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Hernandez v. Hernandez

Hernandez v. Hernandez, --- So.3d --- (Fla. 3d DCA 2017)
In guardianship cases, the probate court has discretion to determine who is an "interested person" in a particular proceeding based on the particular purpose of, and the matter involved in, that proceeding. In this proceeding relating to the payment of attorney's fees from a Ward's assets, the Ward's son alleged that he had standing as an interested person to object to the payment of those fees.  
The attorney's fees being sought in this case generated from the following proceedings: (1) After one of the Ward's sons allegedly mistreated her, her other son petitioned to be appointed as her plenary guardian, to which the first son objected. (2) Once the second son was appointed as plenary guardian for his mother, he engaged in an adversary proceeding against the first brother and his family for mistreating the mother. (3) The second son, as guardian, petitioned to sell the Ward's property to pay for he…

Winslow v. Deck

Winslow v. Deck, --- Fla.2d DCA --- (Fla. 4th DCA 2017)
This decision centers on technical pleading requirements and a trial court's unwillingness to allow a party to amend their pleading to comply with those rules.  Specifically, this decision deals with the dismissal of a counterpetition for administration as untimely pursuant to F.S. 733.212(8), which gives interested persons 3 months to contest the validity of a will, among other things.  The Court reversed the trial court's dismissal.
The decedent in this case left two competing wills- one leaving his assets to his two children, the other leaving his assets to his friend.  His daughter petitioned to have the first will admitted to probate and was appointed as personal representative.  Later, the friend filed the second will, with an emergency petition to revoke the daughter's letters of administration, a counterpetition for administration, an objection to the daughter's petition for appointment as personal represent…

Sudman v. O'Brien

Sudman v. O'Brien, 218 So.3d 986 (Fla. 2d DCA 2017), 2017 WL 1829479
This result in this decision should serve as a cautionary tale for all parties involved in litigation - the failure to properly respond to a request for admission will be treated as a deemed admission pursuant to Florida Rule of Civil Procedure 1.370(a), which could completely alter the disposition of a case.  Here, the surviving spouse sought to take her elective share from her husband's estate.  The trustee of her husband's trust objected to her election, and served a request for admission on the wife asking her to admit that she executed a prenuptial agreement with the decedent prior to her marriage.  The wife did not respond.  As a result, the trial court held that the request was deemed admitted, and granted the trustee's objection to her election to take the elective share.
The Appellate Court upheld the trial court's decision.  It explained that Florida Rule of Civil Procedure 1.370(a) provid…

U.S. Sugar Corp. v. Estate of Mullins

U.S. Sugar Corp. v. Estate of Mullins, 211 So.3d 110 (Fla. 4th DCA 2017)
This decision deals with an estate's attempt to seek discovery from a non-party to the probate action.  In this instance, the non-party is the entity which owns the location on which the decedent died.  The estate served a subpoena duces tecum upon the non-party seeking documents relating to its investigation of the fatal accident which killed the decedent.  The Court held as follows:
(1) The discovery sought information not reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence in the probate proceeding.  At the time of serving the discovery, the estate had not filed a wrongful death action.  Because the underlying probate petition was devoid of any allegations upon which to premise discovery upon the non-party, the Court agreed with the non-party that the subpoena was nothing more than a fishing expedition seeking information which might give rise to a potential wrongful death action, and was n…

In re Cross Trusts

William Cross, as Trustee of the Perl Donohue Cross Revocable Trust and as Trustee of the Charles William Cross Revocable Trust v. Annette Cross Caito, et al., Case No.: 502015CP001572XXXXMB
This decision raises a host of trust administration questions regarding claims of breach of fiduciary duty.  While the specific breaches at issue in this case were very fact specific, the Trial Court's findings are useful in a variety of trust administration contexts: 
A. Statute of Limitations
          (1)  Trust limitation notices:  
The first question the Court dealt with was the adequacy of certain trust limitation notices to bind a beneficiary to a six-month statute of limitations as opposed to a four-year statute of limitations.  The Court held that a specific reference to the six-month statute of limitations is required by F.S. 736.1008.  Without such a reference, the statute of limitations will be four years.
          (2)  Adequacy of trust disclosure documents:
The Court next considered w…

Bryan v. Fernald

Bryan v. Fernald, --- So.3d --- (Fla. 2d DCA 2017)
In determining the beneficiaries of an estate, can a probate judge rely on a factual finding made by a judge in a medical malpractice case?  Here, where there was a question about the validity of the decedent's marriage at the time of her death, which would alter the determination of her intestate heirs, the Court held that the doctrine of res judicata did not apply, because in a probate action to determine beneficiaries and a medical malpractice suit, the things sued for and the causes of action are different.

MonarchCare, Inc. v. Guardianship of Block

MonarchCare, Inc. v. Guardianship of Block, 204 So.3d 508 (Fla. 4th DCA 2016)
In what seems to be a growing trend of appellate decisions involving guardianship fees, this decision involves a trial court's decision to reduce a professional guardian's hourly rate. Here, a professional guardian and an individual served as co-guardians of a ward.  The professional guardian billed at its standard hourly rate of $95 per hour, while the individual co-guardian billed at a rate of about $45-$50 per hour.  At an earlier hearing, the trial court granted a pending fee request for $95 per hour for the professional guardian, but prospectively capped both guardians fees at $45 per hour.
Subsequent to the entry of that order, a new judge took over the case, and the professional guardian made another request for its fees at $95 per hour.  Following an evidentiary hearing, the new judge reduced the professional guardian's rate to $45 per hour.  The professional guardian appealed.
The Court hel…