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Probate dispute leads to second will being thrown out

It's no secret that, as people get older, they tend to become more vulnerable to scams that could threaten the assets the elderly person has worked so hard to accumulate. Undue influence is the legal term for wrongfully persuading or otherwise tricking a person into changing his or her end-of-life documents, and it is unfortunately a problem in Florida and throughout the country.

When families suspect that undue influence has occurred, probate litigation often arises, and to set the record straight and protect the family's assets, skilled legal guidance is necessary.

This has been the case for a family that took issue with a surprising change in their loved one's will. The family is actually a surrogate family made up of a deceased woman's longtime friends, and they went to probate court over tens of thousands of dollars that were set to be bequeathed to a man whom the deceased woman apparently didn't even like.

A second will was drawn up, and it named a 77-year-old ex-police officer as the sole beneficiary of an 89-year-old woman's estate. She died in 2007, having apparently left $70,000 to the man.

Her surrogate family members called foul, however, pointing out that the man had even annoyed the woman with repeated requests for money. He knew her because his father dated her 60 years ago.

In probate court, a judge ruled that the second will, which was drawn up by the same attorney who drew up the first will, was invalid. It was also revealed that the attorney (in no way associated with this firm) was a friend of the former police officer.

For his part, the ex-officer is appealing the ruling, but it would seem that his case is significantly weakened.

Orlando families going through a similar struggle should apprise themselves of the available legal options. Probate administration can be a complicated and daunting process without the right legal help.

Source: Eagle-Tribune, "Court to decide case without hearing from ex-police officer," Jill Harmacinski, April 3, 2013

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