Estate and Trust Litigation
In the administration of a Trust or an Estate, individuals and families sometimes face disputes over the validity of certain documents, the status of certain heirs or beneficiaries, or the conduct of a Trustee or Personal Representative. Litigation may be necessary to address serious disagreements or allegations of misconduct. A board-certified Fort Lauderdale Trust and Estate litigation attorney can help you pursue or defend such disputes in the Court system.
Florida law sets out specific procedures to create a valid Will. A Will that does not meet the requirements of the law could face a challenge in Court from anyone with an interest in the Estate. The Personal Representative named in the Will, or another Representative of the Decedent, may have to defend the Will’s validity in Probate Court during the administration of the Estate. Multiple versions of a Will may appear in Court proceedings, and the Court must determine which Will represents the Decedent’s wishes and meets the law’s standards.
Disputes may arise once a Court approves a Will as to how to interpret the decedent’s instructions. If a provision in a Will is vague or ambiguous, challenges to the Personal Representative’s interpretation of that provision could come from beneficiaries or creditors who disagree with how the Personal Representative distributes certain assets. Heirs and other claimants may also challenge a Personal Representative’s actions and decisions in managing Estate property if those decisions harm either the Estate’s value or the heirs’ interests.
If a person dies without a Will but leaves behind property, Florida law has procedures for “intestate succession,” which requires Court involvement in order to name a Personal Trust Representative to act on behalf of the Estate and to determine the identities and interests of the legal heirs. A person may apply to the Court for appointment as the Personal Representative of the Estate, and others may dispute that person’s appointment, the identity of the heirs, and the proportion of each heir’s interest in the Estate.
A Trustee has a legal obligation to follow the instructions and provisions set forth in the Trust and to deal fairly with the assets and the beneficiaries of the Trust. Beneficiaries have certain rights to review the Trustee’s performance and challenge actions that impact their interests or the value of Trust assets. Similar to Estate Litigation, Trust Litigation allows Beneficiaries to monitor a Trustee’s performance, to challenge decisions that deviate from the Trust’s terms, and to obtain relief for harm caused by the Trustee. The validity of Trusts can also be challenged on grounds very much like those used to contest a Will.
Both Personal Representatives and Trustees owe fiduciary duties to the Heirs or Beneficiaries to use their best judgment, to deal fairly with the assets, and to refrain from any sort of transactions involving a conflict of interest mainly intended to benefit themselves. Personal Representatives and Trustees who violate this fiduciary duty may be personally liable for damage caused by their breach, including the payment of the opposition’s attorney’s fees.
Fort Lauderdale Estate and Trust litigation attorney Mark R. Manceri has almost thirty years of experience handling all manner of disputes involving Trusts and Estates. His board certification from the State of Florida demonstrates the depth of his experience and knowledge in the field. Contact the firm through our website or at (954) 491-7099 to schedule your initial consultation.