Fort Myers Probate Litigation Lawyer
Aggressive Resolution of Will and Estate Matters
Probate is the court-supervised process required to give effect to a will and otherwise close an estate by resolving or paying debts, claims and taxes against the estate, while also distributing the estate’s assets according to the terms of the will and other testamentary documents. Probate is supposed to be an orderly process, but disputes often arise regarding the intent of the testator, and these disputes must be resolved as part of the probate process. The Fort Myers probate litigation lawyers at Kuhn Law Firm, P.A. have years of experience conducting probate litigation in Fort Myers and throughout Lee, Collier and Charlotte counties. Our lawyers provide strong, effective representation to get to the heart of the dispute and achieve a resolution that respects our clients’ interests.
Undue Influence in the Drafting of the Will
Was the will changed shortly before death? Is money missing from the estate? Who got the house in the will? Questions often arise regarding whether the will was drafted or altered due to the undue influence of a person close to the testator. In the case of Estate of Carpenter, the Florida Supreme Court set out guidance to help determine whether undue influence was present based on a confidential relationship between the testator and beneficiary, and active procurement of a will provision by the beneficiary. If a caregiver is favored in the will, was this provision made in recognition of the caregiver’s invaluable service, or as a result of the caregiver’s undue influence on the testator? Many factors can be used to show undue influence, but the question is nearly always complex and highly contested in court. Kuhn Law Firm attorneys are thoroughly familiar with the Carpenter factors and know how to litigate an undue influence case, whether representing a proponent of or challenger to the will.
Questions abound when the will thought to be the testator’s last will and testament cannot be found. A later, different will may be offered into probate, or there may be multiple wills in existence. Wills can be modified or revoked, but unless they are done under the direction of an experienced estate planning attorney and in conformity with Florida probate law, these changes can be subject to contest in court.
The personal representative is the person named in the will or chosen to administer the estate. When this person is also an heir under the will, difficult issues may arise. If the personal representative takes actions which increase the value of the estate, litigation may be necessary to decide whether these actions were taken for the benefit of the estate or the benefit of the personal representative, which could be a violation of the representative’s fiduciary duties.
There are many ways a disinherited heir may challenge a will in probate, including:
- New will leaves the bulk of the estate to a second spouse, cutting out children from the previous marriage
- An heir is left out of the will, and it is not clear whether the omission was intentional or not
- An heir receives a smaller share in the will than other heirs similarly situated in the same class of heirs (children, grandchildren, etc.)
Under the Florida Constitution, homestead property cannot be left to someone in a will except in limited circumstances. The Florida legislature has further increased the confusion by adding its own layers regarding homestead property and revocable trusts. In the case of blended families (remarriage plus children from previous marriage), homestead issues can become increasingly complex and hotly debated, requiring strong, knowledgeable representation to litigate the matter to a successful conclusion.
Experienced and Successful Fort Myers Probate Litigation Lawyers
For probate disputes and will contests in south Florida, from questions regarding the testator’s capacity to make a will, to the undue influence of others on the testator, and all the myriad challenges which can occur, call Kuhn Law Firm, P.A. in Fort Myers at 239-333-4529 for help from experienced and successful probate litigation attorneys in Lee, Collier and Charlotte counties.