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.

4 Ways Probate Can Help You

Probate administration laws1. Court Oversight of Personal Representative. Probate is a Court supervised process. The actions of the Personal Representative are reviewed by the Court. The Personal Representative has a duty to act in the best interest of your estate and is accountable to the Court for its actions.

2. Reduced Time for Creditors to File Claims. Under Florida statutes, during probate administration, a creditor is limited to a 3-month time period to file a claim with the Court. If the creditor fails to timely file a claim, then the creditor’s claim is forever barred. For comparison, if there is only a trust administration, a creditor has 2 years to file a claim.

3. Orderly distribution of assets pursuant to terms of Last Will and Testament, or laws of intestacy, if there is no Last Will and Testament. After payment of all claims and expenses of the Estate, the Personal Representative, (we recommend with the help of an attorney), prepares an accounting and plan of distribution which is provided to all beneficiaries. Each beneficiary has the right to object the accounting and plan of distribution. Once the accounting and plan of distribution is approved by all beneficiaries (or the time for objecting has expired), the Personal Representative distributes the remaining assets pursuant to the terms of the Last Will and Testament (or laws of intestacy if there was no Last Will and Testament). Prior to discharging the Personal Representative, the Court ensures all beneficiaries have signed a receipt for distribution.

4. Your Estate, while in probate, is a separate tax entity, which may afford income tax savings. Several of the expenses incurred during the probate process, including funeral and internment arrangements, probate administration expenses, personal representative fees, attorney fees, and CPA fees may be deductible against the income generated by the Estate assets.

Attorney Colleen Carson

Many of the tasks and duties listed above can be overwhelming for a Personal Representative. A qualified attorney can help make that process smoother and less daunting for you. If you need an experienced attorney in trust and probate matters, consider contacting BaskinFleece at 727.572.4545.

What is Probate?

Living willProbate is a legal process through which the assets of a deceased person are properly distributed to the heirs or beneficiaries under a will, or if there is no will, according to Florida law. The Court oversees the estate to make sure debts are paid and proper distribution is made.

There are 3 types of Probate Proceedings:

1. Formal Administration is available for all estates.

Probate2. Summary Administration may be filed when it appears the decedent’s will does not require Formal Administration and that the value of the entire estate subject to administration in this state, less the value of property exempt from claims of creditors, does not exceed $75,000, or that the decedent has been dead for more than 2 years.

3. Disposition of Personal Property Without Administration may be filed to request release of the deceased’s solely owned assets to reimburse the person who paid the final expenses; funeral bills, medical bills for the last 60 days, etc. This procedure may be accomplished with the filing of an informal petition.

WillThe decedent’s will, if any, and certain other documents are required in order to begin probate proceedings. Typically, these documents are filed with the clerk of the circuit court in the county in which the decedent lived at the time of his or her death. The clerk maintains an ongoing record of all documents filed with the court and clerk, for the administration of the decedent’s probate estate. Click here for a list of the required recordable documents.

You may wish to seek legal advice before deciding which type of proceeding is appropriate. 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. 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.

Enhanced by Zemanta

What Does a Personal Representative Do?

The personal representative of an estate is a person, bank, or trust company appointed by the judge to administer the decedent’s estate. In Florida, the term “personal representative” is used instead of such terms as “executor, executrix, administrator and administratrix.”

Probate assets are those assets that the decedent owned in his or her sole name at death, or that were owned by the decedent and one or more co-owners and lacked a provision for automatic succession of ownership at death. The personal representative is empowered by the court to:

  1. Identify, gather, value, and safeguard the decedent’s probate and non-probate assets.
  2. Object to improper claims against the estate, and defend suits brought on such claims.
  3. File tax returns and pay any taxes properly due.
  4. Pay valid claims against the estate.
  5. Publish a “Notice to Creditors” in a local newspaper in order to give notice to potential claimants to file claims in the manner required by law.
  6. Serve a “Notice of Administration” which provides information about the pending estate administration and notice of the procedures required to be followed by those with an objection to the administration of the decedent’s estate.
  7. Employ professionals, as necessary, to assist in the administration of the decedent’s estate; for example, attorneys, certified public accountants, appraisers and investment advisors.
  8. Conduct a diligent search to locate “known or reasonably ascertainable” creditors, and notify these creditors of the time by which their claims must be filed.
  9. joint accounts in estate planningPay expenses of administering the decedent’s estate.
  10. Pay statutory amounts to the decedent’s surviving spouse or family.
  11. Distribute estate assets to beneficiaries.
  12. Close the estate.

If the personal representative mismanages the decedent’s probate estate, the personal representative may be liable to the beneficiaries for any harm they may suffer.

To schedule an appointment with a BaskinFleece attorney, call (727) 572-4545. For more information about BaskinFleece, visit www.BaskinFleece.com.

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.

Trusts and Probate: Advantages and Disadvantages

What are the differences between probate and trusts? Probate 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.

Jay Fleece, of Baskin Fleece, points out the differences, advantages and disadvantages of Probate and Trusts.

Jay Fleece, of Baskin Fleece, points out the differences, advantages and disadvantages of Probate and Trusts.

Jay Fleece, of BaskinFleece, points out the differences, advantages and disadvantages of probate and trusts.
To start the video, please click the image to the left.

probate trusts advantages of eachBaskinFleece primarily deals with controversies involving estates, trusts, wills, probate trusts and guardianships. Issues dealing with 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 are routinely dealt with. The vast experience in dealing with and resolving these specific issues has given the firm a wealth of knowledge – which other less-involved firms may not have. It is that knowledge base that sets BaskinFleece apart from the other firms and attorneys practicing in this area of the law.

BaskinFleece handles cases from the pre-suit stages, including mediation, all the way through trial, both jury and non-jury, and even at the appellate level, if necessary. The main focus of the firm in dealing with all controversies is the client. 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. 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. 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.