Real Estate Titled wrong prior to Death and Probate

Fernandez-Fox v. Estate of David P. Lindsay, 33 Fla. L. Weekly D259 (5th DCA January 18, 2008)

Fox and the Decedent had owned real property they had intended to have titled joint with rights of survivorship. Because of an error, the title was not correctly designated in the public records and the decedent died before the error could be corrected. Fox initiated probate proceedings and filed claims for storage fees, funeral expenses, and maintenance of the property. One of the beneficiaries of the decedent’s Florida Will filed a Motion to Strike the claims, which was denied. In the interim, Fox initiated a quiet title action against the Estate and the estate beneficiaries. A personal representative was appointed, and the PR filed objections to the Fox claims nine months after being appointed.

Fox petitioned for an extension of time to file independent action on her claims. The Florida Probate Court denied the motion, ruling that the earlier Motion to Strike was an objection requiring filing of an independent action within 30 days.

On appeal, the decision was reversed on the grounds the Motion to Strike failed to meet the requirements of an objection pursuant to Florida Probate Rule 5.496. The appellate decision had good discussion of the types of actions and information that would serve to put an estate on notice of a potential claim and indicates a request for extension should be granted only if the estate can establish it would be prejudiced or unfairly surprised. Both parties requested fees, claiming their actions benefited the estate.

The court rejected both claims: 1 the reversal allowed Fox to pursue her claims, obviously not of benefit to the estate and 2 the Estate lost the appeal, will be required to litigate the claims and, in the opinion of the court, thus had not benefited the estate.

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