Wills and probate

Lost or Destroyed Will? It can be contested in probate court.

Lost or Destroyed Willwill cannot dispose of any of the decedent’s property until it is admitted to probate.

Lost or destroyed will? In order for a will to be admitted to probate, it must be executed in accordance with the formalities required by Florida law. The testator must sign his will at the end in the presence of two attesting witnesses. The attesting witnesses must sign in the presence of each other and in the presence of the testator. If the testator attaches a self-proof of will, the will may be admitted to probate without further proof. Without a self-proof of will, an oath of one of the attesting witnesses may be required before the will is admitted to probate.

Lost or Destroyed WillUpon the testator’s death, if a will, executed by the testator and kept in their possession, cannot be found, there is a presumption, absent other evidence, that it was destroyed with the intention of revoking it. However, this presumption may be overcome and the will may be admitted to probate if an interested person is able to establish the full and precise terms of the lost or destroyed will. The content of the lost or destroyed will be proven with a correct copy of the will and the testimony of one disinterested witness. Without a correct copy, the content may be established through the testimony of two disinterested witnesses.

TO SCHEDULE AN APPOINTMENT WITH JAY FLEECE:  

PHONE: 727-471-5868   JFLEECE@LEGACYPROTECTIONLAWYERS.COM  

Probate and Trust litigation

Probate Assets: Real estate, Insurance, Annuities …

Are Real Estate, Insurance Policies and IRA’s Probate Assets?

Probate administration of assetsProbate administration only applies to probate assets. A probate asset is assets that the decedent owned in his or her sole name at death. Probate assets also were owned by the decedent and one or more co-owners – and lacked a provision for automatic succession of ownership at death.

Some types of probate assets:

real estate probate assetsReal estate titled in the sole name of the decedent, or in the name of the decedent and another person as tenants in common, is a probate asset (unless it is homestead property). Real estate titled in the name of the decedent and one or more other persons as joint tenants with rights of survivorship is not a probate asset.

Property owned by husband and wife as tenants by the entirety is not a probate asset on the death of the first spouse to die but goes automatically to the surviving spouse.

Probate assets Life InsuranceLife insurance policy, annuity contract or individual retirement account that is payable to a specific beneficiary is not a probate asset. A life insurance policy, annuity contract or individual retirement account payable to the decedent’s estate is.

Probate assets bank account and investmentsBank accounts or investment accounts in the sole name of a decedent is a probate asset. A bank account or investment account owned by the decedent and payable on death or transferable on death to another, or held jointly with rights of survivorship with another, is not a probate asset.

This list is not exclusive but is intended to be illustrative.

TO SCHEDULE AN APPOINTMENT WITH JAY FLEECE:

PHONE: 727-471-5868   JFLEECE@LEGACYPROTECTIONLAWYERS.COm

The information above 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 and Trust Administration Challenges

Attorney Jay Fleece handles all aspects of probate and trust administration – and litigation.

Trust AdministrationTrust administration is that process whereby assets and cash which were funded into a revocable or irrevocable trust during the decedent’s lifetime or “poured into the trust after his or her passing”, are marshaled/gathered and made ready for distribution to the beneficiaries named in the trust. Trust administration also requires the filing of a notice of trust with the probate court and is the process whereby creditors are paid, and after all state and federal tax returns are filed and all creditors and other administrative expenses are paid, the trustee makes a final distribution of the trust assets and cash. The process is similar to Florida probate administration, but there is no circuit judge supervising the administration, nor is a fiduciary bond usually posted, and many times it can be accomplished more efficiently, and thereby cheaper and faster, than a full probate administration. The key is to have an honest trustee, otherwise, litigation may ensue.

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.

St. Petersburg Lawyer Jay Fleece deals with litigationSt. Petersburg attorney Jay Fleece 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.

To schedule an appointment with Jay Fleece:  

Phone: 727-471-5868   jfleece@legacyprotectionlawyers.com 

St. Petersburg lawyer Jay Fleece handles Litigation

St. Petersburg lawyer: Probate, Trusts, Guardianship and Fiduciary Law

This St. Petersburg Lawyer routinely deals with contested probate and trust litigation matters helping families protect their legacy.

Issues handled by St. Petersburg lawyer Jay Fleece concern the validity of wills and trusts, breach of fiduciary duty, lack of capacity, spousal rights, creditors’ rights and anything related to wills, trusts, and contested guardianships.

Areas of Litigation:

Probate courtProbate litigation encompasses all forms of contested matters arising in a probate. 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.

Trusts Litigation 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 family lawyer St. Petersburgtrust 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. Jay has handled a variety of wills and trust litigation in the courts of Tampa, St. Petersburg, Clearwater and throughout Florida.

Fiduciary Litigation 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 –
 St. Petersburg lawyer Jay Fleece 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.


St. Petersburg Lawyer Jay Fleece deals with litigation
In all matters, the client is and remains Legacy Protection Lawyers main concern, as the firm helps to protect the family legacy.  Aspects of litigation such as cost, emotional impact, and timeliness are all important to the client, and this St. Petersburg lawyer 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 St. Petersburg lawyer Jay Fleece at 727-471-5868jfleece@legacyprotectionlawyers.com

 

estate assets

Estate planning and How Property Passes on Death.

Estate planning:

When someone dies, their property, be it real estate, bank accounts, stocks, bonds, jewelry, automobiles or whatever that person owns must pass to someone legally entitled to those assets. There are 3 basic ways through proper estate planning that property passes on death. Each way depends on how the particular asset is owned or titled at the time of death.

Probate court1. Probate. If someone owns an asset in his or her own name at the time of death, that asset should pass to the deceased beneficiaries that are specified in his or her will. If the decedent did not have a will, then the property owned by the decedent will pass under the laws of intestacy. In other words, the state of Florida makes a will for the decedent. This doesn’t mean all of the decedent’s property passes to the state but rather to individuals depending on their relationship to the decedent.

Florida statutes 732.102 and 732.103 set forth the statutory scheme for intestate succession. For example, if a man dies without a will but is survived by a spouse and children of that marriage, then the surviving spouse is entitled to the first $60,000.00 of assets and anything over that amount is equally divided between the surviving spouse and the children.

When property passes by the terms of a last will and testament or by intestate succession, the process by which this transfer is accomplished is called probate. Probate is essentially a court-supervised process whereby a decedent’s property is transferred in an orderly fashion to the ones legally entitled to those assets.

Estate planning and A Living Trust2. Trusts. Some people elect to create a revocable “living” trust during their lifetime. Here, the trust assets are typically titled in the name of the trust. The grantor, the one creating the trust, has full power to change, modify and revoke the trust during his or her lifetime. After the death of the grantor, these trusts usually terminate and the disposition of the property held in the trust will be governed by the terms of the trust. These type of trusts typically contain language very similar to language used in a last will and testament, which specifies how and to whom the decedent’s property will pass. A successor trustee named in the trust document would then have the responsibility of effectuating the terms of the trust and to make sure the intended beneficiaries receive what the decedent intended. The administration of the trust is also similar to the probate process but is not subject to court supervision.

Estate assets3. By contractual provisions. Assets subject to contractual provisions pass outside the probate process and the trust process. These assets pass directly to the recipients designated in the contract that governs that asset. The most prevalent type of asset that passes by contract would be a joint bank account. Typically a bank account titled in two or more names will pass to the survivor. Other types of contractual bank accounts include the payable on death account, or the “held in trust for …” account, a Totten trust as these types of accounts are sometimes called. Other forms of contractual arrangements which pass property directly to a named beneficiary include life insurance policies, retirement accounts, and annuities.

Why someone should engage in estate planning. While each of these areas is discussed in greater detail in other articles, this basic outline should illustrate how important it is to make sure that you understand how your assets are titled and how they will pass on death. The unintended consequences of improperly titling your assets could have a devastating effect on your estate plan. For those with substantial wealth, estate planning from a tax perspective can save on income and estate taxes.

To schedule an appointment with Jay Fleece:  

Phone: 727-471-5868   jfleece@legacyprotectionlawyers.com