Probate Litigation Law Firm in Tampa Bay
In addition to Florida Probate Administration, our firm is actively involved in the litigation of Probate disputes. These types of actions can include Will Contests, Objections to Probate Administration, Trust Contests, and Actions to Remove the Appointed Personal Representative, Life Insurance disputes and litigation involving Creditor Claims.
Probate Administration v. Probate Litigation
Florida law requires that a decedent’s estate be administered pursuant to a set of procedural rules and select Chapters of Florida Statutes governing probate. The process of wrapping up the affairs of a decedent is known as Probate Administration. Generally this involves nominating a Personal Representative (sometimes known as an Executor), providing proper notice to all beneficiaries and then administering the assets of the estate according to law. The nominated Personal Representative will gather all estate assets and pay any valid creditor claim and tax obligation of the decedent pursuant to Florida law. Finally, after all valid creditor claims are paid or otherwise dealt with, the Personal Representative will seek Court approval for distribution of the remaining assets to the heirs or beneficiaries according to either the pre-set rules of intestate distribution, or if the decedent died with a valid will and testament, pursuant to their last wishes.
So what is Probate Litigation? Well unfortunately a decedent’s last wishes can be thwarted by the actions of interested parties seeking to take advantage of the decedent. This concept, sometimes referred to as inheritance hijacking, creates conflict amount beneficiaries who were expecting to receive a portion of an estate, but potentially are now cut out of the decedent’s last will and testament or other estate planning document. If you believe that a loved one has been taken advantage of and their estate plan was improperly altered for the benefit of someone other than the decedent, you have the ability in Florida to challenge the Probate Administration.
Chances are if you are considering Probate Litigation you have already received a Notice of Administration or Notice of Petition for Administration from someone who is attempting to Probate the assets of someone you cared for. If you receive formal notice of a probate proceeding in many cases you only have a limited time frame upon which to file an action for Probate litigation.
TYPES OF PROBATE LITIGATION
Probate litigation can involve challenges to the testamentary distribution offered for probate including:
(1) Will Contests- to determine the validity of the document offered as the last will and testament of the decedent.
(2) Will construction – to determine the proper distribution of the assets of an estate in light of a particular last will and testament in accordance with the rules of construction contained in Florida Law.
(3) Elective Share Litigation – A surviving spouse has rights to certain floor or minimum amount of the estate assets. Determining this value pursuant to Florida law can require litigation.
Additionally, Probate litigation can arise over the abuse of power conferred upon the Personal Representative. The nominated Personal Representative has a fiduciary obligation to the beneficiaries or heirs in an estate. Unfortunately, sometimes Personal Representative’s unlawfully take estate assets or simply engage in waste or the maladministration of an estate. These types of Probate cases include:
(1) Actions to remove the Personal Representative.
(2) Accounting- the beneficiaries of an estate have the right to obtain a detailed accounting of the estate assets.
(3) Lawsuits for Surcharge- reimbursement for losses sustained to the Estate by the Personal Representative.
The nominated Personal Representative may bring an action on behalf of the Estate against any wrongdoer that has deprived the Estate of any right or asset under Florida law. We frequently seek this type of litigation occurring where the accounting records of the Personal Representative show that a Power of Attorney unlawfully abused to drain an estate prior to the death of the decedent.
Finally, although not always a probate asset, we litigate disputes among beneficiaries to life insurance policies. Similar to an unlawful change in a will or other testamentary document, life insurance policy beneficiary designations are often unlawfully changed.
If you and your family find yourself dealing with an estate plan that you believe does not truly reflect the last wishes of the decedent, in Florida you have the right to challenge the Probate or bring an action against the wrongdoer(s). If you think you have a potential case, don’t wait to speak with an attorney. Call us today. Many of your rights will be governed by a strict statute of limitations. That means that you may lose your rights if you don’t quickly take action.
Call 813-501-5071 for a free case evaluation or click here to email us.