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Lee v. Lee

Lee v. Lee, --- So.3d --- (Fla. 3d DCA 2019)
This decision deals with the validity of a disclaimer executed by one of the decedent's daughters. Specifically, the Court considered whether the disclaimer was valid because it did not contain a legal description of the real property being disclaimed. 
Disclaimers are governed by Chapter 739, the Florida Uniform Disclaimer of Property Interests Acts. A valid disclaimer must (1) be in writing, (2) declare that the writing is a disclaimer, (3) describe the interest or power disclaimed, (4) be signed by the person making the disclaimer, (5) be witnessed and acknowledged in the manner provided for by deeds of real estate and (6) be delivered in the manner provided by the statute. F.S. 739.104. 
The statute provides additional requirements if the disclaimer is to be recorded, to provide constructive notice to those conducting a title search regarding real property being disclaimed. It states that a disclaimer "relating to real estate does…

Goodstein v. Goodstein

Goodstein v. Goodstein,  --- So.3d --- (Fla. 4th DCA 2019)

I started this blog in 2013, and this is the first time I have the opportunity to write about a case that I am actually involved in. This case involves a long-running dispute between the father of the decedent, the personal representative of the estate, and the decedent's children, the beneficiaries of the estate (the personal representative's grandchildren). The personal representative appealed a decision by the trial court which required all estate assets to be placed in a restricted depository.
Restricted depositories have been common-place in Miami-Dade County for quite some time. Recently, South Palm Beach County has instituted as similar requirement. As a matter of course, all estates opened since the introduction of this policy have been required to place all assets in a restricted depository and assets may only be withdrawn with a court order.
Here, the beneficiaries had concerns about their actions as personal…

Maldonado v. Buchsbaum

Maldonado v. Buchsbaum, --- So.3d --- (Fla. 4th DCA 2018)
In certain situations, it is possible to get a temporary injunction without notice, but a court should not do so without strictly complying with the rules governing injunctions. In this case, the surviving spouse sought a temporary injunction against the decedent's aide who had allegedly fostered a relationship with the decedent and alienated him from his spouse during life. Following his death, the wife sought to enjoin the aide from taking possession of estate assets, destroying financial documents or representing to others that she was the sole beneficiary of the estate or representative of the decedent. 
The trial court issued the temporary injunction without notice to the aide based on spouse's argument that notice of the proceedings prior to the issuance of the injunction would afford the aide the opportunity to transfer assets out of the country. The Court found that the injunction was appropriate but that the tria…

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, 259 So.3d 851 (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…