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How Representing Yourself in Probate Litigation Can Go Wrong


Estate and trust litigation is generally quite complex. These are highly specialized areas of Florida law. So it makes sense that if you become involved in such litigation, you would want to work with a qualified attorney.

The last thing you want to do is represent yourself. While you can act pro se in a legal matter, doing so rarely goes well for the person who acts as their own attorney. Among other things, non-attorneys are often unaware of the various legal requirements to even have a case decided by a particular court.

Federal Judge Dismisses “Apparent Attempt” to Challenge Florida Probate Proceeding

Take this recent decision from a federal court in Tampa, Roberts v. Estate of Young. Two women filed a document with the court that they titled, “Motion to Return Estate to Rightful Owner.” As the judge put it, these women were “[a]pparently attempting to commence a federal civil action against” a Florida probate estate. A magistrate who reviewed the filing first noted it was “difficult to decipher” what these plaintiffs were actually claiming.

As best the magistrate could tell, this “Motion” suggested that an “adverse party” committed fraud during an earlier–and possibly ongoing–lawsuit involving a Florida probate estate. The plaintiffs further alleged that an unidentified Florida judge “abused her discretion” in refusing their request for a new trial in the probate matter. As such, they “apparently” asked the federal court to set aside the Florida court’s decision on the basis of fraud.

The magistrate advised the federal judge to dismiss this complaint, which the judge did. There were multiple problems here. Just to briefly explain a few:

  • The plaintiffs’ filing never stated–or even mentioned–the basis for the federal court’s jurisdiction in this matter. This is a basic requirement of any complaint filed with any court.
  • The plaintiffs’ appeared to allege violations of Florida state law, not any federal statute. Federal courts can only hear state-law disputes when there is diversity of jurisdiction.
  • Diversity jurisdiction did not exist here. Diversity requires two things: (1) the amount in controversy is at least $75,000; and (2) the plaintiffs and the defendants are residents of different states. Here, the plaintiffs never alleged any amount in controversy, they both appeared to be Florida residents, and the defendant is a Florida estate.
  • Federal district courts do not have the authority to review or set aside any final judgment issued by a state court.
  • Federal district courts cannot intervene in a non-criminal matter pending before a state court, so long as the plaintiffs have (or had) a chance to raise their challenges before the state court.

Contact Attorney Mark R. Manceri Today

Dealing with the legal system is often overwhelming. You should not make things more difficult for yourself by trying to deal with the system on your own. If you need to speak with an experienced Pompano Beach estate and trust litigation attorney, contact the offices of Mark R. Manceri, P.A., today to schedule a consultation.



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