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Battles over family inheritance can be difficult

Many Florida residents have had the terrible experience of losing a loved one only to find out afterward that their inheritance has been lost or the loved one’s estate has been depleted through someone’s fraud or manipulation. To restore the estate, these Florida resident must then go to court with a will contest or another difficult legal action.

A court battle in another state helps illustrate how difficult these legal disputes can be. In Georgia, a probate judge found that the widow of a man who died in 2011 abused her late husband’s finances by taking some of his money before his death and shipping it to relatives in Ukraine. The man’s children from a previous marriage allege that she transferred as much as $281,000 of the man’s money to Ukraine and that she unlawfully acquired five pieces of real estate from the man through quit-claim deeds. Members of the family and neighbors of the deceased spoke to the court and reporters about how they felt shocked by the financial dispute when it arose. As of this writing, the case has yet to be decided.

Under Florida law, any “interested person” can challenge a will. “Interested people” are generally considered to be heirs and close relatives. However, it isn’t easy to have a will ruled invalid. Those who wish to challenge a will must show that it violated some of the legal formalities that are required to make a will legally enforceable.

In many cases, a will appears to meet all the formalities required under Florida state law, but relatives feel certain that it was the result of manipulation or coercion by unscrupulous people when the deceased was in a vulnerable state. To be valid, a will must reflect the true wishes of the testator, the person making the will. If the challengers can show that the will was actually the result of undue influence, they can get the court to invalidate the will.

Will contests and other forms of probate litigation are difficult, both legally and emotionally. A Florida attorney with experience in these very sensitive matters can help parties on any side of a dispute to handle probate litigation in a way that stands up for the testator’s true wishes.

Source:, “Macomb Probate Judge gives ‘kind of harsh’ opinion in estate dispute,” Jameson Cook, March 19, 2014

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