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.



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 Because the law is continually changing, some provisions in this blog may be out of date.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.

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


Estate trustee litigation

Estate and Trust Litigation: Holding the Trustee Accountable


A trustee is a person who has broad discretion with very little oversight over someone else’s assets. Practically the only time a beneficiary can review what the trustee has done and have an opportunity to challenge those actions, through possible trust litigation, is when the trustee provides an accounting to the beneficiary. As such, one of the many duties a trustee has is the duty to inform and account. This fiduciary duty is critically important to ensure that the trustee is properly discharging his or her fiduciary duties in managing the affairs of the trust.


Trust litigation and estate planningThe law of trusts has always imposed a duty on the trustee to keep the beneficiary informed as to the administration of the trust and to account to the beneficiary for all actions taken by the trustee. Without a proper accounting disclosing how the trustee has handled the trust affairs, there is little chance of a trustee being held accountable and therefore, the trustee’s duties could be breached at will without any means of redress.

To avoid estate and trust litigation, the burden of proof is on the fiduciary to show that they have fully performed their duties, and the means for such proof is by providing a sufficient and proper accounting.

To continue reading this article please click here: Avoid Estate Litigation.

“A trustee has a duty to maintain clear, complete, and accurate books and records regarding the trust. It is important for the trustee to keep clear and complete records so that the beneficiary can tell whether the trustee has acted with prudence, loyalty, and impartiality and whether the costs of administration have been reasonable and appropriate.”