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Florida Probate Lawsuit — 5 ways to go on the offense

What We Do Mar 28, 2021
post about Florida Probate Lawsuit — 5 ways to go on the offense

Is your Florida Probate Lawsuit stuck in the mud? Maybe you are sick of sports analogies. But, consider these 5 ways to go on the “offense” for your estate case. But, you need to be ready for a probate trial. If you are not ready for a trial, maybe you should consider a “Plan B.” There is a small group of excellent trial attorneys who limit their practice. They have explained HOW THEY APPROACH A PROBATE CASE. And it’s OK that this group of Experienced Trial + Appellate Attorneys is not for everyone. You need to find the right fit. Knowledge is Power: Understanding Your Probate Case First, consider your Florida Probate Lawsuit as a whole, the facts and the law. “I can’t tell you how many times I get a call from prospective clients who want to change attorneys” says Probate Litigator John Pankauski. He advises taking a step back and getting a “30,000 foot” view. There’s two things that those new or potential clients always talk about. “First, they want to go on the offense and get aggressive. Second, they don’t know exactly how much they are fighting over.” How much are your damages? How strong is your case? How weak is your opponent’s? These are all basic questions you need hard and fast answers for. If you don’t have them, maybe you don’t understand your probate case. If you are filing a WILL CONTEST, what is the basis to attack the will? A complete and thorough analysis […]


Florida Lawyer Disqualification + Conflict of Interest

In the News Mar 28, 2021
post about Florida Lawyer Disqualification + Conflict of Interest

Filing a motion with the court to disqualify your opposing counsel is serious stuff. A March 26, 2021 opinion from the 5th District Court of Appeal, Florida, sheds light on this. We have previously discussed ATTORNEY CONFLICT OF INTEREST before. Now, let’s get an update. Lawyers and Ethical Duties The Florida Bar imposes many ethical duties on lawyers. They can be found HERE. Check out Chapter 4 on Professional Conduct. Not only is a lawyer required to be loyal to clients, and work hard, but you should avoid conflicts of interest. A Florida lawyer who is “adverse” to an existing client may be disqualified from that case. After all, a Florida attorney is not supposed to be adverse to, or against, an existing client. In other words, lawyers don’t sue clients. Or take a position that hurts a client. Now, this does NOT mean that a lawyer has to do everything a client wants. We are not talking about a sincere fundamental disagreement on a case, for example. In many situations, a Florida attorney is also prohibited from being adverse, or against, many former clients. A March 26, 2021 Florida Lawyer Disqualification opinion was issued by the 5th District Court of Appeal. To read this opinion CLICK HERE. This DCA case also speaks about lawyers’ conflicts of interest. Florida Probates + Florida Lawyer Disqualification We have previously written about Florida probate matters and Florida Lawyer Disqualification . And there has been good legal commentary on CONFLICTS OF INTEREST. Perhaps one […]


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
post about What is a Florida Revocable Trust?

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 […]


What is Florida Trustee Discretion?

FAQs Mar 27, 2021
post about What is Florida Trustee Discretion?

Billions of dollars are in Florida trusts. And most trustees have the discretion to give beneficiaries money — or not ! What is Florida Trustee Discretion? We have previously provided commentary on Florida Trustee Breach of Fiduciary Duty. Now let’s consider the power of a trustee to exercise its discretion to give you trust money. Florida Trust Code Chapter 736 of the Florida Statutes is the Florida Trust Code. It tells you all about the law of trusts in Florida. This law also speaks about a trustee’s discretion. “There are two important things for any beneficiary to read” says trust litigator John Pankauski, author of Pankauski’s Trustee’s Guide– 10 Steps to Family Trustee Excellence. “One is the trust document itself. The other is the Trust Code.” Specifically, Pankauski says to read Florida Trust Law 736.0814. This trust law talks about a trustee’s discretionary powers. Pankauski knows a thing or two about trust lawsuits. His firm of expert litigators and appellate lawyers restrict their practice to litigation and appeals of trusts and estates. “A lot of out of state trust beneficiaries need assistance reading the trust document” says Pankauski. “And understand whether their Florida Trustee acted properly.” We have previously provided commentary about SUSPENDING your trustee vs. REMOVING your trustee. Now, let’s focus on Florida Trustee Discretion. Appealing Trustee Discretion What are the rules if you don’t like a trustee’s decision? Let’s say that the trust document says the trustee may distribute money to you for health, education, maintenance and support. […]


Aiding and Abetting Breach of Fiduciary Duty in Florida

Probate Information Mar 25, 2021
post about Aiding and Abetting Breach of Fiduciary Duty in Florida

If someone helped a fiduciary breach their fiduciary duty, is that someone responsible, too? A March 24, 2021 appeal from Florida’s 3rd District Court of Appeal discusses aiding and abetting a breach of fiduciary duty in Florida. We have previously commented on Breach of Fiduciary Duty under Florida law. Now, let’s consider this new case. Miami Dade Appeals Court Decision The Miami Dade Appeals Court, the 3rd DCA, issued its opinion in Grape Leaf Capital, Inc. v. Lafontant. In that case, a Personal Representative of a Florida estate was alleged to have received a loan. The “executor” was alleged to have entered into a loan agreement in exchange for proceeds to be recovered from a wrongful death case. In Florida, a wrongful death case is brought on behalf of the estate. The court-appointed Personal Representative of the Florida Probate is the plaintiff. Miami Dade Probate In this recent appeal case, some lawyers were alleged to have “substantially assisted” the personal representative breaching her fiduciary duty. A breach of fiduciary duty exists when you have the following. A duty owed to someone, a breach of a duty that causes damage. So, what does aiding and abetting a breach of fiduciary duty mean? A cause of action, or lawsuit, for aiding and abetting a breach of fiduciary duty is comprised of 4 things or elements. First, you need to have a fiduciary duty. Second, a breach of that duty. Third, you need knowledge of the breach by the alleged aider and abettor. […]


Florida Probate Fraud

FAQs Mar 25, 2021

What is Florida Probate Fraud? What can you do to protect yourself once you have discovered it? To read Florida Probate Law Commentary on Overturning a Will Based Upon Fraud, CLICK HERE. To read more about this estate topic, continue reading. Fraud in Florida Fraud is a cause of action in Florida legal proceedings. “Generally, if something is caused by fraud, it is void” says probate litigator John Pankauski, who wrote a Probate Litigation Guide. He wrote about 10 common probate mistakes. We recently provided commentary on Fraud on the Court in Florida. That is not what we are talking about here. “When you speak about Florida Probate Fraud” continues Pankauski, “most people think about two things.” First, a will or trust caused by fraud is void. Read Florida Probate Law 732.5165. Second, if a trustee or executor is hiding or stealing assets, that is fraud. Whether you can sue for Civil Theft or Breach of Fiduciary Duty depends on your facts. “And” Pankauski points out “it depends on the type of fraud, too.” Yes, there are different types of fraud in Florida. “Knowing what type of fraud occurred is important” says Pankauski. And that will help you understand how to exercise your rights when you face Florida Probate Fraud. (To read more about Inheritance Theft, CLICK THIS LINK.) Exercising Your Rights If you believe that a will or trust was caused by a lie or undue influence, you need to ask a judge to make that ruling. You can […]


Contesting a Will in Florida

Probate Information Mar 25, 2021
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What does it mean to contest a will in Florida? Many heirs may feel a sense of entitlement to inherit from a Florida Probate. Florida has a strong public policy that permits residents to dispose of their property as they see fit. These two “forces” can collide. Like when a wealthy Palm Beacher dis-inherits her only daughter. Many family members from out of state want to know about contesting a will in Florida. We have previously provided Florida Legal Commentary on the 3 Month Time Limit to contest a will. Free Probate Videos To see a FREE FLORIDA PROBATE VIDEO about overturning a will based on fraud, CLICK HERE. For a free video on Understanding a Will Contest, CLICK HERE. That video discusses contesting a Florida will. Videos are often quickly educational, and easy to view. But the truth is that you probably learn the most from Florida Probate Laws. These laws are found in the Florida Statutes, called the Florida Probate Code. And the rules of the game are found in the Florida Probate Rules. Probate Court in Florida In Florida, there is a Probate Court that administers estates. Contesting a will in Florida will take place in a probate court. A probate is “opened” in the county of the deceased Florida resident. If a Petition for Administration was filed, you should “answer” it. “Also consider filing a counter petition to exercise your rights” suggests Will Contest Attorney John Pankauski. “If there is no probate, open one up” says […]


Restrictive Covenants in Florida Contracts

In the News Mar 24, 2021
post about Restrictive Covenants in Florida Contracts

Restrictive covenants in Florida contracts were front and center on March 17, 2021. The 4th DCA issued its opinion regarding a Broward County real estate commission dispute. If you are involved in Florida contract litigation , is your restrictive covenant valid or void? Restrictive Covenants in Florida Florida sells a lot of real estate. Houses, condos, warehouses are built, renovated and sold, and re-sold, hundreds of times. And while aspects of contract law are pretty clear in Florida, people may know less about restrictive covenants. Restrictive covenants are serious promises or limitations which one party agrees to. They may involve land or something very personal like services. Florida Restrictive Covenants can be thought of as rights which are granted to another. What if agree with everyone in your housing development not to build higher than 3 stories? In real estate law, sometimes that is referred to as a restriction that “runs with the land.” It can be passed down to future owners. It supposedly benefits your neighbors and it burdens your land or house. In the employment context, many of you know about non-competes. Non-competes are typically found in employment contracts. They restrict an employee from doing certain things, typically when they leave employment. Such as soliciting or accepting business from your former company’s clients when you leave. Or from working in the same field. Most of those restrictions in a Florida non-compete need to be reasonable as to duration (time) and geography (location). But what about a Florida real […]


Inheritance Theft Laws in Florida

What We Do Mar 24, 2021
post about Inheritance Theft Laws in Florida

Are you wondering where your inheritance is? Did someone improperly deny you your Florida inheritance? This legal commentary will provide insight on Inheritance Theft Laws in Florida. We have already written about INHERITANCE DISPUTES and APPEALS. Now, let’s focus a bit more on inheritance theft. Civil Theft vs. Probate Remedies Civil theft is said to be one cause of action in Florida. It is one part of Inheritance Theft Laws in the sunshine state. Admittedly, this law appears to be used too much, or, perhaps improperly. Florida Statute 772.11 is the Florida Civil Theft Law. It provides a civil penalty for doing criminal things. “Clients love the Florida Civil Theft Law” says Florida litigation attorney John Pankauski “you get triple damages and attorneys fees.” BUT, Pankauski reminds us, that’s only have a judge or jury trial. AFTER you win! And he should know. Unlike a lot of Florida lawyers who want you to settle all your cases, he actually tries cases and handles appeals. Yup, he is NOT for everyone. To read more about treble or triple damages under the civil theft law in Florida, and attorneys fees, read Florida Statute 772.11 (1). Consider also reading Florida Statute 772.185. For a FREE VIDEO on civil theft and damage calculation, CLICK HERE. Probate Court Remedies The truth is that most of your remedies for inheritance theft lie in probate court, or the civil court, and don’t involve Florida’s civil theft statute. “When you are talking about inheritances” says probate litigator John […]