Is Cutting Family Out of a Will Evidence of Undue Influence?: Religious Sect as Major Beneficiary

Posted By on September 2, 2015

If a decedent’s children, parents, or siblings are seriously concerned that their family member was victimized and that otherwise they would have inherited his estate, then they may have a basis for filing a will contest on undue influence grounds. See, Watts v. Newport, 149 Fla. 181, 6 So.2d 829 (1941).

What is Undue Influence when Family is Disinherited?

When a will has an inequality among beneficiaries, and family members are excluded or minimized in the estate’s distribution while the majority of the property goes to a stranger or newcomer to the decedent’s life, then the probate courts will consider these circumstances to suggest undue influence upon the decedent.  It then becomes the burden of the main beneficiary to refute the presumption that undue influence was exerted upon the testator and that this is the reason this beneficiary is inheriting the property. In re Donnelly’s Estate, 137 Fla. 459, 188 So. 108 (1938).

Family portrait in interior by E.Botman (1845)

 

It’s assumed that family members will be named as beneficiaries in a will; this is considered traditional or “natural disposition.”

The Case of the Religious Sect as Major Beneficiary

Here’s an example of a Florida will cutting out the testator’s family members, and their successful challenge of that Last Will and Testament as being the result of undue influence. In the case of In re Estate of Hee, 252 So. 2d 846 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 1971), a gentleman named Louis Hee lived alone in Dade County, Florida, for many years. Mr. Hee was a senior citizen who was not in good health. In fact, he was bedridden for a long time prior to his passing, and his good friend Stephen Bertok took care of him. None of Louis Hee’s family lived near to him.

In the few months prior to his death in May 1969, members of the Jehovah’s Witnesses began visiting Mr. Hee. They brought reading material. They talked with him at length about their religious beliefs. Various members of their sect came to see him.  Two of the visitors were ministers: John Hartley, Jr. and William H. Payne.

Louis Hee, meanwhile, was a Christian and a member of a Florida Christian church. As frail as he was, he attended Easter Sunday services at his church not long before he died. There was no dispute that Louis Hee was never a member of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. He had no connection to the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society.

Nevertheless, in March 1969, an attorney who represented the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society was asked by John Hartley (who had visited Mr. Hee at his home) to go to see Louis Hee. Hartley instructed the lawyer that he was to prepare a will for Louis Hee and that this was something that needed to be done immediately. The lawyer said he couldn’t go that fast, so Hartley prepared a will himself for Louis Hee to sign. Together with two members of the sect, Hartley went to Louis Hee’s home and had him sign this will.

The document, executed on March 8, 1969, named Hartley and Payne as co-executors of Hee’s estate, and the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania as sole beneficiary. There was also language that Louis Hee’s funeral service was to be conducted in accordance with Jehovah’s Witness traditions, with a Jehovah’s Witness minister conducting the funeral service and the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society overseeing the service. As soon as it was signed and witnessed, the will was shipped from Florida to the Brooklyn, New York, offices of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society.

The will sat in their Brooklyn offices without any Hee family member being aware of its existence, much less his friends or the minister of his church, until Mr. Hee died almost three months later. He wasn’t even given a copy of the will for his personal records.

Jehovah’s Witness Will Admitted to Probate; Hee’s Brother and Sisters File Will Contest

The March 1969 will was promptly filed with a Florida probate court. There was no language addressing Mr. Hee’s Christian faith, nor was there language in the will that left anything to his church.  The will as admitted to probate left the entire estate of Louis Hee to the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society, a Pennsylvania Corporation, the parent organization of the religious organization known as Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Hee’s siblings, Juliana, Maria, Bertha and Sandor, were forced to file a will contest challenging the will as being the product of undue influence.

The Florida probate judge found that the March 1969 will was “unnatural in its content and disposition,” and that it was “not the free expression of the decedent, Louis Hee,” but was the “expression and desire of those who procured the execution thereof,” i.e., the members of the religious sect Jehovah’s Witnesses who had visited him.

The judge declared the will to be null and void., and revoked its admission to probate.

Do You Suspect Undue Influence in a Florida Last Will and Testament?

If you think that your loved one was victimized by someone and that the will admitted (or sought to be admitted) to probate is the product of undue influence, the experienced Florida probate lawyers at Sackrin & Tolchinsky, P.A. are knowledgeable, aggressive, and ready to help you contest the will in probate court. If you have any questions about undue influence over a Florida Will, or other probate litigation, please do not hesitate to call us.

For more information check out our probate litigation page.

Undue Influence Revealed By Helping Drafting or Execution of the Will: The Grandmother’s Birthday Party Will

Posted By on August 26, 2015

When a loved one passes away and their Last Will and Testament is entered into probate, the grieving family members sometimes know in advance who stands to inherit from the estate.

Parents, for example, generally share their estate planning directives and decisions with their children. Brothers and sisters are aware of arrangements, such as how the family real estate will be distributed (will it be sold, will it be passed down) as well as how the decedent’s personal property will be passed on — who gets the good china or the heirloom jewelry, for example.

It is when beneficiaries are surprised and shocked at the contents of a Last Will and Testament that things can get complicated. Sure, there are times when parents don’t share their plans with their offspring and like it or not, the parent’s decisions are steadfast in the probate court.  However, there are also times when children are rightfully suspicious of a will and may be justified in believing that their parent has been the victim of undue influence.

 

Bouvier family tree
Marge Bouvier Simpson’s family tree

 

 

Elements of Proof for an Undue Influence Will Contest

Undue influence is a legal basis for tossing a will out of court and not allowing its provisions to control how the decedent’s estate is distributed. It is asserted in a legal proceeding in the probate court (a “will contest”) and the person challenging the will must provide sufficient evidence to prove that the challenged will is the result of undue influence upon the decedent by another person.

To prove undue influence, the will contestant must show two things:

(1) conduct over someone in the making of their will, which can include:

Over-persuasion
Duress
Force
Coercion; and/or
Artful contrivances; and

(2) the result of this conduct upon the testator, whereby:

Free agency and willpower of the testator has been destroyed; and
the resulting will is a product of the will of another, not that of the decedent.

Raimi v. Furlong, 702 So.2d 1273, 1287 (Fla. 3d DCA 1997).

 

When a Beneficiary Participates in The Drafting or Execution of the Last Will and Testament

One of the first circumstances that a Florida probate attorney should investigate when there is a suspicion that a person has exerted undue influence over a decedent is the actual drawing up and execution of the will documentation itself. Wills in Florida must be drawn up according to established probate laws; for example, there must be two witnesses to the signing of the will, and the signatures should be witnessed and sworn before a notary public.

If a will was drawn up at the request of the beneficiary who is inheriting most, if not all, of the property,  this can be a hint to investigate further into the possibility of undue influence. That fact alone, however, is not enough to assert a claim of undue influence against a probated will. More evidence must be gathered regarding the above factors before a will contest based upon undue influence can be maintained.

The Case of The Grandmother’s Birthday Party Will

In Blades v. Ward, 475 So. 2d 935 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 1985), Lenora Johnson passed away and her granddaughter Yvonne filed her will for probate in the local Florida probate court. In the will, grandmother left everything to her granddaughter and she also named her as the personal representative of the estate. A will contest was quickly filed based upon undue influence by other family members who were not included in the will admitted to probate.

At trial, the contestants presented evidence that Grandmother Lenora was 90 years old, blind, with both of her legs amputated. She was frail, needing help to feed herself, to go to the bathroom, and to tend to other basic personal needs. She was also on medication for diabetes and a heart condition. All this, they argued, meant that she was vulnerable to being manipulated by the granddaughter.

As for the granddaughter’s involvement in the creation and execution of the will, evidence was presented (and undisputed) that Grandmother Lenora told her granddaughter in front of a notary public that “after expenses of my last illness, I want everything left to Yvonne Ward.” This was two months before the will was drawn up. The notary public was a friend of the granddaughter; the grandmother had just met her when this statement was made.

Several weeks later, the notary public presented a will document to Grandmother Lenora at her birthday party. While the party was going on (attended by family and friends), Grandmother Lenora signed the will without their knowledge and with only the notary and two witnesses in the room. The granddaughter had invited the notary to the birthday party; no one else knew her. One of the witnesses to the will was invited by the granddaughter, too; the other witness was the grandmother’s personal nurse.

Key factor here: at trial, the granddaughter did not present any evidence. Her strategy was to argue that her contesting family members had failed to prove their case and the will should stand as written. The probate judge agreed, and the contestants appealled. They won on appeal.

The reviewing court held that all this evidence created an “inference of active procurement of the will” using the Carpenter Factors (see our earlier post for a discussion of these legal factors). Five of these factors were considered to be present, and this meant that the contestants had done their job of proving up facts to raise a presumption of undue influence by the granddaughter over the grandmother.

However, that didn’t mean that the contestants won. It meant that Granddaughter Yvonne had the task of presenting evidence that the will was proper – that she didn’t exert undue influence over Grandmother Lenora.

Yvonne did not provide sufficient evidence at trial to give a “reasonable explanation” for her role in what happened. She did not rebut the presumption, which left the court with no choice but to rule in favor of the will contestants.

The Undue Influence Evidence Burden

In undue influence will contests, it is true that a person’s merely being involved in the execution of a will is not enough to establish undue influence. However, if other evidence can be provided along with a beneficiary’s control over the circumstances where a will is finalized and signed, then the court may presume there was undue influence and the beneficiary will need to prove they did not manipulate the decedent. It’s not enough to stand on the will, a defense will need to be made.

What would a successful defense involve? One example comes from the case of Derovanesian v. Derovanesian, 857 So.2d 240 (Fla. 3d DCA 2003), rev. denied, 868 So.2d 522 (Fla.2004), where the challenged beneficiary provided evidence that the will reflected the wishes of the decedent. Numerous reputable friends and colleagues of the elderly woman took the witness stand to support the disposition of the contested will as reflected the wishes of the decedent as she had explained them – away from and independent of the beneficiary who stood to inherit and who was being accused of undue influence.

Do You Suspect a Loved One Was the Victim of Undue Influence?

If you think that your family member or loved one may have been a victim of undue influence in the making of their Last Will and Testament, then you may have the burden of tracking down the evidence to prove your case. You will have to file an adversary proceeding to stop the will from being probated and the estate assets distributed, pending a ruling in probate court. These kinds of will contests can be complex; an experienced Florida probate lawyer can help you decide what your options are and what steps you need to take.  The experienced probate litigation attorneys at Sackrin & Tolchinsky, P.A. are ready to take your case today.

If you have any questions about undue influence over a Florida Will, please do not hesitate to call us.

For more information check out our probate litigation page.

Does Affection and Close Attachment Equal Undue Influence? The Caretaker vs the Cousins

Posted By on August 19, 2015

Under Florida law, there are protections in place to keep people with bad intentions from manipulating someone into devising or gifting all or a portion of their estate to the bad actor. If someone’s Last Will And Testament is proven to have been hijacked by “undue influence” then that Will can be voided by a Florida Probate Judge.

What is Undue Influence Under Florida Law?

Undue influence is proven through the presentation of evidence, including documents and witness testimony, that the person making their Will was swayed in ways that include:

Over-persuasion;
Duress;
Force;
Coercion; or
Artful contrivances.

And, this behavior must be shown to have:

Destroyed the free agency and willpower of the testator; and
the resulting Last Will is the product of the will of another, not that of the decedent.

“When a Will is challenged on the grounds of undue influence, the influence must amount to over persuasion, duress, force, coercion, or artful or fraudulent contrivances to such an extent that there is a destruction of free agency and willpower of the testator.” Raimi v. Furlong, 702 So.2d 1273, 1287 (Fla. 3d DCA 1997).

Playing Favorites Among Beneficiaries Isn’t Undue Influence

It’s key in any Will contest based upon undue influence that the “free agency or willpower” of the deceased person have been “destroyed.” If the person who wrote the Last Will and Testament has affection, love, or emotional attachment for one specific beneficiary and chooses to honor that person with a disproportionate amount of their property in an inheritance, then there is no “undue influence” which will void that Will. A desire to gratify the beloved beneficiary by the testator may not seem fair to the other beneficiaries, but it doesn’t mean that there was “undue influence” by that favorite – Last Will and Testaments don’t have to distribute property equally or in ways that the family members think is just.

 

SCENERY ON THE SOUTHWEST LIMITED ATTRACTS AN ELDERLY PASSENGER ON AN AMTRAK TRAIN BETWEEN LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA... - NARA - 555975

 

The Case of Lonely Daisy, Caretaker Doris, and the Cut Out Cousins

Here’s an example out of the Florida courts. In the case of Heasley v. Evans, 104 So. 2d 854 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 1958), Doris Smith inherited the bulk of Daisy Clarke’s estate when Daisy died at the age of 84 years; relatives of Daisy filed a lawsuit in the Florida probate court alleging undue influence by Doris over Daisy.

They lost. Here’s why.

Almost ten years before her passing, Daisy introduced herself to Doris using a letter of introduction she got from a mutual friend. The two liked each other, and a friendship grew between them. Doris helped Daisy with things like personal grooming; things went so far that Daisy moved into Doris’ house. Daisy and Doris even drew up a written agreement between them: a contract that stated Daisy would pay Doris and make her the major beneficiary of her estate if Doris would quit her job at a jewelry store to stay home and be Daisy’s caretaker for the rest of Daisy’s life. The contract was Daisy’s idea.

Every relationship has its ups and downs, of course, and Daisy and Doris got into a big brouhaha a couple of years later. The crux of it was Daisy’s worry that Doris was going to get married and abandon her. There was even a lawsuit filed to set aside their contract – Daisy filed it. Daisy also wrote a new Last Will that cut Doris out as a beneficiary.

Daisy felt bad later; she renewed her friendship with Doris and while they never signed another contract between them, they were friends again. Doris did get married: she moved away to New York and Daisy went to visit her there over Christmas.

By the time that Daisy passed away, she had written 5 different Wills: three of them were executed after she reconciled with Doris. Each time she wrote one of these Wills, Doris’ share of Daisy’s estate increased. The final Will left almost everything to Doris and Doris’ son and a very small amount to be shared among Daisy’s collateral heirs.

These heirs were Daisy’s first, second, and third cousins — they were not close to her. They wanted to have her Last Will tossed out because they argued that Daisy was “… physically frail, lame, poor of eyesight, senile, forgetful, flighty, penurious, and possessed of but little knowledge of the extent and nature of her possessions.” They pointed the finger at Doris, arguing that it was Doris who took care of all of Daisy’s personal affairs, including things like paying her bills and checking her mail.  She had to have unduly influenced things!

Doris fought back.

She pointed out that it was Daisy, not Doris, who sought her out to be friend and caretaker. It was Daisy, not Doris, who proposed their contract, who ended the contract, and who worked to re-institute their friendship afterwards.  Doris had evidence to show that Daisy was well aware of what she owned as property, as well as who her relatives were — she may have been physically frail but she was mentally alert and aware.

The probate court found that Daisy not only had the testamentary capacity to make her Last Will and Testament, but that there was no evidence that Doris exerted any type of undue influence over Daisy in how that Will was written. Even though the court found that Doris was “unhesitatingly willing to be the object of Daisy’s bounty” and that Doris “got less in return than what she bestowed” and the cousins had reason for “suspicion and conjecture” about Doris’ motivations regarding Daisy — there was no evidence that Daisy’s free agency or willpower had been destroyed.

The bottom line, according to the court, was that “Daisy knew what she wanted and what she was doing.

Do You Suspect Undue Influence Swayed Inheritance Provisions in a Loved One’s Will?

If you suspect your parent, grandparent, or loved one, was a victim of undue influence over how their Last Will and Testament was written, you’ll need to be ready to formally challenge that Will in the Florida Probate Court, Specifically, a lawsuit challenging the Last Will and Testament must be filed. As the person challenging the Will, it will be your responsibility of proving your case, that there was undue influence, with admissible evidence. An experienced Florida probate lawyer can help you decide if you should proceed, and what evidence can be gathered to win your case. A successful Will contest based upon undue influence results in the questioned Last Will being tossed out by the Probate Court.

If you have any questions about undue influence or contesting a Florida Will, please do not hesitate to call us.

For more information check out our probate litigation page.

Undue Influence Cases: Proving the Existence of a Confidential Relationship

Posted By on August 5, 2015

In cases of undue influence, it is alleged that someone (a tortfeasor) has taken advantage of someone else (a testator — one who executes a Will or other estate planning document) to get themselves written into the testator’s estate plan, potentially procuring tremendous sums of money, properties, and other items.  It is something that the testator probably would never have done otherwise, and often is inconsistent with the testator’s prior existing estate plan, if any.

Florida courts have defined undue influence as “over-persuasion, duress, force, coercion, or artful or fraudulent contrivances to such a degree that there is destruction of the free agency and will power of the one making the will.” Williamson v. Kirby, 379 So.2d 693, 697 (Fla. 2d DCA 1980.)

However, not all influence is “undue,” and not every close relationship resulting in a large devise to a beneficiary is wrong.  As the Williamson court explained, “mere affection, kindness, or attachment of one person for another may not of itself constitute undue influence.” Williamson ,379 So.2d at 697.

For those that are suspicious of the circumstances surrounding the execution of a Florida Last Will and Testament, many factors need to be investigated before the time, expense, and emotional toll of an adversarial will contest in a Florida probate court is filed.  One of the first factors that any Florida probate lawyer will consider is the relationship itself, and if it meets the legal standard of a “confidential relationship.”

 

 

1. What is a Confidential Relationship?

A confidential relationship is a close, personal bond between two people; in a probate situation, it is one where the relationship between the grantor and the beneficiary was one of trust and confidence: “… where confidence is reposed by one party and trust accepted by the other.See, Estate of Brock, 692 S0. 2d 907 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. lst Dist. 1996).

All sorts of relationships can be “confidential relationships.” Doctor-patient and lawyer-client relationships are considered to be confidential relationships, as well as fiduciary ones. Friends can enjoy confidential relationships. Parents and children, grandparents and grandkids, uncles and nephews … all sorts of family members may have confidential relationships.

The key to making any relationship a “confidential relationship” is one person trusting the other, and having confidence in them that they are worthy of that trust. Being a part of a family doesn’t automatically mean that a confidential relationship exists.

Think of it this way: in the Star Wars movies, Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker were father and son, but there was no such confidential relationship there. Conversely, Vito Corleone and Michael Corleone were also father and son in the Godfather movies, and they definitely had a confidential relationship because trust and confidence was shared between them.

2. Confidential Relationship and Undue Influence

Undue influence is a type of fraud. In order to invalidate a will, it must be shown that the confidential relationship was abused and that the testator’s act in making the will was not the product of his or her own desires and wants, but instead was overriden by the other party in the confidential relationship. The person making the will must have been “controlled” or persuaded, pressured, or conned into drafting that suspect will.

Here’s a case where a confidential relationship involved undue influence. In the case of Estate of Lightfoot, 433 So. 2d 607 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 1983), Beulah Lightfoot’s Last Will and Testament was successfully challenged and ordered revoked by a Florida probate judge on the grounds of undue influence (and his order upheld on appeal). Here, Beulah Lightfoot’s estate of around $800,000 left all but a tiny bit to her son, Bain Lightfoot, who was also named as personal representative.

Her daughter Nici got $10,000 under the will, and there were a few other minor bequests. So, Nici filed a Will Contest.

First, it was shown that there was a confidential relationship between mother and son. After his father died, Bain and his mother lived together in her home. No one else resided there. The day before she died, she gave him $6,000.00. They were close and in a relationship where the mother had confidence in her son and trusted him.

Using the Carpenter factors, the confidential relationship between Bain and his mother was the first step used by Nici to show that the will offered into probate was based upon undue influence and should be disregarded. The court found:

1. Bain was present at initial conference and execution of the challenged will.
2. Bain was the one who suggested to his mother that her prior will was not legal in Florida and she needed a new one.
3. Bain made arrangements for his mother’s visits with her probate attorney and he took her to all her appointments at the lawyer’s offices.
4. Bain wrote most of a document that gave an overview of what the new will would have in it.
5. Bain was with his mother in all the conferences over the will, as well as when his mother executed it. Bain told his mother’s lawyer that his father had died and that her will needed to be updated accordingly.
6. Bain and his mother shared access to her safety deposit box where she kept this new will.

While the appellate court did find that Bain Lightfoot did provide evidence of a “reasonable explanation” for his “active role in his mother’s affairs” and that this was a “close case,” the reviewing court held that “… because reasonable men could disagree we are required to affirm the order revoking probate.”

Do You Suspect Undue Influence in a Loved One’s Will?

If you think that your mother or father, or your grandparent or other loved one, was a victim of undue influence then you need to be able to prove a confidential relationship existed between the person you think took advantage of their situation of trust and confidence with that person.

To right the wrong, you need to file a lawsuit challenging the Last Will and Testament, and you will have the burden of proving your case with admissible evidence. to prove your case. An experienced Florida probate lawyer can help you decide if you should proceed, and what evidence can be gathered to win your case.

If you have any questions about undue influence or contesting a Florida will, please do not hesitate to call us.

For more information check out our probate litigation page.

When Does Influence Become UNDUE and WRONG and The Basis for Voiding a Will?

Posted By on July 29, 2015

Your mother or father might be influenced in making their estate planning decisions by information that they get from their lawyer, or their CPA, or their friends. Your brothers or sisters may throw their two cents into the decision-making about how things should be be distributed after both parents pass away.

Your elderly parent may live with a relative or caretaker and become very close with them. They may rely on a son or daughter or grandchild for love, care, and support as they are no longer able to care for themselves independently. Both parent and caregiver may be influenced, each by the other, in these living arrangements. In most families, family members get in each others business, right?

Influence isn’t always a bad thing. Seeking the counsel of others for an important decision, for instance, is wise. However, being influenced by others can be a bad thing when someone oversteps their bounds and successfully profits from it.

Two older men enjoying fishing from boat one man is standing and raising hat while showing the fish he just caught

Undue influence is fraud. If proven to a probate court, the Last Will and Testament that resulted from this undue influence can be voided and tossed out. How things are distributed in the decedent’s estate at that point will depend upon the provisions of a prior will or the Florida intestacy laws.

When does influence become UNDUE and WRONG and the basis for voiding a Will?

In deciding whether or not to invalidate a challenged will based upon undue influence, the court will look at the evidence provided of conduct on the part of the testator (deceased parent) and the person alleged to be fraudulently influencing things. Part of that review will be the conduct of the people; another will be the will itself. How did the person suspected of undue influence profit from their fraudulent action? Or did they?

The personal representative of the estate that introduced the challenged will for probate will be expected to defend it as a legal party in the probate court proceeding. The person contesting the will on the basis of undue influence has to provide this evidence of wrongdoing (in the form of witnesses and documents).

Conduct that is considered undue influence over someone in the making of their will includes:

  • Over-persuasion
  • Duress
  • Force
  • Coercion
  • Artful contrivances.

This conduct can occur without recourse unless it is successful in moving the testator to write the will as desired. For the will contestant to be successful, they also have to show:

  1. Free agency and Will power of the testator has been destroyed; and
  2. The resulting will is a product of the will of another, not that of the decedent.

Or, as one court explains, “When a will is challenged on the grounds of undue influence, the influence must amount to over persuasion, duress, force, coercion, or artful or fraudulent contrivances to such an extent that there is a destruction of free agency and willpower of the testator.”  Raimi v. Furlong, 702 So.2d 1273, 1287 (Fla. 3d DCA 1997).

Case Example: Loving Granddaughter Isn’t Committing Fraud

Several years ago, a 90 year old woman passed away in Miami after living with her granddaughter here in South Florida for many years. In her Last Will and Testament, she let almost all of her estate to this granddaughter and nothing to her other two grandchildren. These two grandsons filed a will contest. They lost because they failed to meet their burden of proof of undue influence.

Evidence provided to the probate court did show that there was a “close bond” between the elderly woman and her granddaughter. Evidence was also entered into the proceeding that Grandmother had told her friends that she trusted her granddaughter and wanted to give her a power of attorney in case it was needed.

However, the probate court held that while there may have been a “confidential relationship” between the two, this doesn’t allow anyone to presume bad behavior or fraudulent influence. In this case there was absolutely no evidence of undue influence by the granddaughter.

Indeed, evidence was provided that: “… (a) the deceased selected the attorney to draft the will; (b) the attorney arranged the execution of the will and the audio-videotaping thereof; (c) decedent’s attending physician witnessed the execution of the will; (d) at the time of execution, decedent understood the extent of the estate and the object of her bounty; (e) the will and codicil were retained by the attorney; (f) the primary beneficiary (appellee) did not have possession of the will or codicil; (g) appellee had no knowledge of the contents of the will and codicil prior to decedent’s death.”

In re Estate of Robertson, 372 So.2d 1138 (Fla.3d DCA 1979), cert. denied, 383 So.2d 1201 (Fla. 1980).

Do You Suspect Undue Influence in Your Parent’s Will?

If you think that your mother or father was a victim of undue influence, then your remedy is to file a lawsuit challenging the suspicious Last Will and Testament in court. A lawsuit has to be filed in order for justice to be done. You will have the burden of tracking down the evidence to prove your case. Will contests based upon undue influence are complicated; an experienced Florida probate lawyer to help you can be invaluable.

If you have any questions about undue influence upon your parent, please do not hesitate to call us.

For more information check out our probate litigation page.

3 Signs that Mom or Dad Were Unduly Influenced in Executing Their Last Will and Testament

Posted By on July 22, 2015

After your mother or father passes away, it’s difficult enough to deal with your grief over their passing. Losing a parent is a life-altering event. For some, however, things get worse and the emotional burden becomes almost overwhelming when they learn about their parent’s Last Will and Testament.

An unequal distribution of their parent’s property between the children, or the surprising distribution of a substantial part of their estate to a third-party, brings with it suspicions that someone may have interfered with their parent’s true wishes on what should happen to their property after they pass away.

For these grieving children, it is a horrible thing to realize that their deceased parent may have been a victim of undue influence.

Webster County, Nebraska courthouse courtroom 2

What is Undue Influence?

Undue influence is a kind of fraud. If it is proven to exist in a probate matter, the will (or trust) in question can be invalidated by the probate judge. It happens when a testator is the victim of over-persuasion, duress, physical force, coercion, or “artful or fraudulent contrivances to such a degree that the free agency and will power of the testator is destroyed.” ln re Carpenter’s Estate, 253 So. 2d 697 (Fla. 1971)

Three Signs that Your Parent May Have Been Unduly Influenced

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1. Your Parent Lived Far Away from You

Today, parents and children are likely to live if not in different cities within the same state, then in different states altogether (or even different countries!). Not having your mother or father nearby for frequent visits means that kids aren’t able to be involved in their parent’s daily activities. Situations where there is a distance between parent and child create a greater opportunity for a third party to unduly influence the parent to name them as an beneficiary in their will.

2. The Health of Your Parent at the Time He or She Signed the Will

Parents that are mentally sharp and physically fit at the time are much less likely to become victims of undue influence than parents who are weakened by illness or debilitating conditions (e.g., arthritis). Parents who may suffer from mental challenges such as progressive dementia (where they are sharp in the morning but not so mentally alert by bedtime) are also more likely to be victimized.

3. Sudden Changes in the Disposition of the Estate Prior to Death

Another reason to suspect undue influence is if your parent changed a long-standing estate plan (like equal shares to all the children) shortly before their passing. If there is a big change in who gets what, or how the estate as a whole is being distributed under the will, then maybe there was some kind of undue influence involved in the last minute Last Will and Testament.

The Lamberson Example

In re Estate of Lamberson is a case that provides a cruel example of all these factors. Here, Mr. William Lamberson and his wife were living alone in their home when it became clear that they could no longer take care of themselves. At 89 years of age, Mr. Lamberson was challenged with chronic illness; his wife was similarly infirm.

A lady named Hazel Bulla came to help them in December 1979. Mr. Lamberson had drafted his Last Will in Testament in July 1979, with the residuary of his estate to Dr. Harold Lamberson and other relatives.

Unfortunately, Hazel became sick herself and couldn’t continue to help the elderly couple. So, an office worker in the Lambersons’ podiatrist’s office named Mary Schwartz appeared on the scene to take over for Hazel. There was no past history between them; Mary met the couple as they came for doctor visits.

Mary kept working for the doctor. She also got William Lamberson to sign a contract with her where she was paid $1500/month for her work in helping out the Lambersons. He also signed a Power of Attorney that let Mary handle their financial affairs and act as their guardian.

Mary Schwartz moved the Lambersons into her home. She never told anyone in the Lamberson family about what was happening with the couple. Mary never told the Lamberson’s friends where they were living, even though the friends were wanting to know and to visit.

In January 1980, Mary took William Lamberson to her attorney’s office, where she told the lawyer how the will should be prepared (who got what), brought in her friends as witnesses, and after the will was signed, kept the document in her possession. Mary didn’t tell anyone in the Lamberson family about this.

The next month, both Mr. Lamberson and Mrs. Lamberson passed away. One particularly cruel fact: Mary didn’t bother to tell Mr. Lamberson that his wife had died; he lingered on for two weeks without knowing about his wife before he passed.

Mary promptly entered the will in her possession into probate (where she got everything). The beneficiaries of the prior will contested it.

At trial, it was held as a matter of law that Mary Schwartz exercised “improper and undue influence” upon the decedent William Lamberson in the procurement of the Will. The will that Mary had entered into probate was disregarded by the court, and the prior 1979 will was probated.

What To Do If You Suspect Undue Influence

If you think that your parent may have been the victim of undue influence, then you must formally challenge the will in Florida probate court. Undue influence can be difficult to prove, and having an experienced Florida probate lawyer to help you gather your witnesses and documents to support your challenge is vital.

If you have any questions about undue influence upon your parent and their last will and testament, please do not hesitate to call us.

For more information check out our probate litigation page.

Will Contests Based Upon Mistakes in Drafting the Will

Posted By on July 15, 2015

Usually, people hire lawyers to have their Last Will and Testament prepared and executed as a protection against errors in writing their Will and against anyone challenging their decisions about who should get what after they’ve passed. Parents know their kids: getting a Will written may mean a lot less squabbling when the time comes to divide assets. Going to an attorney for estate planning is a great idea. We recommend it!

However, this doesn’t mean that everyone takes this precaution — and if they do, it doesn’t guarantee that an error won’t occur that will impact the viability of their written directive on how their property is to be distributed after they’re deceased.

What happens if there is a mistake? Sometimes, that error dooms the Will; mistakes can void a Will in Florida.

Scales of Justice (PSF)

Pursuant to Florida law, if there is a mistake in drafting a Will, or a part of the Will – like a codicil – then the law can deem it void. This is according to Florida Statute 732.5165 which states:

A will is void if the execution is procured by fraud, duress, mistake, or undue influence. Any part of the will is void if so procured, but the remainder of the will not so procured shall be valid if it is not invalid for other reasons. If the revocation of a will, or any part thereof, is procured by fraud, duress, mistake, or undue influence, such revocation is void.

What does void mean under Florida law?

When a legal document in Florida is “void,” it means that it is given no legal respect whatsoever. It’s got no power. A void Will, filled with words, equals a blank piece of paper. Whether or not a Will is void must be decided by a judge, and a formal court ruling (order, judgment) will be filed in the probate records deeming the probated Will void and superseding any legal effect it once had.

Mistakes: “He just forgot!”

Not every mistake will destroy a Will, even if seems to be an unfair result. For instance, in the case of Azcunce v. Estate of Azcunce, Mr. Rene Azcunce went to his lawyer and made out a Will which included a trust; beneficiaries being listed as his wife (as “surviving spouse”) and his three kids, Lisette, Natalie, and Gabriel. A few months later, Mr. Azcunce added a codicil to the Will. Three years later, he added another one. Never did he consider that he might have any more kids who needed to be included there, and no language was written in either the Will or its codicils about any more children.

Within a year of Mr. Azcunce writing that first Will, however, his daughter Patricia was born. And six months after that second codicil, Mr. Azcunce died of a heart attack at the young age of 38. What about Patricia?

After the Will and its codicils were admitted to probate, a challenge to the Will was filed on behalf of the child Patricia for a statutory share of her father’s estate as a pretermitted child. Patricia lost.

The mistake in not adding Patricia’s name to his Will (or those codicils) did not void the Will. There was no ambiguity found in the Will documents to allow for witness testimony to explain things (parol evidence). Here, the court found that if the lawyer was found to have committed malpractice in not making sure that Rene Azcunce remembered to include his baby daughter in his Will, then that was not a mistake which would void the Will.   Azcunce v. Estate of Azcunce, 586 So.2d 1216 (Fla. 3d DCA 1991).

Mistakes: “It’s not what he really wanted!”

If a mistake is made in drafting a Will insofar as the reasons for executing its provisions, and not in the wording of the documents, then that mistake still may not be enough for cancellation or voiding of the Will. Forsythe v. Spielberger, 86 So.2d 427 (1956)

For example, in the case of York v. Smith, a man believed that his child was not really his own biological offspring and for this reason, did not include the boy in his Will. After he passed away, the child challenged the Will arguing his right to inherit and that his father had made a mistake in failing to name him as a beneficiary. They were father and son: if the father knew that, he would have included his son in the Will.

This did not matter. The court held that without proof that the father’s testamentary capacity had been crippled in some way, causing him to fail to include the child in his Will, nothing changed. Without evidence of some kind of “insane delusion” or other lack of testamentary capacity, the challenge to void the Will based upon the mistake was held to be insupportable. The will stood as written, the mistake did not void the Will. York v. Smith, 385 So. 2d 1110 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 1980).

When Will a Mistake Void the Will?

Both these cases seem very unfair, don’t they? Mistakes can void a Will under Florida probate law; however, as these two examples demonstrate, it is a difficult case to prove to a probate court judge. Florida law will give respect to the wishes of the decedent and the language of the Will is given great honor, even if it seems unfair and unjust to many. (See our earlier post discussing how probate judges are zealous in protecting what they believe to be the last wishes of the deceased as written in their Will.)

However, if the Will contest can provide evidence that there was something more involved in the situation that caused the mistake — something like fraud, or undue influence, or mental incapacity (what the York court called “insane delusion”) — then the mistake may result in a voided Will. We’ll be discussing these situations in future posts.

You May Also Be Interested In: Probate Litigation

Will Contests: Challenging a Florida Will to Get It Thrown Out

Posted By on July 8, 2015

When someone passes away, any property titled in their name immediately becomes part of their “estate.” An estate is a legal entity created under the law to help protect both real estate and personal property (things like jewelry, furniture, guns, etc.) as it is transferred to those who stand to inherit it. If the person dies without a valid will, then Florida law provides for the disposition of the property by way of the “intestacy statute” in place that explains who gets what if there is no valid will.

Image: Last Will and Testament of William Shakespeare (dated 1616)

For most people in Florida with significant property (a house, vacation properties, a car or two, etc.), they will likely have had a sophisticated estate plan in place where they’ve had drafted and executed one or more documents, including a Last Will and Testament. This will define who gets what (the beneficiaries) as well as who is to handle the responsibility of the estate itself (the personal representative), among other things.

What the Last Will and Testament provides does not have to be shared with anyone under Florida law. Which means that provisions in a will can come as a big (BIG) surprise to relatives and friends who are surprised or even shocked to learn how the decedent has chosen to dispose of his/her property.

Surprise or shock is one thing. However, it’s a more serious situation when there is a suspicion that some kind of wrongdoing has happened — that there has been fraud, duress, a mistake, or even undue influence.

  • What if you suspect that some kind of bad act(s) helped create these will provisions, because they just don’t align with what you know to be the decedent’s real wishes?
  • What can you do? After all, the will is a formal document, and it’s been filed at the courthouse, right?

Challenging a Last Will and Testament

When a beneficiary or other interested party thinks that there has been some wrongdoing which has resulted in the Last Will and Testament being filed and accepted for probate in Florida, then that person can challenge that will on a number of bases and ask the judge to review and consider the circumstances before the property is distributed. If the challenge is successful regarding certain provisions of the will, or the will in its entirety, then the result is an official court judgment that VOIDS that language. The document will not have any legal authority, and the estate will proceed in distributing the property under the terms of another document or under the Florida intestacy statute.

Florida Statute 732.5165 states:

A will is void if the execution is procured by fraud, duress, mistake, or undue influence. Any part of the will is void if so procured, but the remainder of the will not so procured shall be valid if it is not invalid for other reasons. If the revocation of a will, or any part thereof, is procured by fraud, duress, mistake, or undue influence, such revocation is void.

Will Contests are Lawsuits

This challenge to a will results in a litigation commonly called a “will contest.” Florida Statute 732.518. It is a formal proceeding filed in the same courthouse where the will has been filed. It is an “adversary proceeding” in the probate court, and it is a full-fledged lawsuit. There are parties on both sides. There is discovery (requests for documents, interrogatories, depositions). There are hearings. If issues are not resolved prior to trial, there can be a full jury trial on the merits of that will contest.

Presumptions Will Apply That Judges Must Follow

However, before anyone proceeds with the emotional battle of a will contest, they need to know that this isn’t the same kind of lawsuit as one that is filed for a breach of contract or for personal injury damages after a car crash. The will contest has special considerations that create hurdles for those challenging the will to jump in order to prove their case.

It’s been the law of Florida for many years that Florida judges must make every effort to respect the wishes of the person who has died and whose property is being transferred via probate. This means that the Last Will and Testament that has been entered into probate will be given due respect and consideration by the court as the last wishes of the decedent.

As explained by a Florida judge way back in 1927, “ … wills should be given effect except on clear showing of deception, undue influence, or other fraud or disposition of property contrary to law.Hamilton v. Morgan, 112 So. 80, 93 Fla. 311 (1927), quoted with approval by the Florida Supreme Court in Estate of Carpenter, 253 So. 2d 697 (Fla 1971).

Even someone who is known to be mentally ill can make a valid Last Will and Testament that the probate judge will honor. This is because he or she is considered to have the “testamentary capacity” to make their will if the will was executed in a lucid interval, and despite the reality that the person is diagnosed with a mental illness.  This is also true for anyone who is an alcoholic or drug addict, or suffering from dementia. Coppock v. Carlson, 547 So.2d 946, 947 (Fla. 3d DCA 1989) rev. denied, 558 So.2d 17 (Fla.1990).

For instance, in the Coppock case, even though the decedent was elderly and had  “… delusions about his physical prowess… ” the challenge to his will failed because there was evidence – which was undisputed  – that he kept his appointment with his lawyer about the will by himself; he appeared of strong mind at the time, and he properly executed his will.  However, no evidence was presented by the challenger that at the time that he went to the office to finalize the will that he “…lacked the ability to understand the nature and extent of his property, the natural objects of his bounty, or the general process of will-making.”

Which means that the Florida judge must legally rule that the contested will is okay as it is, unless the challenger comes forward with significant admissible evidence to prove their challenge is proper, and that the wishes of the decedent as shown in the will itself, should be disregarded.

How To Win a Will Contest in Florida

Therefore, in order to win a will contest in Florida, the challenge must be based upon strong evidence that is autheticated and admissible. The challenger must be willing to file this challenge as a formal lawsuit in a Florida court. And, the challenger must be willing to work with their Florida probate lawyer in the litigation process of finding witnesses and documents that support and prove one of the elements of Florida Statute 732.5165.

In upcoming posts, we’ll delve into the different bases for challenging a Florida will — fraud, undue influence, testamentary capacity, and more — as well as how the challenger’s burden of proof can be met and has been accomplished in past Florida court cases and legal precedent.

For more information check out our probate litigation page.

Removal of a Florida Personal Representative: Party Named in the Will vs The Party Appointed by The Court

Posted By on July 1, 2015

In the state of Florida, your last wishes as documented in your Last Will and Testament are given great respect and honor under Florida law. Both in Florida statutes passed by the Florida Legislature as well as Florida case law coming from court opinions, the decedent’s decisions and declarations are respected whenever possible. This is especially true for the person that you choose to act on your behalf in transferring your property to your beneficiaries after you’ve passed away.  Your choice of Personal Representative in Florida will, more often than not, be the person who ultimately gets appointed.

It gives comfort to many writing their wills and doing their estate planning here that the decision they make on who acts as their Personal Representative (in other states, sometimes called “executor” or “administrator”) will be protected by the courts when the time comes — especially if there are worries about family members not getting along, or if there’s a lot of property or creditors involved and administration of the estate will be a big job.

As one landmark Florida court opinion explains, “[t]he removal of a personal representative chosen by the deceased is a drastic action and should only be resorted to when the administration of the estate is endangered.” In re Murphy’s Estate, 336 So.2d 697, 699 (Fla. 4th DCA 1976).

Can The Personal Representative Be Someone Other Than The Person Named in Your Will

However, the personal representative appointed to carry out a Florida estate, even a sizable estate, is not always the one named in a Last Will and Testament.  There are times when a person dies without a will here in Florida, and there is no one named to serve in the job by the person who is passed away. Other times, the person named in the will does not meet the qualifications required to serve in a fiduciary capacity, such as convicted felons or persons under 18 years old.  There are also situations where the person died with a will or other estate planning, but none of these documents meet the legal requirements of will under Florida law.  A void will or invalid will is treated under Florida law just the same as if the person died without a will, or “intestate.”

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Under the Florida intestacy statute, there is an order of preference in appointment that guides who the probate court will appoint as Personal Representative, when there is no will.

What Law Controls The Removal of a Florida Personal Representative?

Under Florida law, there are certain situations where a personal representative can be fired from the job, or legally “removed” from the position. Under Florida Section 733.504, there are twelve (12) different bases for removing a personal representative from their post.

These legal bases for removal of a personal representative include things like having a conflict of interest with the estate, or making decisions about the estate’s assets that are so bad that they are considered wasteful or irresponsible.

Anyone who has an interest in the estate – which can be both someone who is suppose to inherit property as well as a creditor who is due payment – can file a formal adversary proceeding with the Florida probate court, asking that the personal representative be removed from the position.

Are Court Appointed Personal Representatives Treated the Same as The Party Named In the Will?

In situations where the probate court judge has decided who should act as personal representative of an estate, the protections given the person appointed to the job are not the same as those enjoyed by an executor. The protections for an executor exist because of respect for the person who has passed away.

As one Florida judge explains, “It must be remembered we are dealing here with an executor appointed by the decedent in his will, not an administrator appointed by the court. The removal of a personal representative chosen by the deceased is a drastic action and should only be resorted to when the administration of the estate is endangered. ”  See, Estate of Murphy. 

Florida courts have long recognized that personal representatives make mistakes and sometimes intentionally do bad things. When the court has been responsible for giving that person the job of taking care of the estate, then the court will find it much easier to remove that person as administrator. There is no need here to honor the decedent’s wishes in these cases, because administrators have not been appointed as personal representatives by the deceased person.

If the probate judge gave the personal representative the job, then the judge may be much more willing to replace that person as personal representative than if he or she were serving as executor. In Florida, court-appointments are not treated the same as appointments made by the testator. Vaughn v. Batchelder, 633 So.2d 526, 528 (Fla. App.1994).

Florida Statute 733.504

However, all personal representatives will be allowed to stay in that position of control over the estate unless Florida Statute 733.504 (the removal statute) is met. This law does not distinguish between executors or administrators. It applies to all personal representatives.

The key here is meeting the burden or providing evidence that one of the bases of the Removal Statute exists, and then looking to the probate judge’s discretion.

The judge is giving wide berth in controlling who acts as a personal representative of a Florida estate. If an interested party can show that the person the judge placed into the job of personal representative should be removed based upon Florida Statute 733.504, then the judge is given great legal discretion in deciding what to do and his decision will be left unchanged by the reviewing courts unless some kind of rare abuse of that discretionary power is shown.

How to Remove an Administrator of a Florida Estate

A Florida probate lawyer can help interested parties seeking to remove an administrator as personal representative in a few legal steps. First, the removal request must be filed and the movants must provide evidence under Florida Section 733.504 that there is a legal basis to remove the person. Second, a hearing must be scheduled where evidence is presented and arguments are made.

If the court appointed the individual as personal representative, there is no consideration to be made of the decedent’s preferences here. The probate judge can consider the evidence with the arguments of counsel, and order the replacement of the personal representative with a new administrator or administratrix “… if he interferes with the proper administration of the estate, causes a waste of assets, or meets any of the conditions specified in the statute”. Pontrello v. Estate of Kepler, 528 So.2d 441 (Fla. 2d DCA 1988).

For more information, check out our probate litigation page.

Removing a Florida Personal Representative for Making Bad Decisions & Costing the Estate Money

Posted By on June 24, 2015

As we’ve already covered in our series on removal of Florida Personal Representatives, it doesn’t matter if the beneficiaries of a Florida probate estate don’t like the person who is appointed to oversee the estate’s administration. Under Florida law, the “personal representative”, the person or persons who are appointed by a probate Judge to fulfill the decedent’s final wishes, aren’t responsible for meeting the approval of the heirs, beneficiaries, creditors, or other interested parties of the estate.

Instead, under Florida probate rules, court precedent and Florida statute, the personal representative’s job is to complete the probate process by determining all of the estate creditors, paying all of the lawful and timely presented debts, and distributing the estate property to the beneficiaries.

In fact, Florida personal representatives have a fiduciary duty focused upon the effective administration of the estate (even though that duty inures to the benefit of the estate creditors and beneficiaries), but they don’t have a duty of meriting the approval of those who are owed money or who are inheriting from the estate. Removing a personal representative by unhappy and dissatisfied beneficiaries isn’t easy to accomplish and can only be done if one of the provisions of Florida Statute 733.504 is met.

Among the reasons listed for removing a personal representative (the “P.R.”) is when the P.R. is “wasting or maladministrating the estate.Florida Statute 733.504(5).

What do these terms mean — how does a Florida P.R. “waste” or “maladminister” an estate?

Is there a Presumption that the P.R. Acted Appropriately?

Before moving forward with any action against a personal representative, it’s important to know that courts will give the personal representative favor here; the judges will consider the decedent’s last wishes to be something honorable and to be respected, and the person that the decedent chose to administer their estate after their passing is a choice the courts will try to maintain, absent a legitimate reason to the contrary. As one Florida court explains, “The removal of a personal representative chosen by the deceased is a drastic action and should only be resorted to when the administration of the estate is endangered.In re Murphy’s Estate, 336 So.2d 697, 699 (Fla. 4th DCA 1976).

Moreover, the trial level judge in the Florida probate court will be given great respect by the reviewing courts in his or her decision to remove a personal representative or keep them in the job. Appeals courts will change the decision of a probate court judge only if there is clear evidence presented to them that the probate judge abused his or her discretion when their decision was made. If abuse by the probate judge cannot be shown, then the judge’s decision will stand.

Can You Remove a P.R. for Simply Making a Bad Decision That Costs the Estate Money?

Beneficiaries may be very upset to learn that the executor or administrator made a bad decision regarding estate assets and ended up costing the estate money. That is not enough to have them removed. If the personal representative makes a responsible and reasonable judgment call under the circumstances, then that’s enough to meet fiduciary duty requirements.

Consider the case of Gresham v. Strickland, 784 So.2d 578, 580 (Fla. 4th DCA 2001), where millions were lost to the estate and the removal action failed.

In Gresham, a Florida man died in a train accident in South Carolina. His daughter Jo Ann was appointed personal representative of his estate and she promptly hired a law firm to sue Amtrak (and others) in a wrongful death action on behalf of the estate. (In Florida, only the estate through the personal representative can file a wrongful death action.)

Negotiations began between Jo Ann’s lawyer and the defendants. There was an offer made where the defendants would sign an admission of liability if Jo Ann would sign a waiver of seeking punitive damages by the estate. Jo Ann’s lawyer wrote an attorney hired to represent five beneficiaries (the children of the decedent’s second marriage; he also had two kids from his first marriage) seeking their support for this deal. He explained that his plan was to file a wrongful death action in Florida and then to pursue a survivor’s action in South Carolina.

The five beneficiaries agreed through their lawyer, and Jo Ann’s attorney filed the wrongful death case in Florida and got a $2.8 million verdict for the estate and beneficiaries, each beneficiary recovering $400,000. See Nat’l R.R. Passenger Corp. (Amtrak) v. Ahmed, 653 So.2d 1055 (Fla. 4th DCA 1995).

Here’s when things went bad: that survivor action filed in South Carolina was not successful. The defendants got a summary judgment there based upon res judicata of the Florida action. When the five beneficiaries learned that another family who lost a loved one in that train crash got $6.1 million in compensatory damages and $50 million in punitive damages, they sued their lawyer. Jo Ann joined them as personal representative, and she sued her lawyers, too.

The beneficiaries failed here, too. The Florida court ruled that what they should have done was seek the removal of the personal representative if they didn’t like the idea of waiving the punitive damages claim. Their lawyer didn’t do anything wrong, this wasn’t malpractice on his part.

However, the court also warned that this removal action probably would not have been successful either, because:

“… it would be nothing but sheer speculation as to whether a trial court would agree or disagree to remove the personal representative for a litigation strategy decision made in consultation with her attorneys. Indeed, no case has been cited to us holding that disagreements over litigation are grounds for removal of a personal representative.”

Removal of Florida Executor is Hard to Achieve

As you can see, the removal of a Florida personal representative is a complicated and difficult endeavor. Thus, if you are an heir, beneficiary, creditor, or interested party to a Florida estate and you think that the removal of a Florida personal representative is warranted, then conferring with an experienced probate lawyer to determine your options and how best to proceed is a must.  Most lawyers who represent interested parties in estate administrations, like our office, will offer a free initial consultation.

For more information on litigation related to Florida personal representatives, check out our other articles that include: