Palm Beach Probate Litigation: Interpreting Language in a Florida Trust or Will
What happens if multiple people interpret the same Florida trust differently? What if the language in a marital agreement or Palm Beach will is unclear? How do the Florida probate or family courts determine what the true meaning of a provision should be? A June 20, 2012 Third DCA case , Glenn v. Roberts, demonstrates just how easy it is for people to read the same document but interpret it differently.
When a West Palm Beach estate planning lawyer prepares an estate plan for you, such as a will or revocable trust, they try their best to make the document clear. One thing Florida trust and estates attorneys need to do is identify who’s going to inherit money and how much.If there’s a trust, they have to tell the trustee what to do with income and principal. Interpreting a Florida trust or will should be easy, but a probate lawyer can tell you that, often, it’s not.You can ask any probate litigator if they frequently encounter construction actions.They will tell you that it happens all of the time.What is a construction action?A construction action involves construing, or interpreting, what a written document says.Construction actions occur to determine the meaning of contracts, deeds, marital settlement agreements, wills, trusts, etc. In a construction action, one of he threshold issues is whether a provision is ambiguous or not.A trust and estates litigator West Palm Beach can tell you that, just because two people look at a document and don’t agree with what it means, does not necessarily mean the document is ambiguous.Most probate judges in Florida will read a document, or a provision, in a trust and tell you whether they believe it is ambiguous.If the judge does not believe it is ambiguous, the judge will rule and tell you what he interprets the document or provision to mean.However, if the document is ambiguous, a probate court judge is permitted to hear parole evidence, intrinsic evidence, testimony , etc. to determine what was intended by the parties when the document was drafted.
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