Probate and Trust Litigation


Wills and trusts are the two primary types of legal tools that Florida residents use to plan for the future and ensure that their assets are directed in accordance with their wishes upon their death. 

At Purcell, Flanagan, Hay & Greene, our attorneys have extensive experience in representing parties in a wide range of will and trust disputes. We have accomplished attorneys who combine decades of experience and a track record of successful results. Our attorneys utilize a variety of approaches to resolve disputes in an efficient and effective manner.

Experienced Legal Counsel for All Types of Will, Trust, and Probate Disputes in Florida

We represent family members, trustees, personal representatives, and other interested parties in all types of will, trust, and probate disputes throughout Florida. If you need advice or representation for any of the following, we invite you to contact us for a confidential consultation:

Will Disputes

Our lawyers regularly represent clients in will disputes during probate. Probate is the legal process used to settle a person’s estate, whether they die with a will in place or not.

Disputes can and do happen during the probate process. Often, they involve challenges to the legal validity of the will. The most common grounds for contesting a will in Florida include:

  • Undue influence where the distribution of assets identified in a testator’s will was the product of inappropriate persuasion, duress, fraud, force, or coercion such that the will does not represent the testator’s knowing and free will;
  • Forgery;
  • The person making the will lacked testamentary capacity due to age or illness; and,
  • Execution requirements (signatures, witnesses, etc.) were not met.

When faced with a will dispute, it is important to ensure that you are making informed decisions. While litigating in the probate court may ultimately prove necessary, will disputes can be resolved informally in many cases. Our lawyers can evaluate your case and determine what options you have available. If we can resolve the dispute amicably without litigation, we will. If litigation is necessary, we will work to help you secure a favorable result as efficiently as possible.  

Probate Disputes Where No Will Exists

In cases where a person has died without a will or other estate plan (legally referred to as dying “intestate”), disputes may arise over who is legally entitled to the person’s assets. A surviving spouse is first in line as an heir under Florida law, followed by the deceased person’s children, grandchildren, and parents.

The probate process may also generate disputes between the estate’s personal representative and the estate’s beneficiaries.  A personal representative is appointed by the probate court to be responsible for overseeing payment of an estate’s creditors and distribution of the estate’s remaining assets to its beneficiaries.  A personal representative is charged with certain fiduciary responsibilities in administering the estate and communicating with the beneficiaries.  If a personal representative breaches his or her duties to the estate and its beneficiaries, the personal representative may be removed and/or ordered to repay to the estate any damages caused.

We represent personal representatives, beneficiaries, creditors, and other interested parties in intestate probate disputes. Here, too, we can help you understand your rights and options so that you can make informed decisions about your next steps. Whether you have questions about how to avoid a dispute or you need legal representation to resolve a dispute without unnecessary costs or delays, a lawyer at PFHG can guide you forward.

Trust Disputes

Trusts are a common estate planning tool utilized in conjunction with a will or as a stand-alone estate planning strategy.

As with wills, disputes over trusts often concern whether the document creating the trust is legally valid.  A person creating a trust must have testamentary capacity, the document must not be the subject of undue influence, and the document must be properly executed.  Likewise, a legally valid trust may not be the result of fraud, forgery, or mistake.

Disputes may also arise over a trustee’s administration of the trust. The trustee is considered a fiduciary who owes certain legal responsibilities to the trust’s beneficiaries.  Because the administration of a trust may occur over a longer period than the administration of a will, the potential for disagreements between a trustee and a trust’s beneficiaries may be greater. Regardless of the type of trust dispute you are facing and regardless of how much time has passed since the decedent’s passing, our attorneys can help protect your interests in the more efficient and effective method possible.

FAQs: Resolving Complex Will, Probate & Trust Disputes in Florida

How do I settle an estate in Florida? 

The steps involved in settling an estate in Florida depend on various factors. These include the size and complexity of the estate, the terms of the decedent’s estate planning documents (if any), and whether the decedent’s estate planning documents leave any important questions unanswered. The more challenges the settlement process presents, the more likely it is that a dispute will arise. Engaging legal counsel promptly can help mitigate the risk of disputes; in the event of a dispute, your counsel will be able to help you swiftly work toward an amicable resolution.  

How do you contest a will in Florida?

Formally contesting a will in Florida involves filing an objection to the formal notice of petition for administration or to the notice of administration in the probate court overseeing the administration of the decedent’s estate. While you may file a petition independently, hiring an experienced lawyer to assist you is generally best. Our lawyers can determine what grounds you have to contest the decedent’s will, and we can represent you in the probate court if necessary.

How long does a beneficiary have to contest a will in Florida?

Under Florida law, beneficiaries generally have 90 days from receiving a Notice of Administration to file a will contest. However, if you received a Formal Notice of Petition for Administration, you may only have 30 days to object. It is important to speak with a lawyer as soon as possible to ensure that your rights are not waived.

Can you appeal a probate decision in Florida?

It is possible to appeal a probate decision in Florida on various grounds. For example, if the probate court misinterpreted the decedent’s will or misapplied Florida’s intestate succession law, you may have grounds to file an appeal. Similarly, if the court refused to admit relevant evidence or admitted evidence that should have been excluded, this can also prove grounds to file an appeal in some cases. There are several other possibilities, and our lawyers can help you decide whether filing an appeal is your next step.

Can a trust be challenged in Florida?

Similar to wills, trusts can also be challenged on various grounds. These include undue influence, lack of capacity, improper execution, and fraud, among others. However, since trusts do not go through probate, the procedures for challenging a trust differ. As a result, it is important to work with a lawyer with specific experience handling trust disputes in Florida. At PFHG, we regularly handle trust disputes on behalf of family members and heirs, trustees, and creditors, and we can determine if you have grounds to move forward.

How long do creditors have to assert claims in probate?

Under Florida law, creditors have the right to pursue claims against a debtor’s estate following his or her death. However, they only have a limited amount of time to do so. In Florida, creditors must generally file their claims by the later of (i) 30 days from the date of service of a copy of the Notice to Creditors or (ii) three months from the date of publication of the Notice of Creditors. However, if a creditor was known (or reasonably ascertainable) to the estate and the creditor was not served with a copy of the notice, then the creditor may have up to two years to file a claim against the estate.

What are a trustee’s responsibilities following the grantor’s death?

A trustee is responsible for managing the trust’s assets and making distributions in accordance with the trust’s governing documents. Trustees are fiduciaries, meaning they must always act in the trust’s best interests. Trustees must also keep accurate books and records, treat all beneficiaries impartially, and avoid commingling and self-dealing that compromise the interests of the trust and its beneficiaries. 

Speak with a Florida Probate & Trust Litigation Lawyer

The attorneys at PFHG serve clients throughout Northern Florida and across the state. 

Our offices are conveniently located in Jacksonville’s Riverside, Ponte Vedra Beach, and Amelia Island. Contact us to speak with an attorney today.