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Contested Guardianship, Probate, Trusts, and Fiduciary Litigation

BaskinFleece is a trusts and estates law firm centrally located in Pinellas County, just minutes from the courthouses in St. Petersburg, Clearwater and Tampa. The firm primarily deals with controversies involving estates, trusts, wills and guardianships in Tampa, St. Petersburg and Clearwater. BaskinFleece routinely deals with estate planning and litigation matters, including issues concerning the validity of wills and trusts, breach of fiduciary duty, lack of capacity, spousal rights, creditors’ rights and anything related to wills, trusts and guardianships.

BaskinFleece – Areas of Litigation:

Probate LitigationProbate and Estates Probate litigation encompasses all forms of contested matters arising in a probate matter. Some of the contested issues in Florida probate law resulting in litigation, include the validity of the decedent’s last will and testament; construing the terms of an ambiguous will; spousal share election under the elective share statute; pretermitted spouse and child issues; excessive fiduciary or attorneys’ fees; creditor claims; breach of fiduciary duty by the personal representative; improper accountings; recovery of estate assets and a plethora of other potential issues involving wills and trusts.

Trust LitigationTrusts – Many of the same contested issues in a probate estate also exist in trust matters. The main difference is that an independent civil action needs to be filed in order to invoke the jurisdiction of the court and have summonses issued to the Defendants. As Florida trust administration is not court supervised, it is up to the beneficiaries, rather than the probate judge, to make sure the trustee is discharging his duties in accordance with the trust terms and with the law. For the most part the only way a beneficiary can review what the trustee has done is through the annual accounting which the trustee must provide each qualified beneficiary every year. If the accounting is not provided, the trustee has breached his fiduciary duty to keep beneficiaries informed, which could result in litigation. There are many other fiduciary duties imposed upon a trustee which, if violated, subject the trustee to removal, surcharge or other remedies imposed by the courts. Our lawyers have handled a variety of wills and trust litigation in the courts of Tampa, St. Petersburg, Clearwater and throughout Florida.

Fiduciary Litigation in ClearwaterFiduciary – Fiduciary litigation usually involves actions with trustees, personal representatives and agents holding a power of attorney for a principal. A fiduciary is a position of trust held to the highest standard of care. A fiduciary has many duties including the duty of loyalty and a duty of impartiality in the administration of wills. A fiduciary is prohibited from putting his own personal interest ahead of the person to whom he owes a duty. Fiduciary litigation in Florida can also arise in many other contexts including business relationships, partnership relationships and any other manner in which a fiduciary relationship is established.

Guardianship LitigationContested Guardianship – BaskinFleece handles all aspects of contested guardianship litigation in Clearwater, St. Petersburg, Tampa, Pinellas County and throughout the state of Florida. Contested guardianships are those which involve either the establishment of a guardianship or situations where the alleged incapacitated person may not in fact be incapacitated, or reasonable alternatives to a guardianship exist. Litigation; many cases are filed to prevent the exploitation or further exploitation of an individual, often a loved one, by someone who has taken over the financial, medical and social affairs of an individual who is incapacitated and unable to resist the undue influence of others. The Order Determining Incapacity may result in the loss of substantial Civil Rights, including the right to vote; to determine one’s own medical treatment; to handle one’s own financial affairs; to make a will, change a will, gift or disposition of property; to determine one’s own residence; and to travel unsupervised, to name but a few. The filing of a guardianship, while unfortunate, is often the only means to stop the financial exploitation and wrest control away from the exploiter, who can be a stranger, but may also be a neighbor, caregiver, friend, or even a family member.

In all matters, the client is and remains the firm’s main focus. Aspects of litigation such as cost, emotional impact and timeliness are all important to the client, and the firm strives for an end result which leaves the client feeling that justice was accomplished in an efficient and effective manner. For help or answers to litigation related questions, you can contact BaskinFleece at 727.572.4545.

What everyone should know about Probate.

Probate and the courtsProbate is a court-supervised process for identifying and gathering the assets of a deceased person (decedent), paying the decedent’s debts, and distributing the decedent’s assets to his or her beneficiaries. In general, the decedent’s assets are used first to pay the cost of the probate proceeding, then are used to pay the decedent’s outstanding debts, and the remainder is distributed to the decedent’s beneficiaries.
There are two types of probate administration under Florida law: formal administration and summary administration. There is also a non-court supervised administration proceeding called “Disposition of Personal Property Without Administration.” This type of administration only applies in limited circumstances. For more information about Probate Administration, Wills and Intestacy please contact BaskinFleece at 727.572.4545

 

This blog is designed for general information only. The information presented at this site should not be construed to be formal legal advice nor the formation of a lawyer/client relationship. Some of the content of this information is courtesy of The Florida Bar and represents general legal advice. Because the law is continually changing, some provisions in this blog may be out of date. It is always best to consult an attorney about your legal rights and responsibilities in your particular case.

Probate Ensures the Decedent’s Estate Debts Are Paid

Probate decedents finances
One of the primary purposes of
probate is to ensure that the decedent’s estate debts are paid in an orderly fashion. The personal representative must use diligent efforts to give actual notice of the probate proceeding to “known or reasonably ascertainable” creditors. This gives the creditors an opportunity to file claims in the decedent’s probate estate, if any. Creditors who receive notice of the probate administration generally have three months to file a claim with the clerk of the circuit court. The personal representative, or any other interested persons, may file an objection to the statement of claim. If an objection is filed, the creditor must file a separate independent lawsuit to pursue the claim. A claimant who files a claim in the probate proceeding must be treated fairly as a person interested in the probate estate until the claim has been paid, or until the claim is determined to be invalid.

Trustee, personal representative dutiesThe legitimate debts of the decedent, specifically including proper claims, taxes, and expenses of the administration of the decedent’s probate estate, must be paid before making distributions from the will to the decedent’s beneficiaries.

Estate expenses: The personal representative can be compensated in FloridaThe court will require the personal representative to file a report to advise of any claims filed in the probate estate, and will not permit the probate estate to be closed unless those claims have been paid or otherwise disposed of.

For help or answers to estate-related questions, you can contact BaskinFleece at 727.572.4545.

 
This blog is designed for general information only. The information presented at this site should not be construed to be formal legal advice nor the formation of a lawyer/client relationship.
Some of the content of this information is courtesy of The Florida Bar and represents general legal advice. Because the law is continually changing, some provisions in this blog may be out of date. It is always best to consult an attorney about your legal rights and responsibilities in your particular case.

Your Real Estate Transaction: 3 Main Benefits of Legal Representation

Attorney Randall D. Baskin

1. Before you sign the purchase and sale agreement: Whether you are the Buyer or the Seller, the need for attorney representation in a real estate transaction begins before you sign the purchase and sale agreement. While many real estate professionals claim to work with “standard contracts,”Personal representative compensation
there is no such thing as a standard contract. The boxes you fill in on those “standard contracts” can have a large impact on how costs associated with your real estate transaction are allocated between Buyer and Seller. For example, the contract will dictate which party will be obligated to pay any special assessments imposed upon the property that are due after closing. An attorney representing your best interests can provide advice on your contractual rights and obligations under a purchase and sale agreement before and after you sign on the dotted line.

Estate planning 2. During the escrow period: Once the purchase and sale agreement is signed, an attorney can help to ensure that your transaction goes smoothly by examining the title commitment to the property and by working to clear any clouds on the title that will affect your future use and enjoyment of the property.

Additionally, an attorney can advise on key issues affecting property ownership, such as choosing the right form of legal ownership and navigating the Florida Homestead Laws.

How ownership of property is taken can have vast legal consequences. When purchasing real estate, there are several ways to take legal title, such as jointly, individually, in a trust, or in a business entity. An attorney can analyze the facts of your particular situation and advise on which form of ownership is best for you.

The State of Florida affords unique legal protection to an individual’s real property through its Homestead Laws. An attorney can advise on Florida Homestead Laws and how to use these laws to protect your real property from liability, as well as how to maximize the tax benefits afforded to homestead property.

attorney real estate3. At closing: After all contingencies of the contract have been met, the closing can occur. At the closing table and after closing, an attorney will ensure that the transaction and all related documents are properly researched, executed, and recorded. If the property is in probate at the time of the sale, an attorney can help to ensure that the property is conveyed legally and all beneficiary interests in the property are extinguished.

For more information about real estate in St. Petersburg, Tampa, and Clearwater, call BaskinFleece at 727.572.4545.

This blog is designed for general information only. The information presented at this site should not be construed to be formal legal advice nor the formation of a lawyer/client relationship. Because the law is continually changing, some provisions in this blog may be out of date. It is always best to consult an attorney about your legal rights and responsibilities in your particular case.

 

Proper Execution of a Will and What Happens When a Will Is Lost?

Estate Planning will signing listA will cannot dispose of any of the decedent’s property until it is admitted to probate. In order for a will to be admitted to probate, it must be executed in accordance with the formalities required by Florida law. The testator must sign his will at the end in the presence of two attesting witnesses. The attesting witnesses must sign in the presence of each other and in the presence of the testator. If the testator attaches a self-proof of will, the will may be admitted to probate without further proof. Without a self-proof of will, an oath of one of the attesting witnesses may be required before the will is admitted to probate.

What Happens When a Will Is Lost? Upon the testator’s death, if a will, executed by the testator and kept in his possession, cannot be found, there is a presumption, absent other evidence, that he destroyed it with the intention of revoking it. However, this presumption may be overcome and the will may be admitted to probate if an interested person is able to establish the full and precise terms of the lost or destroyed will. The content of the lost or destroyed will may be proven with a correct copy of the will and the testimony of one disinterested witness. Without a correct copy, the content may be established through the testimony of two disinterested witnesses.

Related video: Estate Planning documents you must have…

Baskin Fleece handles all aspects of estate planning, probate administration, and litigation. To schedule an appointment with a BaskinFleece attorney, call (727) 572-4545. For more information about BaskinFleece, please visit www.BaskinFleece.com.

Death and Taxes: How is the IRS Involved after a Decedent’s Death?

IRSA personal representative has the responsibility to pay amounts owed by the decedent or the estate to the IRS. Taxes are normally paid from probate assets in the decedent’s estate, and not by the personal representative from his or her own assets; however, under certain circumstances, the personal representative may be personally liable for those taxes if they are not properly paid.

Estate planning in Florida1. The estate will not have any tax filing or payment obligations to the State of Florida; however, if the decedent owed Florida intangibles taxes for any year prior to the repeal of the intangibles tax as of January 1, 2007, the personal representative must pay those taxes to the Florida Department of Revenue.

2. The decedent’s death has two significant tax consequences: It ends the decedent’s last tax year for purposes of filing the decedent’s federal income tax return, and it establishes a new tax entity, the “estate.”

3. The personal representative may be required to file one or more of the following returns, depending upon the circumstances:

IRS U.S. Income Tax• The decedent’s final Form 1040, Federal Income Tax Return, reporting the decedent’s income for the year of the decedent’s death.

• One or more Forms 1041, Federal Income Tax Returns for the Estate, reporting the estate’s taxable income.

• Form 709, Federal Gift Tax Return(s), reporting gifts made by the decedent prior to death.

• Form 706, Federal Estate Tax Return, reporting the decedent’s gross estate, depending upon the value of the gross estate.

The personal representative may also be required to file other returns not specifically mentioned here. For help or answers to estate-related questions, you can contact BaskinFleece at 727.572.4545.

This blog is designed for general information only. The information presented at this site should not be construed to be formal legal advice nor the formation of a lawyer/client relationship. Some of the content of this information is courtesy of The Florida Bar and represents general legal advice. Because the law is continually changing, some provisions in this blog may be out of date. It is always best to consult an attorney about your legal rights and responsibilities in your particular case.

April 1st – This Day in History: BaskinFleece Became One!

Jay Fleece and Hamden Baskin

Attorneys Jay Fleece and Hamden Baskin

April 1, 2004 – Joseph W. “Jay” Fleece, III, and Hamden H. Baskin, III, decided to combine their extensive knowledge and experience to create a unique law firm that was focused mainly on contested estate, trust and guardianship matters. Their philosophy was simple: leverage trial skills with the knowledge of probate and trust law to provide consistent, efficient and effective representation for their clients – resulting in positive outcomes. Congratulations to Jay Fleece, Hamden Baskin and their team for serving the community and its clients since 2004.

In addition to the formation of BaskinFleece, here are other interesting and historical events that happened on April 1st:

Estate expenses: The personal representative’s compensation is usually determined in one of five ways...April 1, 1778 – Creating this icon made sense: New Orleans businessman Oliver Pollock creates the “$” symbol.
April 1, 1789  The US House of Representatives had it’s first full meeting in New York City, and F. Muhlenberg is the first Speaker of the House.
April firstApril 1, 1970  Cigarette advertising was banned and signed into law by President Richard Nixon. Here’s a classic ad featuring Ronald Reagan endorsing Chesterfield cigarettes.
April 1, 1985 – 47th NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship: Villanova beats Georgetown 84-75
April 1, 1970 AMC introduced the Gremlin, one of the first sub compact cars way back in 1970, before many realized gas prices would be a critical factor in future car buying. The car cost $1,879. Car imports were just starting to have an impact on the US market including the Volkswagen Beetle and the new generation of Japanese imports like the Datsun.

You can contact BaskinFleece on, before, or after April 1st at 727.572.4545.