Trust And Estate Litigation
I’m attorney L. Reed Bloodworth, Bloodworth Law Founder and CEO. I’m a 2022 U.S. News & World Report Trust and Estate Litigation Best Lawyer® based in Orlando with an office in Winter Haven, Florida.
I have a range of trust and estate litigation case experience with clients from across Florida. I work with trustees who need defending, and beneficiaries who are left out of a will, a trust, or an estate and who need representation.
Reasons For A Trust and Estate Litigation Attorney
It doesn’t matter the reason for a trust and estate litigation attorney. Whether you’re the trustee trying to defend your actions, or if you’re the beneficiary left out of a trust or a will, your dispute will have to be reviewed by an experienced litigator.
There are many ways a beneficiary can be cut out of a will or an estate. And should this occur, it will very likely involve family disputes, sibling rivalries, and financially-uncomfortable discussions and arguments between relatives.
Like most lawsuits, trust and estate litigation cases are not pleasant or easy to resolve. Whether you are the beneficiary left out of a will or trust, siblings, an ex-spouse, or if you were previously included in an estate or a trust, there may be a resolution to your case.
Don’t wait to pursue trust and estate litigation. Act quickly and consult with a skilled trial attorney to meet Florida legal deadlines.
Don’t second guess resolutions or Google for an answer that only an attorney will be able to provide you. Here are a few examples of the kinds of cases that come up frequently in Bloodworth Law trust and estate litigation.
Beneficiary Suddenly Left Out
Will or Trust Changes
Cases often involve someone who was or should have been a beneficiary for a trust, an estate, or both, and through some bad or improper act of another person, (often times it is a family member) they were removed from a trust or a will and then, that other person benefitted from it.
There is a lot of sibling rivalry that comes out in trust and estate litigation cases. For example, a mother passes away so some of her estate went to Dad who survived her. And then, some of the rest of the estate was disbursed to the three kids.
Later, one of the kids living near Dad is caring for and helping Dad who is now old, infirm, and has dementia requiring 24-7 care.
However, just months before Dad dies, his will changes, and suddenly only one son is supposed to get everything: the son who has no contact with Dad and for no particular reason.
What Did The Siblings Get?
The equal thirds – one-third to each child – had been in place for 40 years which is shown in the consistent estate planning. But now, the will pulls his other two kids out of the will although they were supposed to get 33% each.
Well, the mental incapacity of the father was confirmed by a medical exam. The brother and sister who had been cut from the will came to me because they had been removed from the will.
In this case, the family was in Florida and another state. It involved three professional people, siblings who were simply trying to establish why the will had changed suddenly –because it was a substantial estate.
The outcome was changed and reverted back to where the children all received a part of the will because it was established that the mental capacity of the father had caused a change in a will that had been one particular way for more than 40 years.
Trustee Litigation Cases
A Trust is Affected by Bad Financial Advice
In another case, there was an action that involved the value of the estate & trust that had been affected because of a bank employee who improperly dispersed advice that affected the value of a trust.
In this case, I represented and defended the trustee who was also the beneficiary of the trust.
There was an advised action against a corporate trustee which was a bank. The dollar figures would have been six figures.
Bank Gave Incorrect Advice
But the bank gave incorrect advice pertaining to certain assets of the trust, namely stock. The bank valued it at a certain amount which was vastly incorrect.
As a result of that, no estate tax return was filed because the bank told the trustee — who was also the personal representative of the trust — that no estate tax return was required.
This trust document created multiple sub-trusts and the funding of those sub-trusts was done incorrectly based upon the advice.
No Lawsuit In The End
I was able to settle this trust and estate case without litigation and no lawsuit. It was settled pre-lawsuit and they were able to confront the bank with documents and e-mails and things of that nature to prove the case.
This case involved brothers and sisters in Florida who were just trying to figure out why the value of the trust had dropped to a lower level.
Remarried Parent Leaves Estate to Spouse
Previously Included Children Get Nothing
Another type of trust and estate litigation case I see involves families where the children are questioning the will because a mother or a father remarries. The children are suddenly left out of the will. Maybe the mother dies first and the father gets everything.
Or, the mother remarries and leaves the step-father all the money, but leaves nothing to the children who had been included in the estate up until the time that the parent had remarried. This “mother and father divorced and mother passes, dad re-marries” is a typical situation in trust litigation.
Dad’s estate plan had always said that his daughter would receive an inheritance. There are multiple, previous inheritance and estate planning documents that state this.
Later in the father’s life he’s sick and has dementia, or, he’s got Alzheimer’s and is on medication, yet he and his current wife, the stepmother to my client (the daughter) have new wills written.
Sweetheart Wills and Trusts
The father had used a certain attorney for a number of years. And then with the new wife, he switches attorneys. Now they have what’s called a “Sweetheart Wills and Trusts” drafted.
(It’s called a Sweetheart Will or Trust because when a first spouse dies, all assets remain in the same revocable trust, but, for the surviving spouse’s lifetime. This means that a surviving spouse can have complete control of a Florida trust.)
In this case, his estate planning from a simple mind would read it and say, “OK, this is going to give a sort of life and estate to my wife and my daughter is going to inherit things.”
Trust and Estate Litigation Often Begins Here:
However, there was a provision in the trust that gave the wife the authority to basically take it all by pulling it out of his trust. This is where trust and estate litigation cases often begin: with new spouses, divorces, or marriages.
He, the father passes away. Immediately upon his passing, the wife takes everything out of his trust and puts it into hers. Therefore the daughter literally gets nothing.
I filed a complaint for undue influence, lack of mental capacity, and forced interference with a testamentary expectancy on behalf of the daughter who was previously included as a beneficiary.
The Outcome of the Trust Dispute
It settled at mediation, but we went through it and got testimony from financial planners, from prior attorneys, from the current attorney and we were able to get testimony.
There were files and documents that showed basically if you drew an overview of the estate plan it basically had an arrow that always went to the daughter.
We were able to show that it was his intent that the daughter would always receive an inheritance from his estate.
There was also medical testimony that yes, he suffered from dementia and things of that nature. So it was a pretty contentious litigation but it finally went to mediation and they settled and paid the value of the estate which was close to seven figures.
About Bloodworth Law
All estate and trust cases vary and no situation is similar. Talk to Reed about your case and find out what the Bloodworth Law Trust & Estate Litigation Team can do to help you, your family, or your business.Consider sharing this post