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News/Blog

Disclaimer of Real Estate – Thanks But No Thanks!

June 24, 2019

The recent Third District Court of Appeal opinion in Lee v. Lee, (Fla. 3d DCA January 23, 2019), addressed the question of whether a legal description for a disclaimer of real estate is required on a disclaimer.  The short answer to this question is that a disclaimer of real estate is valid without a legal description of the property, if it not to be recorded for purposes of providing constructive notice to one doing a title search for the property….

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Charities Beware of Testamentary Bequests: The Cy Pres Doctrine

June 10, 2019

The Fourth District Court of Appeal’s decision in SPCA Wildlife Care Center v. Abraham, 75 So. 3d 1271 (Fla. 4thDCA 2011) reminds us that even a vaguely worded testamentary gift can be enforced, even if the named charity does not exist or the charitable intent of the testator is not worded as specifically as required.

What is the Cy Pres Doctrine? It is a principle that equity will turn a general charitable intent of a settlor to a specific one. …

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Appeals in Probate Cases

May 28, 2019

Rule 9.170 of the Florida Rules of Appellate Procedure provides a non-exclusive list of the types of orders that can be appealed from in probate cases. This Rule was recently examined by the Third District Court of Appeal, in the decision made in Maercks v. Maercks, on April 3, 2019.

In Maercks, the decedent executed a will that was admitted to probate.  She also executed a second document regarding distribution of her assets. …

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Deference to the Intent of a Testator or Settlor

May 13, 2019

The Third District Court of Appeal’s recent opinion in Sibley v. Estate of Sibley, — So. 3d —, 2019 WL 1461325 (Fla. 3d DCA April 3, 2019) reminds us that a testator’s or settlor’s intent is to be given paramount deference in constructing the language of a testamentary document.

In Sibley, Charles Sibley, the trustee, appellant, and brother of the decedent, appealed the trial court’s order determining, inter alia, that the foundation-beneficiary of the trust was “not in existence” at the time of the decedent’s death. …

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Probate Trivia Night Winners

May 3, 2019

Three of our attorneys participated in the South Palm Beach County Bar Association’s Eighth Annual Probate Trivia Night on May 2, 2019, held at the Bocaire Country Club in Boca Raton, Florida.  After three rounds of trivia questions and two tiebreaker rounds, our three attorneys prevailed!  Their prize winnings included gift cards, “Speed Passes” to a motion calendar hearing, and bragging rights as “Probate Code Mavens”.  Congratulations to Duane Pinnock, Adam Sabocik, and Allison Sabocik!

Pictured above are Duane, Adam, and Allison together with Ms….

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Changing of Venue in Trust Disputes

April 29, 2019

The Fourth District Court of Appeal’s recent opinion in Cohen v. Scarnato, issued April 10, 2019, has us again rethinking the appropriate venue in which to bring a trust dispute action.

Florida Statute 47.122 provides that “[f]or the convenience of the parties or witnesses or in the interest of justice, any court of record may transfer any civil action to any other court of record in which it might have been brought.”  If seeking a transfer of venue under this section, and as explained by the Cohencourt, affidavits or other evidence are necessary to demonstrate the necessity for change of venue based on the statutory factors of convenience of the parties or witnesses or the interest of justice….

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Lottery Trusts – Claim Lottery Anonymously

April 22, 2019

If you have won the lottery, then most certainly, congratulations are in order.  However, before you collect your winnings, you may want to think about how you manage your brand-new wealth.  You may be excited to cash it in, go on a spending spree, buy a whole island or even just a new house, fancy sports car, pay off any debt, and send checks to your family and friends, aside from the initial payment of income taxes to the IRS. …

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Reopening a Florida Probate

April 15, 2019

Can a Florida Estate Be Reopened After Probate?

Just because a probate estate has been closed by a probate court, this does not mean that it cannot be reopened.  Indeed, public policy favors finality and the closing of estates.  A non-contested estate is supposed to be closed within 12 months from the issuance of letters of administration.  However, if probate assets are subsequently located after closure, a probate can be reopened to distribute those. SeeFla. Prob. R….

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Estate Planning For Same-Sex Couples

March 26, 2019

In the 2015 Obergefell v. Hodges decision, the United States Supreme Court upheld the right of same-sex couples to marry in all 50 states. This brought marriage equality to same-sex couples, no matter in what state they reside. Since then, same-sex married couples have been able to do their estate planning just as heterosexual couples.

Estate planning is something that must be revisited intermittently and carefully reviewed, particularly with same-sex couples. Challenges remain for same-sex couples who entered into legal unions, domestic partnerships, or other civil unions prior to marriage being an option for them….

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4th DCA: What’s a “qualified beneficiary” and why should trustees care?

February 20, 2019

Under Florida’s Trust Code there are two classes of beneficiaries, and which class you fall in is a big deal.

As defined in F.S. 736.0103(4), the term “beneficiary” refers to the entire universe of persons who have a beneficial interest in a trust, as well as to any person who has a power of appointment over trust property in a capacity other than as trustee. For purposes of this definition it’s immaterial whether the beneficial interest is present or future, vested or contingent, or whether the person having the interest is ascertainable or even living….

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