Florida and Palm Beach County Estate Law Firm Working for You
When Florida residents—or those individuals who own real estate in Florida—pass away, proceedings begin to settle their affairs. This process is known as probate. Florida probate can be straightforward and uneventful, or, it can be litigious where disputes arise between beneficiaries, fiduciaries, and potentially disinherited loved ones.
There are several types of disputes that arise in an estate that require litigation. The following are examples of common types of estate litigation:
- Will contests
- Surviving spouse rights claims
- Breach of fiduciary duty
A Florida and Palm Beach County estate law firm can help you and your family navigate probate and work toward a resolution to your estate litigation matter.
About Will Contests in Florida
A will can be challenged in Florida on the following grounds:
- Lack of capacity. To execute a valid will a person must have the ability to mentally understand the nature and extent of property to be disposed, the person’s relation to those who would naturally claim substantial benefit from his or her will, and an understanding of the practical effect of the will as executed. This commonly arises when the testator suffers from senility, dementia, Alzheimer’s or other cognitive impairment.
- Undue influence. A will is the product of undue influence if the will is the product of another’s decision-making and judgment instead of the person making the will. A presumption of undue influence arises upon a showing that a party who (1) occupied a confidential relationship with the testator, (2) was a substantial beneficiary under the will, and (3) was active in procuring the instrument.
- Lack of formalities. A validly executed will under Florida law must be in writing, signed at the end by the testator—or another person at the testator’s direction—and be signed in front of two witnesses, who each sign in the presence of the testator and each other.
Surviving Spouse Rights Claims in Florida
Under Florida law, surviving spouses have significant rights and benefits. For example, a surviving spouse has homestead rights in the primary residence of their deceased spouse and is entitled to no less than a life estate in the homestead.
In addition, a surviving spouse has a right to a 30% elective share of the deceased spouse’s estate.
Surviving spouses in Florida also have rights to family allowance and exempt property.
There are important deadlines that a surviving spouse must be aware of. Consultation with a Palm Beach County estate law firm is recommended so that a surviving spouse does not mistakenly waive their guaranteed inheritance.
Breach of Fiduciary Duty
A personal representative (some states refer to the fiduciary as executor or administrator) is the individual who is appointed by the Court to administer the estate. The personal representative owes duties to the beneficiaries and the creditors. Often, estate litigation in Palm Beach County and throughout Florida arises because the personal representative has improperly managed the estate. Disputes arise over the personal representative’s failure to account, or failure to properly account, acting in self-interest, overly compensating his or herself, or when he or she fails to responsibly protect the estate assets.
Our Florida and Palm Beach County Estate Law Firm is Here For You
The situations above are the most common types of estate litigation. Other types of estate litigation we handle include:
- Creditor disputes
- Petition for Revocation of Probate
- Petition to Remove a Personal Representative
- Petition to Surcharge a Personal Representative
- Enforcement of Prenuptial and Postnuptial Agreements
Comiter Singer Baseman & Braun represents clients throughout Florida in the most complex estate litigation matters. For more information or to schedule a free consultation, reach out to us online or call us at 561-626-2101 or toll-free at 800-226-1484.