FLORIDA PROBATE LITIGATION
A Florida will contest is a form of probate estate litigation disputing the admission of a last will to a Florida probate court or seeking to revoke the probate of a Florida will that is already before the Florida probate court, or a claim that there is some improper action occurring in the probate administration of the estate. A person cannot dispute the validity of a will Florida probate court simply because they do not like the provisions of the will or did not, in their opinion, get what they wanted. Challenging whether a will in Florida probate court is not done based on fairness or reasonableness or if the beneficiary would have liked an immediate distribution but needs to wait several years but limited to legal causes of action.
A will is often disputed in Florida probate court on the basis that the person who signed the Florida will lacked mental capacity (for example they had dementia, were senile, had an unsound mind or were delusional). The relevant time period when the mental capacity is evaluated for a will contest or Florida probate dispute is at the execution of the will or related document being challenged.
Undue Influence is another legal claim for which to challenge a will admitted to Broward Probate Court. If a person of trust and confidence is involved in the creation of the will and pressures or coerces the testator to make particular provisions they otherwise would not have made which they then do so and and they are then benefited as a result and more than they otherwise would have been in prior documents or intestate succession that can be disputed as undue influence.
If the document is forged and was not actually signed by the testator a handwriting expert can be called to testify whether the document is authentic and would be invalid if it were not actually signed by the testator.
The will also needs to have two witnesses. Most wills also have a notary making them self proved. If a will sought to be admitted to Broward County Probate Court does not have two witnesses it is not a valid will entitled to probate as it fails to meet the legal requirements of Florida statutes.
Florida probate courts have discretion to determine what the intent of the testator was, what the meaning of particular provisions where or to what extent the mental capacity or undue influence tainted the will and then go about applying only that portion that was properly prepared and executed while ignoring the remainder and applying a prior will or intestate succession that more accurately reflected the intent of the testator and complied with Florida law.
Disputing a will in Florida Probate Court based on lack of capacity, undue influence or for some other reason happens frequently in Florida and Broward County Probate Courts.
Even if a person believes that a person lacked mental capacity or was unduly influenced they must have a legal interest in the matter someone who is not a personal representative of the estate, an heir, or a beneficiary of the prior will for example would lack standing in order to dispute the admission of the will to Florida Probate Court.
Unlike some states no contest clauses in wills are not valid in Florida as they are against public policy.
Sometimes beneficiaries are not seeking to dispute a will or bring a Broward County Will contest but are contesting the actions of the personal representative and may seek their removal or another party for breach of fiduciary duty.
A personal representative is fiduciary and owes the heirs or beneficiaries of the estate a duty of loyalty, honesty and fairness. They are no allowed to be involved with self dealing in most cases (unless previously authorized to do so) taken an unreasonably large compensation which is considered excessive, show gross negligence with estate assets or failure to diversify assets which had not been authorized or investing in improper and unsafe investments for the estate. A personal representative is not eligible if they have committed a felony or are not a close relative and reside out of the state of Florida.
Florida statutes provide relatively short time frames for will contests in Florida and Broward County Probate Courts.
When regular notice of administration is provided to beneficiaries or heirs following seeking to be appointed as the Florida personal representative the time frame is typically 90 days following that although if formal notice is provided prior to filing the will the time frame can be even shorter.
It is important for the beneficiaries of a will or the heirs of an intestate estate in Florida to act in order to protect what they are legally entitled to receive in the estate.
While Florida Probate Litigation, Broward Estate Litigation and Florida Will Contests can be costly given the Florida Probate Litigation Attorney and Florida Estate Litigation time that is involved in taking the depositions, obtaining medical records or other relevant information, filing petitions in the probate court and going through mediation with the opposing side it does allow for the heirs or beneficiaries to seek justice and receive everything they are legally entitled to receive.
For beneficiaries that have a legal cause of action they should discuss with a Florida Probate Attorney who can advise them about estate law and how it would apply to the facts of their case.
The Estate Planning Law Firm, P.A. has an attorney who will do this, offers a free consultation and is accessible with clients being able to call his direct extension at 954 920-2886 for any questions regarding Florida Probate Law. The probate attorney is located with his office in Broward County right off the highway I95 and typically available 9-6:30.
Other documents can also be challenged based on lack of mental capacity, undue influence influence and related reasons mentioned above such as beneficiary designations, a trust, a deed etc. The relevant time frame is at the date that the action occurred - time of the deed execution, beneficiary designation etc.
Other fiduciary agents can also be challenged for breach of fiduciary duty such as a trustee, a guardian, or someone for abusing their power of attorney. The power of attorney must act in the best interests of the principle and not on their own behalf and the trustee has a similar fiduciary duty as that of a personal representative.