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.

5 Reasons to Review Your Estate Planning Today:

  1. Pay-on-death beneficiaries sometimes fail. Due to a change in computer software or a merger, it is possible for a financial institution to lose your pay-on-death beneficiary designations. As such, it is good practice to confirm designations with your financial institution at least once per year.
    estate planning
  2. There may be out-of-date contact information for the individuals named on your advance directives. Further, those individuals, due to a change of circumstance in their own life, may no longer be able to act on your behalf. In such a case, it is important to choose new fiduciaries with the ability to serve.
  3. Your intent may have changed. For example, as your children get older, they may become more viable candidates to act as fiduciaries during your lifetime or upon your passing.
  4. You are forced to locate your documents. It is important that you know where estate planningyour original estate planning documents are held, as well as any copies that have been produced. In an emergency situation, being unable to locate your advance directives could cause a delay in making important health care decisions. Additionally, upon your passing, the inability to locate your estate planning documents could cause a delay in probating your estate.
  5. Attorney Randall D. Baskin

    Attorney Randall D. Baskin

    A change in life situation, such as a change in wealth, relocation, divorce, birth or death, could drastically alter your estate planning. It is important to review your estate planning documents to ensure that they still reflect your wishes in light of any life changes. As your life evolves, so should your estate plan.

For additional information, please contact BaskinFleece at 727.572.4545.

 

 

How Is a Personal Representative Compensated?

Randall D. Baskin

Attorney Randall D. Baskin

Pursuant to Florida Statute § 733.617, a personal representative is entitled to a commission payable from the estate assets, without order of the Court, as compensation for ordinary services. The commission shall be based on the compensable value of the estate, which is the inventory value of the probate assets and the income earned by the estate during administration. A commission computed on the compensable value of the estate is presumed to be reasonable compensation for a personal representative in formal administration as follows:

1) At a rate of 3 percent for the first $1 million;

2) At a rate of 2.5 percent for all above $1 million and not exceeding $5 million;

3) At the rate of 2 percent for all above $5 million and not exceeding $10 million;

4) At the rate of 1.5 percent for all above $10 million.

Tampa lawyersIn addition to the previously described commission, a personal representative shall be allowed further compensation as is reasonable for any extraordinary services performed.

For additional information, 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. 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.

What Does a Personal Representative Do?

Personal Representative

A personal representative is a fiduciary appointed by the judge to be in charge of the administration of a decedent’s estate. In Florida, the term “personal representative” is used instead of such terms as executor, executrix, administrator and administratrix. A personal representative is under a duty to settle and distribute the estate of the decedent in accordance with the terms of the decedent’s will, if any, and the Florida Probate Code, as expeditiously and efficiently as is consistent with the best interests of the estate.

More specifically, a personal representative must:

  • Identify, gather, value and safeguard the decedent’s probate assets;
  • Publish a “Notice to Creditors” in a local newspaper in order to give notice to potential claimants to file any claims against the estate in the manner required by law;
  • Serve a “Notice of Administration” to provide information about the probate estate administration and notice of the procedures required to be followed by those having any objection to the administration of the decedent’s probate estate;
  • 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;
  • Object to improper claims, and defend suits brought on such claims;
  • Pay valid claims;
  • File tax returns and pay any taxes properly due;
  • Employ professionals to assist in the administration of the probate estate, for example, attorneys, certified public accountants, appraisers and investment advisers;
  • Pay expenses of administering the probate estate;
  • Pay statutory amounts to the decedent’s surviving spouse or family;
  • Distribute probate assets to beneficiaries;
  • Close the probate estate.
Randall D. Baskin

Attorney Randall D. Baskin

A personal representative is authorized to hire an attorney to assist with the administration of the estate and is not required to use their own funds for any costs associated the administration of the decedent’s estate.

For additional information, 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. 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.