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My beloved mother died in Florida in 2008. Her will – forged in my opinion but I can’t prove it – was signed under suspicious circumstances weeks before her death and creates a trust.
This trust allows her husband, my father, to use the income from her estate until his death. At this point, her estate is to be distributed to her three children or their heirs. Unfortunately, it also made her husband an executor.
My father is wealthy independently; I estimate it was worth $ 15 million in 2008. He doesn’t need a home as he lives in their house with his new and much younger wife. We children understand that all of his money goes to them and their children in Australia, and we both agree that we are not entitled to it.
Once the funeral was over, my father took all of my mother’s investments, a $ 1 million CD and a $ 300,000 mutual fund. They have disappeared. He quickly sold my mother’s Florida home and pocketed $ 250,000.
““My father took over all of my mother’s investments, a $ 1 million CD and a $ 300,000 mutual fund. He quickly sold my mother’s Florida home and pocketed $ 250,000. ‘”
He later sold her home in Illinois and pocketed that – $ 500,000. He auctioned their possessions and raised over $ 100,000 and took that away. There’s more, but I’m dropping it. Its earnings exceed $ 2 million. We don’t get the revenue, so the number in 2008 is the number.
The attorney says Florida law does not require the will to be read out or notify the next of kin. What is missing is an annual statement of the assets and the distribution of income from their estate to their beneficiaries, but we cannot enforce them as the lawyer is being compromised by my father’s representation.
Additionally, the attorney says there can be no recovery until the husband dies and his will is carried out. My sister is dead and her two children will not be attending. Even so, my brother and I both agree that we will each offer them a sixth of whatever we win back. Can we refund ourselves first? It is likely that they will not respond. What do we do then?
Anyway, I’ve lost hope. My dad is almost 90 and seems to be losing his cognitive skills, but he is still manipulating everyone. Is there a strategy that could express my mother’s will for the benefit of her children?
Search for justice and lost inheritance
The first thing to look for is independent advice.
There is so much to unpack here, least of all your feelings for your father and your suspicions about the legality of your mother’s will and the way her trust was managed or not managed at all. A word of caution: your assumption that it is a forged will cannot be confirmed.
The truth could be far more mundane than the wanton looting of your estate described in your letter – an estate that is in the hands of a single person. I don’t want you to hunt ghosts, and I don’t think it’s healthy to hunt dragons.
Florida law states that there is a three month statute of limitations to dispute a will, a period that can only be extended if there has been fraud, misrepresentation, or misconduct. (You can read more about the Florida Statute on this deadline here.)
In such cases of uncertainty about the legitimacy of a will or trust, it is always important to act quickly. You have – in all likelihood – passed far too much time since your mother’s death to take legal action now.
““Your assumption that there was a false will cannot be confirmed. Also, you have already let too much time go by since your mother died. ‘”
You have also far exceeded the limitation period for challenging a trust. There is also a different statute of limitations for challenging a trust – for example, due to lack of intellectual capacity or improper influence – and filing a lawsuit for breach of a trust. These periods can range from six months to four years.
You may be more fortunate to hold your father accountable for running the trust, provided you and your siblings are qualified beneficiaries. Silence is typically not an option when managing a Florida trust.
Under this Florida statute, the trustee should provide the beneficiaries with adequate information. “Upon reasonable request, the trustee must provide a qualified beneficiary with pertinent information about the assets and liabilities of the trust and the details of its administration,” it says.
““You may be more fortunate to hold your father accountable for running the trust, provided you and your siblings are qualified beneficiaries.””
Law firm Comiter, Singer, Baseman & Braun outlines the process to compel a trustee to submit annual financial statements and relevant details about the trust’s assets and liabilities. The trustee is obliged to inform the beneficiaries, among other things, of the existence of the trust and the identity of the settlor (s).
“If a trustee doesn’t meet the Florida Trust Code, they can break it,” says the law firm. “A trustee who violates his / her duties as a trustee may be compelled by the court to account for and / or provide information to a qualified beneficiary.”
Her mother could have left her own foundation for her children. It’s hard to know their thinking. Perhaps she thought it best to let her husband take care of the estate. Or maybe she thought he would pass it on to her children.
That dragged on for over 15 years. Don’t let it take over the next 15.
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More from Quentin Fottrell:
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