Florida Disclaimer of Property Interests Act

Often times in Florida we see heirs or beneficiaries who realize that they have a share of a probate estate but for their own estate planning purposes, for taxes or for continued qualifications for medical benefits or other reasons don’t want to take the probate assets.  Instead, they seek to simply pass those assets to their own heirs or other beneficiaries.   Florida has a mechanism for taking a pass on Probate assets and its called the “Florida Uniform Disclaimer of Property Interests Act.”  The relevent law is codified in Florida Statute Chapter, 739 and begins with section 101.  (more…)

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Title Considerations for a Florida Mobile Home Purchase

Florida law requires that the transfer of mobile homes in most cases be done through transfer of a certificate of title.  The applicable Florida statute, Fla. Stat. 319.So22(1) provides:

(1)Except as provided in ss. 319.21 and 319.28, a person acquiring a motor vehicle or mobile home from the owner thereof, whether or not the owner is a licensed dealer, shall not acquire marketable title to the motor vehicle or mobile home until he or she has had issued to him or her a certificate of title to the motor vehicle or mobile home; nor shall any waiver or estoppel operate in favor of such person against a person having possession of such certificate of title or an assignment of such certificate for such motor vehicle or mobile home for a valuable consideration. Except as otherwise provided herein, no court shall recognize the right, title, claim, or interest of any person in or to any motor vehicle or mobile home sold, disposed of, mortgaged, or encumbered, unless evidenced by a certificate of title duly issued to that person, in accordance with the provisions of this chapter.

In most circumstances (unless title transferred by a manufacturer or by operation of law) you will want to see the certificate of title and get a transfer of such certificate so that you can obtain marketable title to the mobile home.  The Florida Supreme Court has provided a strict interpretation on the above referenced statute, with the only notable carve out coming from a scenario where a bona fide purchaser in good faith purchases from a dealer of mobile homes and takes possession but cannot obtain transfer of the actual title.  For more see In Re Orange Rose LLC 8: 10 -bk-24856-MGW. (more…)

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Florida Homestead Property

One of the more frequently encountered areas of confusion in Florida Probate and real property disputes revolves around Florida’s state constitutional protections for homestead property.  The Florida constitution Article 10, section 4 of the Florida constitution provides:

SECTION 4. Homestead; exemptions.—

(a) There shall be exempt from forced sale under process of any court, and no judgment, decree or execution shall be a lien thereon, except for the payment of taxes and assessments thereon, obligations contracted for the purchase, improvement or repair thereof, or obligations contracted for house, field or other labor performed on the realty, the following property owned by a natural person:

(1) a homestead, if located outside a municipality, to the extent of one hundred sixty acres of contiguous land and improvements thereon, which shall not be reduced without the owner’s consent by reason of subsequent inclusion in a municipality; or if located within a municipality, to the extent of one-half acre of contiguous land, upon which the exemption shall be limited to the residence of the owner or the owner’s family;

(2) personal property to the value of one thousand dollars.

(b) These exemptions shall inure to the surviving spouse or heirs of the owner.

(c) The homestead shall not be subject to devise if the owner is survived by spouse or minor child, except the homestead may be devised to the owner’s spouse if there be no minor child. The owner of homestead real estate, joined by the spouse if married, may alienate the homestead by mortgage, sale or gift and, if married, may by deed transfer the title to an estate by the entirety with the spouse. If the owner or spouse is incompetent, the method of alienation or encumbrance shall be as provided by law.


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What is a Personal Representative and What are their Responsibilities in a Florida Probate?

Importantly, in a Formal Administration a Personal Representative is nominated.  Often referred to as an “executor” in other states, Florida requires that a person be appointed as the Personal Representative to administer a Formal Administration probate proceeding.  Whether you are being nominated as the potential future Personal Representative in a Last Will and Testament or if you are about to open a Florida Probate proceeding, you should understand the role of a Personal Representative and the responsibilities required of you. (more…)

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Dealing with Denied Insurance Claims Based on an Allegation of Late Notice in Florida

One of the primary justifications used for the blanket denial of coverage for many insurance claims stems from a general policy requirement contained in most Florida Homeowners’ Insurance policies that an insured must provide the carrier with prompt notice of the loss.  “Prompt notice” as you would probably guess is an undefined term and not specifically identified within your policy.  Two years? Three years? More? The answer is unclear but in part shaped by the specifics of the loss and in part by the general guideposts laid out by our Florida Courts.  (more…)

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Suing on Behalf of the Estate: Wrongful Death Actions and Other Claims in Florida Probate

The general duty of a Personal Representative to faithfully gather the assets of the decedent also includes an obligation to make a determination regarding litigation on the decedent’s behalf after death and the continuation of litigation that the decedent initiated prior to his or her passing. These enumerated powers are set forth in Florida Statute 733.612(20) as follows:

Except as otherwise provided by the will or court order, and subject to the priorities stated in s. 733.805, without court order, a personal representative, acting reasonably for the benefit of the interested persons, may properly (more…)

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Understanding the Statute of Limitations in Florida Probate Litigation

One of the common themes that we encounter in dealing with probate litigation in Florida is an unsupervised family member in charge of a probate administration.  Through the course of the typical probate administration in Florida, as an heir or beneficiary you may be presented with several documents collectively known as “waivers” that allow for the expeditious administration of the Florida Probate but in turn allows the designated Personal Representative to avoid the otherwise required accounting disclosures.  Remember, to close out a Probate Administration the Personal Representative will submit a document known as a “Petition for Discharge” alleging that under penalty of perjury the estate was properly administered.  What we have frequently seen in Florida is a Personal Representative who has filed this final petition but has not fairly distributed all of the probate assets to the proper heirs and beneficiaries.  Then, at some point thereafter, by dealing with the third party institution, through hearsay or otherwise, the beneficiaries or heirs learn that they didn’t receive their full distributive share of the total assets.  (more…)

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Fire Damage Claims in Florida

Fire Losses unfortunately cause the destruction of substantial structural components and the loss of significant personal property items.  When dealing with your insurance company after reporting a Fire Loss, remember that your carrier is operating a business, with a natural incentive to wrongfully deny or undervalue the damages you sustained in your loss.  Your policy and Florida law will provide a backdrop for your ability to recover for losses associated with fire damage.  You may have special limits of liability for certain personal property items or categories of items such as antiques or jewelry.

Initially after reporting an insurance claim for a Fire Loss in Florida it is important to not sign any release or other documents without consulting a professional. We also strongly recommend that you take the opportunity to speak with someone prior to providing a recorded statement.   Although your assigned adjuster or third party adjuster may be friendly and approachable, don’t forget that your insurance company will tightly construe the terms, conditions and exclusions in your policy when making a determination regarding coverage.  (more…)

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