Probate Litigation is the legal process of challenging or defending provisions of a decedent’s estate planning documents within the Probate Court.
Types of Probate Litigation
Disputes or problems in probate proceedings can take many forms and may include:
- Objections to how the will has been interpreted. This can arise where provisions of the will are vague or open to multiple interpretations.
- Determination of beneficiaries/heirs where there is no will or no immediate family members.
- Objections to the actions of the personal representative assigned to administer the estate, such as a failure to properly administer the estate.
- Objections to the accounting of the estate or a request to have the assets of the estate properly accounted for.
However, the most common source of probate litigation is a will contest or trust contest. Wills and Trusts are frequently challenged in Florida courts and can be a source of lengthy and emotional litigation for Florida residents.
Will and Trust Contests
Under Florida law, beneficiaries, heirs and other interested parties to an estate have 90 days from a Notice of Administration to file a lawsuit contesting a will. Trust beneficiaries will usually have up to 6 months to challenge the validity of a Trust.
Will and Trust contests can be based on several different grounds under Florida law. An individual may raise one or more of these issues before a court.
- Mistake in Execution: If a will or trust is not properly executed as required under Florida law, the will or trust is not valid and cannot be used for administration.
- Undue Influence: A will or trust must be signed when an individual is free from influence and capable of making an independent decision. If there is reason to believe that the deceased was coerced in making or amending the will or trust by a person who was in a position of trust and control, the will or trust may be subject to undue influence.
- Lack of Testamentary Capacity: In order for a will or trust to be valid, the person making the will or trust must have had the necessary mental capacity to understand the true nature of the document, the assets in their possession and the family members or loved ones who should normally receive such property.
Will and trust contests based on these grounds may result in extensive litigation, including testimony by family members and interested parties, use of medical records and family documents and possibly use of experts.
Experienced Probate Attorney
If you are dealing with probate issues its imperative that you have a knowledgeable probate attorney on your side. Call Probate Attorney Andrew Hodes today at 561-507-1111 for a free consultation