When a Will or Trust does not specify the decedent’s intent and the language is vague, ambiguous and unclear as to how assets should be distributed and to whom, disputes may arise between the heirs and beneficiaries. Ambiguity means that the provision could have more than one reasonable meaning. The decedent’s heirs and beneficiaries will interpret the provisions differently in their favor so that they receive a better inheritance.
Most unclear wills or trusts are a result of drafting a will or trust without the advice of an experienced Florida estate attorney.
It is the job of the personal representative or trustee to make sure that the decedent’s wishes are carried out. Therefore, it may be necessary for the personal representative to speak with other family members to see if they have any further documentation that might help figure out the provision or to contact the attorney who drafted the decedent’s will or trust and or contact the witnesses. The personal representative or trustee of the trust may also want to seek out the advice of an experienced Florida probate and trust attorney to review the document to determine whether it is necessary to file a court proceeding requesting that the court interpret the vague and ambiguous language.
Examples: Common examples of will or trust provisions are when the decedent fails to name the person to whom they wish to leave their property. Making references to my daughter or my son when the decedent has more than one daughter and son are confusing and unclear. Sometimes, a beneficiary or personal representative predeceases the decedent and the language may not specify who receives that person’s inheritance or who should be appointed successor personal representative.
The Florida Probate Court has the jurisdiction to listen to outside or extrinsic evidence that might help determine the decedent’s intentions. The Court may decide to strike certain clauses or reform the instrument by inserting language that clarifies the matter. It is also possible that the court may determine after hearing all the testimony and reviewing the evidence that the instrument is invalid.
If you have an interest or claim to an inheritance under a Florida will or trust, and you need to have ambiguous or vague language contained in the instrument reviewed to determine the decedent’s intent, you should speak with an experienced Florida estate and trust litigation attorney. An attorney can file a proceeding on your behalf with the Florida Probate Court to have the Court interpret the ambiguous language or take other action so that your rights and interested are protected.
If you wish to speak to a Florida estate attorney, call the Law Offices of Albert Goodwin today.