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Senopoulos v. Senopoulos

Senopoulos v. Senopoulos, 253 So.3d 1228 (Fla. 1st DCA 2018)
A probate court has the inherent authority to evaluate a person's fitness to serve as personal representative. However, in order to appoint a personal representative based on something other than that personal representative's entitlement under the statute, the trial court has to actually make a finding about the person's fitness to serve.  
Here, the decedent and his spouse were married just four days before the decedent died. The decedent's father sought to be appointed as personal representative of the estate, alleging foul-play by the surviving spouse in the death of his son. The wife objected and asserted her right to serve as the surviving spouse. The court ultimately entered an order appointing the father, stating that the father was "entitled to" appointment as the "nearest heir of the Decedent willing to serve as personal representative."
The Court reversed the order appointing the f…

Gordon v. Fishman

Gordon v. Fishman, 253 So.3d 1218 (Fla. 2d DCA 2018)
Under current Florida law, the provisions of a decedent's will that impact the former spouse of that person become void upon divorce. But what happens when the decedent's will is prepared before the marriage (which ultimately ended in divorce)?  Here, the Court found that the language of F.S. 732.507(2) unambiguously requires that the person be married at the time of executing the will. Thus, a will executed before the marriage, leaving assets to the decedent's then-fiance, who he subsequently married and then divorced, are not subject to F.S. 732.507(2). 
F.S. 732.507(2) reads as follows:
Any provision of a will executed by a married person that affects the spouse of that person shall become void upon the divorce of that person or upon the dissolution or annulment of the marriage. After the dissolution, divorce, or annulment, the will shall be administered and construed as if the former spouse had died at the time of the d…

Baden v. Baden, et al

Baden v. Baden, et al, --- So.3d --- (Fla. 2d DCA 2018)
Ordinarily, a plaintiff may voluntarily dismiss his or her action pursuant to FRCP 1.420(a)(1) at any time before a hearing on motion for summary judgment. In this case, the Plaintiff tried to dismiss certain trust litigation subsequent to a settlement agreement, but the trial court refused to grant his dismissal and attempted to retain jurisdiction over the subject trust. Ultimately, the Court found that the trial court erred and had no basis for not accepting the Plaintiff's voluntary dismissal.
The Defendants had two arguments about why the voluntary dismissal should be rejected. First, they argued that F.S. 736.0201 gives the trial court discretion to maintain ongoing jurisdiction over trust actions and that jurisdiction applied here where a prior court order had been entered authorizing the court to retain jurisdiction over the trust as part of a settlement. The Court disagreed. It found F.S. 736.0201 unambiguous in that t…

Johnson v. Townsend

Johnson v. Townsend, --- So.3d --- (Fla. 4th DCA 2018)
This is an interesting decision about the intersection of community property law and Florida probate claims. The decision centers around whether a surviving spouse who is claiming an interest in purported community property must file a timely claim against the estate. The Court held that such a claim is a claim under the Florida Probate Code and that no exceptions exist to usurp the time deadlines for filing a claim in these types of proceedings.
Prior to the decedent's death, he acquired property with his wife while domiciled in Texas, a community property state. The property was titled solely in the decedent's name. Following the decedent's death, and after more than 3 months had passed since the notice to creditors was published and over two years had passed since the decedent's date of death, the wife filed a "Petition to Determine and Perfect Surviving Spouse's Community Property Interest in Estate Asse…

Wallace v. Watkins

Wallace v. Watkins, 253 So.3d 1204 (Fla. 5th DCA 2018)
In this decision, the Court considered, among other things, the applicability of the 2 year non-claim period to actions brought to determine the beneficial interest of heirs. Years after an order of summary administration was entered, purported heirs of the decedent petitioned to reopen the summary administration because they argued they should have received notice of the petition for summary administration since they were easily ascertainable known heirs of the decedent. The beneficiaries of the order of summary administration argued that the petition to reopen was time barred because it had been over 2 years since the order of summary administration was entered. 
The Court held that Florida's nonclaim statute, F.S. 733.710(1) only applies to claims brought against the estate by creditors, and that it does not apply to the beneficial interest of heirs. It noted that the summary administration statute, F.S. 735.206, further clea…

Calderon v. Vazquez

Calderon v. Vazquez, 251 So.3d 303 (Fla. 3d DCA 2018)
In this decision, the Court considered whether a beneficiary made sufficient allegations regarding the proceeds of a life insurance policy in order to survive a motion to dismiss. In reversing the trial court's dismissal, it found that there was enough evidence to proceed on the beneficiary's complaint.
The beneficiary alleged that his father, the decedent, had a life insurance policy of which he named his brother as the sole beneficiary. Purportedly, he had made it clear to his brother that he wanted his brother to hold the proceeds of the policy in trust for his wife and son for their education and living expenses. The father also left a Bolivian will in which he stated that his wife and son were the beneficiaries of the policy. Following the decedent's death, the uncle used some of the proceeds for the beneficiary's education and living expenses, but then refused to give the beneficiary the balance for his college …

Dixon v. Bellamy

Dixon v. Bellamy, 252 So.3d 349 (Fla. 4d DCA 2018)
This decision clarifies the statute of limitations for determining paternity for purposes of intestacy in a probate proceeding. Prior to 2009, there was a four year statute of limitations from a person's 18th birthday to bring a proceeding to determine paternity. In 2009, F.S. 732.108 was amended to eliminate the four year statute of limitations imposed by F.S. 95.11(3) on paternity determinations in a probate proceeding to determine intestate succession going forward. Because there is no explicit language in the amended statute creating a new cause of action, the Court held that all causes of action accruing before the statute was amended are subject to the four year statute of limitations.