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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, --- So.3d --- (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 clear…

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.

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, 251 So. 3d 919 (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, 250 So.3d 106 (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…