you are involved in a Florida estate or trust dispute, you are going to be ordered to attend a mediation before trial. It’s a serious settlement conference. So, take the mediation seriously. Be prepared and try to win. Who’s at the mediation? Typically you and your lawyers. The other side or sides, and their lawyers. And a mediator. Who is the mediator? The mediator is a neutral, objective third party who is there to try to broker peace. To discuss settlement. To foster compromise. Many retired judges mediate. Many experienced probate litigators are also asked to mediate disputes because of their vast experience and expertise. What is perhaps the #1 rule to a successful mediation? The parties have to want to settle. And any deal is typically reduced to a written contract. And everyone signs on the dotted line. Sometimes, there is a prevailing party attorneys fees provision. If you have to go back to court, the prevailing party can get reimbursed, from the other side, your attorneys fees and costs. Sometimes, mediated settlement agreements are subject to court approval. […]

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Mediation Settlement Agreement in Florida Probates — how to read them

In the News Oct 10, 2021
post about Mediation Settlement Agreement in Florida Probates — how to read them

Mediation settlement agreements in Florida probates are intended to END your estate dispute. So, why is there so much litigation, and many appeals, over these documents? This free legal commentary will discuss a recent, 2021 case involving an estate settlement. In writing ! What do you do when a court order says one thing, and your settlement agreement says another? [ For those of you who have not attended mediation yet, get ready ! Retired judges say repeatedly that it’s your best chance to get an inheritance. Or end a fight–with a lot less risk than trial. To see a FREE FLORIDA PROBATE VIDEO on how to win at mediation, CLICK HERE. ] How To Read a Settlement Agreement In Florida probate disputes, judges will order the parties to attend a mediation. A mediation is a settlement conference. There is a neutral, third party facilitator, called a “mediator.” She will attempt to foster discussion and see if the parties want to settle. If a settlement is reached, it will be reduced to a written and signed settlement agreement. What happens if there is a dispute over the document? AFTER you settled ? How do you read a mediation settlement agreement ? Here are some bullet points: Read the plain language of the agreement. That’s the starting point. Don’t read too much into it. If the language is clear and unambiguous, then it says what it says and means what it means. Just because you and the other side to your […]

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Probate Appeals Attorneys Fees

FAQs Oct 10, 2021
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An October, 2021 probate appellate opinion reminds you about probate appeals. Can you get attorneys fees for a probate appeal? Sure ! But don’t ask the appellate court. Here is your key to getting probate appeals attorneys fees in Florida. This is particularly important if you are involved in a will contest or an undue influence case. 3 Things You Need to Read OK, so you are involved in a probate appeal. Hopefully, you had an appellate specialist at your trial. That way, you are prepared for any potential appeal. Whether you lose or win. Remember: if you WIN, the other side can appeal. One issue that you have to consider is: are you going to file a cross-appeal? And, remember, the worst time to think about an appeal is AFTER your probate trial. You need to think about an appeal BEFORE (and at) your estate trial. But, I’m sure that your Florida probate lawyer already explained all of this to you, right? So, you need to read three things when considering Probate Appeals Attorneys Fees. First, read the Florida Probate Code and determine what statute you are going to seek fees under. In Florida, we follow the “American rule”. You only get attorneys fees if you have a statute or a contract. That’s right, you can’t just “ask for” fees. You need authority. [ Hint: start by reading 733.106 and 733.609 depending on your case. ] 2nd, read the Florida Rules of Appellate Procedure so you know how to […]

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How to Revoke Probate in Florida

FAQs Sep 12, 2021
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How to revoke probate in Florida may be the key to getting your inheritance. Regrettably, in some cases of undue influence and probate fraud, it’s your only option. If a probate was “opened“, you will need to take action if you want to preserve your rights. And fight back. Knowing where such a petition fits in with you trying to get your inheritance is key to your success. Understanding the Probate Process in Florida In Florida, when you die, there are special rules for what happens to your property. Specific procedures that need to be followed. For example, most beneficiaries don’t know that all creditors and estate (probate) expenses are paid first ! Before a beneficiary sees a dime ! First, your assets should be gathered. This process is also known as “marshalling” your assets. Non probate assets, so called “will substitutes” like joint accounts, generally go to the survivor. But not always. Knowing when such an asset should come back to probate is often heavily litigated. So much for “avoiding” probate with joint tenancy, right? Second, all debts of the decedent need to be paid. Mortgage? IRS? Borrowings; last electric bill; cable bill, etc. You get the point. Then expenses of administration need to be paid. Including the probate lawyer ! Court documents need to be filed in the probate court and interested persons need to receive notice. What if the will that is on file is wrong? What if the petition for administration was granted and you think […]

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Punitive Damages in Trust Cases

In the News Sep 12, 2021
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Every let-down trust beneficiary wants to know if you can get punitive damages in trust cases. The answer is “yes.” You can sue your trustee for punitive damages. ……… But you need to understand the procedure for seeking punitive damages + the basis for wanting them. Otherwise, an appellate court could dismiss your claim for punitive damages. This happened on September 10, 2021 in a Florida appellate opinion. For more information on punitive damages against a trustee, click HERE. For a free video, click HERE. Understanding Punitive Damages in Florida Trust Cases You can’t get punitive damages automatically in Florida. No matter how bad your trustee acted. You have to ask permission from the judge. You have to file a motion to amend your complaint. To now include a claim, or a “count,” for punitive damages. You can read the statute about pleading for punitive damages, which is Florida Statute 768.72. Then the judge will hold a hearing on this. And that’s when the work begins ! There’s 2 reasons for punitive damages: to punish a bad trustee and to deter future wrongdoing. But be mindful that seeking, let alone obtaining, them is not a layup. Go in with your eyes wide open. While seeking punitive damages can be one of the most powerful things an experienced trial attorney can do you for you, know this. Even if you get ’em. There are limitations and the damages can’t be excessive. That’s why many advise trust beneficiaries in Florida to get […]

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Trust Revocation Florida — which one is valid?

FAQs Sep 11, 2021
post about Trust Revocation Florida — which one is valid?

Florida residents LOVE their revocable trusts. And over time, they amend, revoke, re-publish and re-state the trust. Changing bits and pieces. And sometimes changing the whole trust. But what if one of those trust revocations is caused by undue influence? Can you set the trust revocation Florida aside? Even if it’s done by a written legal document? Yes you can! Read a couple of statutes and a recent case to learn all about this. To read about trust contests, click HERE. How Do you Revoke a Trust? Lots of family members and heirs get surprised when mom or dad die– and they read their revocable trust for the first time. Sometimes, revocable trusts are changed many times over the years. These changes are sometimes called amendments. If an entire trust is going to be re-published, it’s sometimes referred to as a restatement. And, of course, there are revocations. Most amendments or future changes to a revocable trust need to be in writing. Although you could destroy or revoke a trust by an act. Such as shredding or ripping up the trust in front of witnesses and saying ” I hereby revoke my trust.” That is perhaps the most common revocation by “act” or deed. But the more common way is to simply change the trust by a writing. Amend it. And when you amend it, you “revoke” a prior section of the trust, or the entire trust itself. And you replace it with the new section or provision or new […]

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Probate Contingency Lawyer

FAQs Sep 8, 2021
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A contingency fee may be your key to the probate court. (But, how do you find the right lawyer?) If the idea of large legal fees just to protect your inheritance is daunting, you are not alone. Many beneficiaries, heirs and family members seek out a probate contingency lawyer for will contests and trust lawsuits. Even just plain old probates —to look out for them, and protect their inheritance, in a Florida estate case. Admittedly, good ones are hard to find. And big firms won’t do contingent fees. You need to find a boutique expert who limits their practice to this area of the law. Here’s what you need to know now. (to read more about contingency fees, click THIS LINK ) Everyone’s Doing It “I get dozens of calls each quarter” says Probate Litigation Lawyer John Pankauski. “A lot of people are looking for a probate contingency lawyer. And they are the ones asking for a contingency fee.” But Pankauski admittedly doesn’t take over 90% of those calls who seek out his firm. He would rather be paid each month for his time, at his hourly rate — rather than take a case on a contingency. But he has that luxury. His firm has a robust practice handling litigations and appeals for wills, trusts, probates and estates, throughout Florida. His band of trial lawyers have found success in trials and even appeals. “I am very selective on what cases I’ll take on a contingency” he says. If you can […]

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Petition to Revoke Probate Florida

Probate Information Sep 8, 2021
post about Petition to Revoke Probate Florida

A Petition to Revoke Probate Florida may be your only way to get an inheritance if it was taken from you improperly. If an invalid or suspicious will was presented to probate, you just might have a will contest on your hands. Do you know how to enforce your inheritance rights? Understanding the Probate Process The Florida Probate Process is, in once sense, straightforward. You gather all the deceased Florida resident’s assets, pay her last expenses and bills, and then distribute what’s left over to the beneficiaries. But determining beneficiaries may be more of a challenge than one believes. If there is no will, then the HEIRS inherit under what’s called “Intestacy.” If there is a valid will, then the property goes to the will beneficiaries. A Petition to Revoke Probate Florida is a court filed document in the probate court. (It’s explained in more detail below). If there are multiple wills, a court will determine which one is valid. In that case, the will signing becomes very important, as well as the person’s mental health. Finally, the facts and circumstances of how a will came to be signed are important. Was there undue influence or fraud? To see videos on will challenges and undue influence for free, CLICK HERE. Reading the Florida Probate Laws + Rules The good news is that you may learn a lot about the Florida Probate process quickly, easily and free of charge. Listen up Heirs, children, grandchildren and adopted kids ! The Florida intestacy […]

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Florida Will Contest

Our Firm Sep 7, 2021
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What is a Florida Will Contest and what do you need to know? To see a free Florida probate video about a will contest, CLICK HERE. To learn more, keep reading. An Introduction to Florida Will Contest A Florida will contest is a challenge to a will. It involves going to court, the probate court, and making a claim. This claim is often in the form of a court-filed document called a Petition. In that Petition, you set forth your case on why the will is not valid. That is your challenge. You challenge the validity of the will. Florida law lists a limited number of reasons why a will may not be valid. Understanding all of these legal avenues is key to your success. Gathering your evidence is key. Finally, knowing how to try this type of case is paramount. Unless you settle your will contest, it will go to trial. A probate judge will tell you whether a will is valid or not valid. If there are a number of wills in play, she will tell you which ones are valid, which are not valid, and which one controls. Are you ready? Affect of Fraud or Duress A will that is caused by Fraud or Duress is void. Undue influence is a kind of fraud. Many times, people question wills that are signed right before death. Or, when a new beneficiary magically appears in a will, and was never there before. If a person forced or pressured someone […]

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