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Crescenzo v. Simpson

Crescenzo v. Simpson, 239 So.3d 213 (Fla. 2d DCA 2018)
Can a court entertain a challenge to a will if that challenge was contained in a document other than a caveat? Here, where the challenging party filed an answer to a petition for administration which contained affirmative defenses disputing the validity of the will and objecting to the appointment of the personal representative, the Court held that the challenges did not have to be contained in a caveat under FPR 5.260 to be addressed by the court.
F.S. 733.110 says that any interested person who is concerned that an estate will be administered or a will admitted to probate without his or her knowledge may file a caveat with the court.  At that point, the probate court cannot admit the will to probate or appoint a personal representative until that challenge is resolved.  FPR 5.260 provides the procedural requirements for filing a caveat- it must include the name of the decedent, the last 4 digits of the decedent's social securi…

Rachins v. Minassian

Rachins v. Minassian, --- So. 3d --- (Fla. 4th DCA 2018)

Subsequent to the Minassian v. Rachins decision, described here, the Court was once again faced with the interpretation of the Zaven Minassian Trust Agreement.  This time, the issue was whether the decedent's children had standing to contest the surviving spouse's administration of a trust for their benefit, where the terms of the trust provide that upon the spouse's death, the trust terminates, and the remaining assets are distributed to new trusts for the children's benefit.
The Court found that the children are both beneficiaries and qualified beneficiaries of the trust. They are beneficiaries, because they have a future beneficial interest in the trust, since any remaining property will be disbursed to a new trust for their benefit.  It held that the fact that the remaining property would flow to a new trust for their benefit instead of outright did not preclude them from being beneficiaries under F.S.  736.010…

Mulvey v. Stephens

Mulvey v. Stephens, --- So.3d --- (Fla. 4th DCA 2018)
In this typical fact pattern, a child from the decedent's first marriage, following a failed attempt to have the decedent's estate planning documents overturned, brought an action against the decedent's second spouse for tortious interference. While she prevailed at trial, the Court overturned the judgment because there was no competent evidence to support a claim for tortious interference with an expectancy.
A claim for tortious interference of a testamentary expectancy requires: (1) the existence of an expectancy, (2) intentional interference with the expectancy through tortious conduct, (3) causation and (4) damages. The claim should only be brought, "if the circumstances surrounding the tortious conduct effectively preclude adequate relief in the probate court."
Here, after a failed will contest, the daughter brought a tortious interference claim against the decedent's second spouse based on what she beli…

Court Stops Beneficiaries From Commuting Trust

By Jenna G. Rubin and Charles D. Rubin

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: An income beneficiary of a trust and the trust remaindermen were unable to successfully commute and terminate a trust.
FACTS: A revocable trust became irrevocable at the death of the settlor. The settlor provided for an income interest for her son for his life, with the remainder to pass to three educational institutions at the son’s later death.
The son and the remaindermen entered into an agreement to terminate the trust, and divide the $3 million of trust assets between them based on their actuarial interests. The trustee of the trust was not a party to the agreement, and did not agree to the early termination.
The son filed a complaint against the trustee to terminate the trust in accordance with the agreement, citing Fla.Stats. §§736.04113 and 736.04115. Fla.Stats. §736.04113 allows for judicial modification of an irrevocable trust on petition of a trustee or a qualified beneficiary if: (a) the purposes of the trust have b…

Webb v. Blue

Webb v. Blue, 243 So.3d 1054 (Fla. 1st DCA 2018)

In this 1st DCA decision, we get another refresher on some aspects of Florida's homestead law. Namely, this decision gets into the issue of how to validly devise homestead property to a non-heir, when the decedent is survived by heirs (but not a spouse or minor children).
The decedent here was survived by no spouse and no minor children. He devised his "entire estate" to a friend, but did not specifically reference his homestead as part of the entire estate. Relatives of the decedent filed a Petition to Determine Homestead Status, asserting that the property was the decedent's homestead and descended to the decedent's heirs since there was no specific intent in the will to pass the homestead property to the friend. The trial court denied the Petition, finding that because the decedent was not survived by a spouse or minor child, he could freely devise his homestead to anyone and the will was clear about his intent.

In re Guardianship of Jones

In re Guardianship of Jones, 243 So.3d 503 (Fla. 2nd DCA 2018)

This decision construes the language in F.S. 744.312 regarding the appointment of an emergency temporary guardian who is a professional guardian as the permanent guardian of a ward. The Court construed the language of the statute and the findings of fact in the trial court order, and found that the requirements had been met for this emergency temporary guardian to stay on as permanent guardian for the ward.
Specifically, F.S. 744.312(4)(b) provides as follows:
"An emergency temporary guardian who is a professional guardian may not be appointed as permanent guardian of a ward unless one of the next of kin of the alleged incapacitated person or the ward requests that the professional guardian be appointed as permanent guardian. The court may waive the limitations of this paragraph if the special requirements of the guardianship demand that the court appoint a guardian because he or she has special talent or specific pri…

Dejesus v. A.M.J.R.K., Corp.

Dejesus v. A.M.J.R.K., Corp., --- So.3d --- (Fla. 2d DCA 2018)
In this 2nd DCA case, the Court considered whether the homestead exemption on real property could be held by a corporation.  It held that the homestead exemption does not inure to a person residing on property, where that property is solely owned by a corporation.
As a refresher, Article X, section 4(a) of the Florida Constitution, provides as follows:
"There shall be exempt from forced sale under process of any court, and no judgment, decree[,] or execution shall be a lien thereon, ... property owned by a natural person." (emphasis added)
The Court held that the plain language of the Florida Constitution requires that the owner of property be a natural person in order to claim the homestead exemption.  The Court disagreed with the trial court's position that homestead status attached to the property because a natural person resided there. The trial court relied on Callava v.  Feinberg, 864 So.2d 429 (Fla. 3d DCA…