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Probate Litigation

Estate Planning Attorneys Serving the Ocala Area

The lure of retiring in sunshine by the water is powerful. Millions of retirees with substantial assets call Florida home for that reason. Unfortunately, in this environment it is possible for local relatives or caregivers or "friends" to ingratiate themselves, gaining an elderly person's trust in order to get control over their assets. If you believe your loved one was taken advantage of by somebody hoping to change his or her estate plans, you should consult an experienced Ocala probate litigation lawyer about bringing a Florida will contest. This is a formal objection to the validity of the will on the basis that the will doesn't reflect the intent of the person who made the will, known as a testator. A will contest cannot be brought until after the testator dies.

It is unfortunately all too common for a trusted person to slowly take over an elderly person's life, eventually changing that person's will or trust. Someone the elderly person hardly knew could obtain all or a sizable portion of his or her assets accumulated over a lifetime of hard work. This is particularly distressing to sons and daughters of those retirees. Two of the main reasons to bring a Florida will contest is a testator's lack of mental capacity or undue influence over the testator. The former is more straightforward; it arises in cases where a person suffers from dementia, Alzheimer's or another infirmity at the time the will or trust document is made. The latter is more difficult to prove.

"Undue Influence" in Florida Probate Litigation

The attorneys at the Dean Law Firm routinely help people who have a parent or other loved one in Florida with estate and probation litigation. Often, these cases involve a person who exerts "undue influence" over a testator (the person making the will or other probate instrument). There are a number of "red flags" that constitute "undue influence." If your case involves any these red flags or others, we can help you take action.

Florida defines "undue influence" as duress, force, coercion, or fraudulent contrivances that reduce or destroy a testator's free agency. One red flag is a victim who is of very advanced age or suffers from an infirmity. Another red flag exists if the person exerting undue influence had a confidential relationship with the testator—this exists, for example, between a nurse and his patient, or a lawyer and her client.

Another red flag is a will or trust document that has an effect that doesn't make sense. It is unusual for a testator to leave his or her property to someone to whom he or she is not related or knew only for a short time. It is also unusual for a will or trust to benefit one beneficiary vastly more than other beneficiaries with the same relationship to the testator. For example, it may be a red flag if one niece is awarded most of an estate, while a decedent's other nieces, nephews and grandchildren are awarded small sums.

Another red flag exists for purposes of challenging a will or trust, if the probate instrument is changed in secret, without telling family members that would have a natural claim to an inheritance. Similarly, it may be a red flag for a testator to create another will or trust document with the help of a different attorney than the one with whom the testator had a prior relationship.

Retain an Ocala Lawyer for a Probate Matter

Nobody benefits when assets are being tied up in probate litigation. The Ocala probate litigation attorneys at the Dean Law Firm understand that you not only want a favorable result, but also as fast a result as possible. We explore all legal options to help you resolve your claims without delay. We represent our probate and estate litigation clients on a contingency fee basis, which means we only receive our attorney fees if we help you recover compensation. If you suspect undue influence was exerted to change your loved one's will, contact us for a free consultation. We serve clients whose deceased family members lived in Marion, Sumter, Lake, Citrus and Levy Counties. Call us at 352-387-8700 or contact us via our online form for a free consultation with an estate planning attorney.