Beneficiary Disputes

Mark R. Manceri is a specialist recognized by the Florida Bar in estate and probate law. For nearly 30 years, he has litigated beneficiary disputes. As a Board Certified Wills, Trusts & Estates attorney, Mr. Manceri combines his extensive legal knowledge of in the areas of Wills, Trusts, and Estates with his skill as a Certified Public Accountant to provide quality legal services to clients.

Beneficiary Disputes: All in the Family

Brutal conflicts over the division of assets can tear loved ones apart. Although highly-charged, beneficiary disputes do not just burn out and die; deep-seated issues continue to fester, poisoning family blood. Family feuds can last generations. Sadly, most choose to avoid the inevitable, hoping things will “sort themselves out” in the end. This rarely happens. Even with a Will or Trust, beneficiary disputes can arise for a variety of reasons. Beneficiaries often disagree on the most basic issues involving:

  • Interpretation of a Will or Trust
  • Distribution, handling of assets
  • Testator’s intent, mental capacity
  • Stocks, dividends, investment funds
  • Division of real and personal property
  • Alleged fraud, forgery, undue influence
Issues Specific to Will Contests

Disputes over Wills tend to focus on the document’s validity and the meaning of its terms. Wills are created by “testators” who must be of legal age and “sound mind” for the Will to be valid. At the very least, a will should name a “personal representative” to manage your Estate and specify beneficiaries to whom assets should be distributed. Different types of Wills include:

  • Simple, living, attested
  • Holographic
  • Joint, mutual or “mirror”
  • Attested, self-proved, notarial
  • Testamentary trust, “pour over”

Note that all of these Wills are recognized in Florida. But once the validity of the document is established, other issues arise. Few testators remember to update their Wills or make “codicils,” amendments that must be signed and dated in the presence of two subscribing witnesses. Other problems involve:

  • Destroyed, lost, or multiple wills
  • Codicils contradicting the original
  • Provision for new a spouse or step-children
  • Changing the personal representative to manage assets
  • Pre- and post-nuptial agreements
Issues Specific to Trust Disputes

Many of the same problems in Will contests also plague Trusts. Whereas “testators” choose an “personal representative” to administer the Estate, “settlors” who create Trusts appoint a “trustee” with a “fiduciary” duty to properly distribute the assets. This includes the legal responsibility to prudently invest the Trust assets and act in the interests of the settlor and beneficiaries. Trust disputes often involve:

  • Trustee duties of loyalty and reasonable care
  • Commingling of Trust assets with personal funds
  • Failure to maintain proper accounts, disclose material facts
  • Amount of assets, manner of distributing trust monies
How to Prevent and Remedy Beneficiary Disputes

Airing out family grievances may go toward resolving personal disputes regarding an inheritance before heightened emotions and public scrutiny complicate matters. This fosters open communication in an informal setting, preserving relationships that could disintegrate in a long, hostile Court battle. If the parties cannot agree, the Court may have to step in.

For Probate and Estate Litigation Contact Mark R. Manceri, ESQ.

Mark R. Manceri is a knowledgeable wills, trusts, and estates lawyer in South Florida. With over 30 years of experience litigating complex beneficiary disputes, he knows that the most contentious battles are often waged when there is no or poor estate planning. This process can get ugly and last for years. If the matter is beyond estate planning or dispute resolution, you can count on Mr. Manceri to zealously represent your interests in the Florida Courts. Call (954) 491-7099 for a confidential consultation or contact us online.

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