Parkland Shooter’s Mom’s Estate in Play: who will run Shooter Nicolas Cruz’ mother’s estate?
Parkland shooter Nicolas Cruz lost his mother November 1, 2017. Now, his late mother’s estate has been “opened” in Florida probate court and a woman who was once in charge of Nicolas wants to run his mom’s estate.
According to a New York Post article, https://nypost.com/2018/02/20/woman-who-took-in-florida-shooter-wants-control-of-his-inheritance/?utm_campaign=SocialFlow&utm_source=NYPFacebook&utm_medium=SocialFlow&sr_share=facebook
Roxanne Deschamps was placed in charge of Nicolas Cruz and his brother Zachary after their mother died. That’s not uncommon for minor children to have a guardian appointed to watch over children, and even make personal and financial decisions for them. Guardians are also appointed for adults who cannot manage their own affairs. This can include not only senior citizens plagued by dementia or diminishing faculties due to old age, but also younger Floridians who, for whatever reason (e.g. mental illness), can’t care for themselves. When a person dies, there is a probate process, overseen by a probate court proceeding typically, which sets forth rules, or a “gameplan” or template to gather assets, pay one’s last bills and taxes, and then distribute any property according to a will or probate law.
And it’s very common in Florida probate, to file a petition with the probate court in the county where the deceased person resided . This is called a “petition for administration” which recites who died, when that person died and who is an interested person in that estate. In Florida, any person can’t necessarily participate in a Florida probate. You have to have some connection to the deceased Florida resident. Under Florida Probate Law, to be permitted to have a say in one’s probate estate, you have to be an “interested person.”
An interested person can be a broad term, often limited or expanded by the discretion of a probate court judge. Generally, family members, beneficiaries of an estate, and creditors are considered “interested persons “ in the probate context. Of course there are exceptions. And the term “interested person” can be different in Florida guardianships, too. For example, a neighbor might not be interested in a probate or estate proceeding, but have enough connection with someone to have legal standing to be a court appointed guardian, or to have a say in a guardianship matter.
So, why does someone, in this case Roxanne Deschamps, want to run the shooter’s estate? Well, if the mother died without a will and no spouse, her children inherit 100% of the estate. If Nicolas only has one brother, that means he inherits one half of his mom’s estate. His brother, from reports, is a minor and can’t run the estate. Nicolas is under arrest and won’t be in a position to run or administer an estate. So, if there is an estate to administer, someone has to do it. A Personal Representative , what other states call an “executor,” is typically appointed to “marshal” beneficiaries’ inheritances and manage it until it is ready to be distributed. And, the argument will probably do, if Ms. Deschamps was placed in charge of Nicolas already, why shouldn’t she run his mom’s estate?
We don’t know the extent of Nicolas’ inheritance, or what form it might take.
In probate litigation circles, many litigators who handle estate and family disputes know that who is appointed by a probate judge to “run” or administer the estate is often hotly contested. There will be a trial on who should serve as the Personal Representative of an estate, when more than one person wants to serve as the Personal Representative. In the end, the probate court judge has wide latitude and great discretion to determine who will be in charge of the mother’s estate. While preference is given to who is appointed in a will, it’s not clear if a will exists. In Florida, a will must be filed the by one who has the original will within 10 days of death. If there is no will , the court can consider who the beneficiaries want to run the estate. Of course, if the mother had any creditors, like a credit card company, or a lender such as a bank, those legal actors may want a say in who will run the estate. What will be interesting is to see if others come forward to administer the mother’s estate, and who the judge appoints. In this case, he or she may simply ask a reputable, experienced probate lawyer to take on the job.