Boca Raton Estate Litigation Attorney
Resolving Family Issues Regarding Trusts and Estates
Grief, sadness, loss, and memories are not all that is left behind after a loved one passes away. Sometimes, those shared feelings are accompanied by different perspectives about how their loved one’s estate, assets, or other issues should be handled. Similar disputes can also arise during the person’s lifetime if age or illness leaves them unable to manage their own affairs and trust must be placed in others to do the right things on their behalf.
Family members, some of whom may live far from South Florida, can have different perspectives about their loved one’s intentions and their own rights. Heirs and others with interests or claims may be pitted against each other in costly battles which raise powerful feelings and strain the bonds of family. It is not uncommon for significant changes to be made to a loved one’s estate plan as a result of infirmity or the influence of a third party, with the result being that our loved ones leave behind an estate plan that does not reflect what was truly intended.
Forceful Advocacy and Compassionate Counsel for All Estates and Trusts Disputes
At Ellis Law Group, our Boca Raton estate litigation attorneys understand the legal complexities as well as the emotional sensitivities involved in these disputes. No matter where you are or what your concerns, we offer strategic counsel and forceful advocacy which facilitate positive outcomes and can help you and your family heal. Knowing that estates and trusts litigation can be overwhelming and often costly, we also offer flexible means of providing these services so that those requiring high-level legal representation can get the help they need during a difficult time.
In the courtroom and at the negotiating table, our litigators balance their fierce protection of our clients’ interests with an ability to find creative and equitable solutions. We bring decades of litigation experience and insights to the representation of individuals and entities across the country with interests in all types of trusts and estates litigation in Florida. This includes will contests and trust contests, disputes over transfers of money and real estate, actions concerning pay-on-death and survivorship rights, elective share and spousal rights cases; actions involving breach of fiduciary duty; accounting disputes; and incapacity and guardianship matters.
In Florida, probate is the court process of identifying, gathering, and distributing a decedent’s assets and addressing any of their liabilities after they die. Even with a valid will, probate is still necessary to pass ownership of probate assets to beneficiaries.
As that process moves forward, disputes can arise between beneficiaries, heirs, creditors, family members and others who may claim an interest in the decedent’s assets. Some may challenge the validity of a will or other controlling estate documents or take issue with how those documents are being interpreted. Some may have concerns about the way an executor, guardian, or other fiduciary is discharging their responsibilities or distributing assets. These disputes are addressed in probate litigation.
As with all contested disputes which make their way to the courthouse, probate litigation requires attorneys who have the skill, commitment, and legal acumen to effectively advance their client’s positions and protect their rights. The Boca Raton probate litigation attorneys at Ellis Law Group all share those essential qualities. No matter how complex or entrenched a probate case may be, we are the advocates you want in your corner.
Trusts – revocable or irrevocable, for special needs, charitable giving or other purposes – are fundamental and effective estate planning vehicles. But they are not immune from challenges and disputes. Trusts involve multiple parties, many with different interests and roles. The individuals who make the trust (and those who helped them prepare the trust documents), beneficiaries, the person charged with the responsibilities of administering the trust and following its terms – all may not see eye-to-eye about a range of issues.
Ellis Law Group’s Boca Raton trust litigation lawyers know how to navigate disputes involving trusts because we know trusts inside and out. Our lawyers regularly prepare meticulous trust documents as part of our estate planning services. We are actively engaged in the administration of trusts and the fiduciary responsibilities of managing and distributing trust assets. The insights we gain from this experience complement the advocacy skills of our litigators and give our clients a distinct advantage when conflict arises.
When someone passes away in Florida after having prepared a will, there may be people who are unhappy with its contents and feel like they have been shortchanged. There may be others who don’t believe the will is valid or that it was executed under circumstances that should render it invalid. Will contests are the means through which these claims are resolved. Our Boca Raton will challenge attorneys represent those whose interests need protection, whether in defending a will’s enforceability or attacking its validity.
Florida will challenges are usually based on one or more of the following alleged flaws with the document:
- Lack of proper formalities. If the will was not properly executed or witnessed, it can be contested and ultimately set aside.
- Lack of capacity. As with other legal documents, the person directing, preparing, and executing a Florida will must have the mental capacity to understand the contents and impact of the will. An aggrieved heir or others may challenge the validity of a will be presenting medical evidence showing that the decedent suffered from mental conditions such as dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, psychosis, or other medical or psychological problems that were so severe as to call into question whether the decedent knew what they were doing.
- Undue influence. If someone acting in their own self-interest exerted undue pressure on the testator in order to get favorable treatment in the will, that will could be declared invalid on the grounds of undue influence.
- Duress. Taking undue influence one step farther, if someone threatens, pressures, or coerces the testator into executing a will, it can be set aside on the basis of duress.
- Fraud. If someone lies or deceives the testator into providing or not providing for certain beneficiaries in their will, that fraud could cause the will to be set aside.
Regardless of the reason for contesting a will in Florida, the time to do so is short, so if you believe a will in which you may have an interest is fundamentally flawed, it is imperative that you reach out to an experienced Boca Raton will contest lawyer as soon as possible.
The passage of time or an unexpected tragedy can make it difficult or impossible for some individuals to responsibly manage their own affairs. Such individuals are vulnerable to inadvertent and costly mistakes as well as the bad intentions of those who may try to take advantage of their vulnerability. That is why Florida law establishes a mechanism – guardianship – designed to protect the interests and assets of those who can no longer do so themselves.
A “guardian” is a person or entity (such as a non-profit or corporate trust department) appointed by a court to manage the affairs of an individual who has been declared legally incompetent (a “ward”). Since the ward is incapable of safely and competently managing their own affairs, the guardian is expected to act on their behalf. This means acting in the ward’s best interests, not their own.
Sometimes, however, guardians do not adhere to their fiduciary responsibilities and make decisions that hurt the people they are supposed to protect and enrich themselves instead. When that happens, our litigators stand ready to hold such wrongdoers accountable for their actions and protect wards from further financial harm.
Many aspects of estate planning involve placing trust in others. Trustees, executors, guardians, and those who have been given power of attorney over a person’s affairs all have legal and ethical obligations to effectuate that person’s wishes and directives. They own fiduciary duties which require them to set aside their own personal interests and perform their responsibilities guided by the underlying documents and the best interests of the testator and beneficiaries.
However, the power entrusted to a fiduciary can be abused and become a vehicle for greed, fraud, and self-dealing. Making matters worse, the person breaching their duties may be a trusted friend or family member who takes advantage of their position to focus on their own financial interests. In such situations, our attorneys can take quick and decisive action to remove the fiduciary, hold them accountable for any losses, and stop any further damage.
Contact an Experienced Boca Raton Estate Litigation Attorney Today
No one welcomes litigation. No one dealing with the loss of a loved one or the complexities of managing their affairs wants to find themselves embroiled in contentious disputes, especially those involving other family members. But when such matters do arise, it is essential to have powerful allies, advisors, and advocates who can help efficiently resolve these complex disputes fairly and equitably.
At Ellis Law Group, P.L, our litigators have immersed themselves in the nuances of contested trusts and estates disputes for years, obtaining insights which can only be gained through experience. With clarity, compassion, and an absolute commitment to our clients’ interests and goals, we offer seasoned representation at accessible costs.