When someone passes away, all too often there are disputes involving the assets they leave behind. At Steven Silverman, P.A., we understand the complexities involved in these disagreements and provide our clients with vigorous representation while understanding that these situations can be especially impassioned as they often involve close family members.
Types of Disputes We Handle
Unfortunately, by the time a dispute involving a trust, estate, or inheritance arises, the one person that could easily resolve the issue is no longer with us. These disagreements can arise over any number of issues. Some of the ones more frequently seen are listed below.
Breach of Fiduciary Duty
Trustees and estate executors are considered under Florida law to be “fiduciaries,” which means they have a legal as well as ethical obligation to handle the administration of the trust or estate without self-dealing or conflicts of interest. When they fail to adhere to these standards, the aggrieved parties may have a legal cause of action. Examples of breach of fiduciary duty include:
- A trustee that makes unreasonable investment decisions using trust assets
- An executor or trustee that violates applicable law in regards to the administration of the estate or trust (see below)
- A trustee that pays themselves an exorbitant amount
Improper Administration of Estate
An executor of an estate must act within the bounds of applicable Florida and federal law. When they fail to do so, an interested party may be able to file suit to remedy the situation. Examples include:
- Failure by executor to properly distribute the estate assets
- Failure by executor to pay valid claims against and debts owed by the estate
Vague or Confusing Wills & Trusts
When the terms of a Will or Trust are vague or confusing it can be very frustrating and create an abundance of strife. Interested parties often cannot agree on what the language in question means, and it may be necessary to file suit and have the courts decide on how the document language should be construed. Examples of how this can occur include:
- When a testator states in their Will that “John” gets $10,000.00, and there are several family members named “John.”
- When a Will states that person X gets all of their art collection, while person Z gets everything else, and the parties cannot agree what exactly constitutes “art.”
Power of Attorney Abuse
Sometimes individuals grant another person the authority to make decisions regarding their financial affairs by executing a Power of Attorney (POA). In some cases, the person with the POA then abuses the power the POA gives them and self-deals, embezzles, or otherwise mishandles the assets with which they have been entrusted. More often that not, this occurs in situations involving elderly persons that need help managing their affairs.
Will Contests & Undue Influence
In Florida a Will can be challenged on the grounds of (1) lack of capacity, (2) undue Influence (3) lack of formalities. Lack of capacity refers to the executor of the will having the ability to mentally understand the nature and extent of the property to be disposed. Lack of capacity can most commonly arise from when the testator suffers from dementia, Alzheimer’s or another cognitive impairment.
A Will or trust is the product of undue influence if it was created based on the decisions and judgement of another person. The presumption of undue influence arises by showing a party is a significant beneficiary, was active in procuring the document, and maintained a relationship with the testator.
In Florida a Will must be signed by the testator and two witnesses who were in the presence of the testator when he or she signed the document. If these formalities do not exist the Will is not considered valid.
Contact Steven Silverman, P.A. Today
If you are involved in a trust, estate, or inheritance dispute, contact Steven Silverman, P.A., today to discuss your options. You can contact us online or by calling (305) 666-6111 to schedule an initial consultation.