Articles Posted in Probate

One question the most frequent questions our Jacksonville estate planning lawyers receive is how long does a probate case in Florida take? Often the best answer to how long a Florida Probate Case takes is “it depends.”  The answer usually depends on how vast and complex the decedent’s estate is if there are a lot of beneficiaries or if there is any litigation involved the estate.

A Probate Case in Florida Can End Quickly or Take Years to Complete

A probate case in Florida can be quick if the estate is small and there are not any complicated procedural issues.  Simple estates can be fully probated in as little as a few weeks or as long as few months. Something the county where the probate case is located can affect how long a Florida Probate case takes
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This year the Florida Probate Rules Committee has a added a few new rules to the Probate Code. Many of these rules are minor amendments to the old rules or clarifications of previously vague language. The biggest change to the code was the addition of a separate rule for Guardian Accounting under 5.696. This means there are now different rules for guardian accountings from the other types of probate accountings.

Below is a summary of the 2016 amendments to the Florida Probate Rules

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One question the top Jacksonville elder law and estate planning attorneys often receive is who can make burial arrangements in Florida. Does it have to be the next of kin, or can any family member or interested party make funeral arrangements? Another similar question we often receive is what happens if a family member refuses to sign for burial rights? This article should answer these issues by explaining the current Florida law.

Luckily, Florida law has tried to clear up any burial issues by codifying an extensive set of rules for burial rights. A person can find the relevant law under Florida Statute 497.005 (43). The first part of this statute defines some important terms under the law. For instance, the law defines “human remains” as the body of a deceased human person that requires a death certificate or fetal death certificate, and the body is in a stage of decomposition.

The primary section needed to solve these questions is found under number 43, which is the definition of “legally authorized person.” This definition is a priority list for what individual can make funeral arrangements. According to the statute, the decedent, or the dead person, has priority to make the choice. This means during the decedent lifetime he or she authorized a particular burial plan through an estate planning document. This type of authorization is likely found in a Living Will or another form of an advanced directive. For example, a common type of burial authorization will be a listed preference for burial or cremation.

Foreign Wills: Will a Florida Court recognize them?

The world is becoming a more global community and with that means the United States has seen an increase in the amount of foreign-born individuals living, visiting, and investing in the U.S. economy. For instance, 12 percent of residential home purchases in Florida were made by foreign buyers.  The question soon becomes how do foreign citizens pass their assets to loved ones in the U.S. and in other counties.  Is a will from another country valid in America?

Florida law allows a foreign will to be admitted to probate if the will is valid under the laws of the country where the will was executed.  This is great news for foreign Florida citizens because it means usually a will be valid even if it doesn’t comply with strict will formalities set by the state.  However, the Florida Probate Code has made two exceptions for a type of will that is never valid under Florida law.  These exceptions are when the will is a holographic will or a nuncupative will.
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Black’s Law Dictionary defines a nuncupative will as a “will made by the verbal declaration of the testator, and usually dependent merely on oral testament for proof.”

A Third District Appeals court in Florida recently ruled that oral wills, or nuncupative wills, that are not signed by the testator or its witnesses cannot be admitted to probate in Florida even if they written, dictated or approved by a notary.

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We often receive calls regarding challenging a will or trust document.  In Florida, before you can file a will or trust challenge, the contestant must renounce any benefit he or she receives under the document they are attempting to challenge.

Reunification is an equitable doctrine in Florida.  In 2013 the 2nd DCA heard the case Fintak v. Fintak, 120 So.3d 177.  Generally, under English law as interpreted by American courts  and individual is estopped from contesting the validity of a document that they received and retained a gift from.  The Florida Supreme Court gave 3 reasons for this rule in Barnett Nat’l Bank of Jacksonville v. Murrey, 49 So.2d 535 (Fla. 1950):

  1. to protect a fiduciary in the event the contested document is held invalid;
  2. to demonstrate sincerity of the contestant; and
  3. to have the property available for disposition at the conclusion of the contest.

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There was a recent appeal by a creditor who claimed they were known or an ascertainable creditor and did not actual  notice to creditors (40 Fla. L. Weekly S517a).  The estate filed a notice in the paper giving creditors 3 months to file a claim. The known creditor missed the 3 month deadline, but filed their claim within the 2 year window provide for in the Florida Statute 733.710.

The question before the court was when a creditor is known or an ascertainable creditor and does not receive written notice, is their claim barred under 733.702(1) of the Florida Statutes which provides for a 90 day deadline or do they get the full two years as provided in section 733.710.  There were several different interpretations of this issue in different courts around Florida so the question we sent to the District Court of Appeal to get an answer.

Here are the facts of the case and how the DCA determined that the 90 day window for filing claims was not effective when the creditor is known or ascertainable. Continue reading

Each probate case is different. Minuscule but crucial variables in a case can easily be overseen and the wrong type of administration for the decedent’s estate can be chosen. To avoid this, I suggest that you discuss the facts of your case with a probate and estate planning attorney before choosing the administration of a decedent’s estate. An attorney can assist you in determining which type of administration is more appropriate according to the facts of your case.

If you decide to select the administration of a decedent’s estate without consulting an attorney, it will be your responsibility to select the appropriate proceeding for your situation. The staff of the Probate Court may not and will not make this determination for you. Furthermore, neither the court nor the county can accept responsibility for incorrect decisions made by the court’s staff. Your best choice to assure and informed decision regarding the administration of a decedent’s estate is to seek assistance of a probate and estate planning attorney. Continue reading

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