Estates and Trusts

Miami Attorneys Ready to Assert Your Interests

Many people use instruments like wills and trusts to establish directives for how their assets will be distributed after death. Unfortunately, the process of administering an estate or trust does not always proceed without issues, and it is not uncommon for a party to take legal action to protect their rights or interests. If you need assistance with administering an estate or trust, contesting the validity of a will or a trust, or with a related dispute, you should seek legal counsel. The Miami estates and trusts lawyers at Hertz Sager can advise you on your options and help you pursue your desired outcome.

Estate Administration

How an estate is handled depends in part on whether the deceased person had a will. Regardless of whether a will applies, any assets that were co-owned by the deceased person and another party will usually become the property of that individual. Similarly, assets that have designated beneficiaries, like life insurance benefits, will go to those people. If the deceased person was the sole owner of property or assets, the estate will go into probate, which means that a court will oversee the administration of the estate and the payment of any debts and taxes.

Summary administration, which is a more streamlined process, may be available in cases in which the total assets of the estate have a value of less than $75,000, and/or the deceased person died more than two years prior to the administration. When summary administration is not an option, formal administration will likely be necessary. In formal administration, the deceased person’s creditors and administration costs are paid, after which any remaining assets are transferred to beneficiaries in accordance with a will or Florida’s intestacy laws when there is no will. An estates and trusts attorney can assist Miami residents with the complexities of this process.

Estate Litigation

In some instances, a person will dispute the validity of a will or one of its provisions and will file a will contest. In Florida, only interested parties can object to a will. Interested parties are defined as people who have a reasonable expectation that they will be affected by the administration of an estate. This usually includes beneficiaries, heirs, and creditors. A court will determine whether a person is an interested party based upon the facts of the case.

Generally, a person contesting a will asserts that the will was not properly executed or that the testator was not of sound mind at the time of its execution. A will cannot be contested before the death of the testator. If a person who wishes to contest a will received formal notice of a probate proceeding prior to administration, the contest must be filed within 20 days after service of the notice. If no formal notice was provided, interested parties have three months to file a contest with the assistance of a Miami estates and trusts attorney.

Trust Administration and Litigation

In Florida, a trustee has a duty to administer a trust in good faith. They must also act in accordance with the purposes and terms of the trust and in the interest of the beneficiaries. In other words, they must act solely for the beneficiaries’ benefit, even if it is against their own interests. For example, if a trustee entered into a sale or other transaction involving the investment of trust property with the trustee’s spouse or relatives, the transaction may be voidable by a beneficiary barring some exceptions. If a trustee fails to abide by the duties imposed by the trust and Florida law, they may be subject to liability in a civil lawsuit. In some cases, a trustee or a beneficiary may file a lawsuit to resolve a conflict between the language of the trust instrument and the applicable laws. Additionally, as with a will contest, a party can take legal action to contest the validity of a trust.

Overlap Between Family Law and Estate and Trust Litigation

Frequently, family law issues can overlap with Probate, Trust, and Estate issues in certain cases. For example, a spouse or child may be the beneficiary of an estate or trust, and the estate or trust has interests that need to be separately represented in a variety of contexts that have legal ramifications, such as in the event of divorce, or in determining alimony, child custody, or child support.

In some circumstances court proceedings may require the involvement of Executors of an estate, Trustees of a trust, Beneficiaries under a will or trust in pursuing or defending important family law issues. In other family law cases, an Executor (or Personal Representative) of an estate or the Trustee of a trust must represent the interests of the estate or trust separately in a family law proceeding, such as where a child or spouse is the beneficiary of a will or trust. Family members or other parties involved in a family court proceeding may have conflicts of interests that could adversely affect the separate interests of the Trust or Estate. Where these conflicting interests are present, the Personal Representative (or Executor), Trustee, Beneficiary, or Guardian may need separate legal representation in family court. These are just some of the difficult issues that can arise in family law that may also involve the litigation and administration of trust and estate matters. In such cases, the Florida family law firm of Hertz Sager can help you.

Meet With an Experienced Miami Attorney

If you need help dealing with the administration of an estate or trust, or with related litigation, the attorneys at Hertz Sager can assess your options and develop a plan that meets your needs. Our estates and trusts lawyers assist people in Miami and elsewhere in Miami-Dade, Palm Beach, Monroe, Broward, and Collier Counties. You can contact us to set up a consultation by using our form online or calling us at 305.444.3323.

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