Probate Appeals Attorney in Jacksonville

Roth Law Firm Handles Probate Appeals.

Appeals in Florida are completely different from what you might have experienced in the trial court. In a way, appeals have a different purpose. Of course, your purpose is always to win, and ours is always to give you the best chances to do so. But appeals achieve that with a completely different philosophy. Appellate law involves a new kind of process for someone who just experienced a trial.

At the Roth Law Firm, we have developed the skills, nurtured the inclination, and accumulated the experience to best represent you in your appeal. We sharpen those skills every day. We are dedicated to our understanding of the law, to an obsessive research of the legal questions raised in your appeal, and to the art of persuasive writing to present your arguments to three judges’ inquisitive minds.

Contact Us to Arrange a Consultation
904-595-7900

Roth Law Firm can handle probate appeals on any of the nearly infinite issues that can arise in probate court, including in the areas of:

  • Lost or damaged wills
  • Undue influence
  • Validity of gifts prior to death
  • Fraud
  • Failure to follow proper procedures
  • Lack of mental capacity
  • Lack of testamentary capacity

  • We represent clients on appeals from probate court in front of all five district courts of appeal, depending on where the trial took place.

  • The First District, which is based in Tallahassee, hears appeals from cases originating in Alachua, Baker, Bay, Bradford, Calhoun, Clay, Columbia, Dixie, Duval, Escambia, Franklin, Gadsden, Gilchrist, Gulf, Hamilton, Holmes, Jackson, Jefferson, Lafayette, Leon, Levy, Liberty, Madison, Nassau, Okaloosa, Santa Rosa, Suwannee, Taylor, Union, Wakulla, Walton and Washington Counties.
  • The Second District with offices in Lakeland and Tampa covers five judicial circuits comprising Pasco, Pinellas Hardee, Highlands, Polk, DeSoto, Manatee, Sarasota, Hillsborough, Charlotte, Glades, Collier, Hendry, and Lee Counties.
  • The Third District in Miami hears appeals from Dade and Monroe Counties.
  • The Fourth District works form West Palm Beach and covers Palm Beach, Broward, St. Lucie, Martin, Indian River, and Okeechobee Counties.
  • The Fifth District in Daytona hears appeals from cases that started in Orange, Osceola, Volusia, Flagler, Putnam, St. Johns, Lake, Marion, Sumter, Citrus, Brevard, and Seminole Counties.

  • We also represent our clients before the Florida Supreme Court whenever it may be called for. The Supreme Court will hear cases that involve constitutional issues and others where the various District Courts disagreed on a question of law. When confronted with those questions, we will take your case as far as it needs to go.

    Before the Trial Court

    If you are looking at an appeal, you experienced a probate that became adversarial. In the months that followed, you went through a long and laborious process that lead to a trial or a summary decision by the probate judge. You probably know more about probate and trial courts than you ever wanted to.

    That process had a singular purpose. It aimed to develop the facts that would enable the probate judge to rule. You went through discovery, developed evidence, fought about what could or could not be admitted. There were depositions and documents galore.

    Unless the facts were undisputed and the judge could rule on the papers filed, you then had a trial involving live testimony. It wasn’t quite “Law & Order” but the process may have looked familiar. Each witness was examined then cross-examined by the attorneys. Evidence was presented. At the end, the judge made a ruling, though that may have come in writing and quite some time after trial depending on the circumstances.


    The Appeal

    The Nature of an Appeal

    An appeal is different. It is started by the person against whom the trial court ruled. That party is now known as the appellant. The party who prevailed before the Probate Court will respond and is called the appellee.

    There will be no new evidence, no testimony taken in court, no new document or physical evidence produced. The sole purpose of the Appellate Court is to determine whether or not the Trial Court committed an error of law. The facts are already established.

    What is important to notice here is that we talk about errors of law. The facts are already established. And it is not an error of law for the trial judge to have believed one side over the other.

    The Process

    The Appellate Process has its own intricacies but is fairly linear as well. You can divide it into five steps.

    The first step is to gather the record—all those documents, transcripts, and papers accumulated during the proceedings before the Trial Court. Nothing may be added, but (nearly) everything that came in will be available for review by the Appellate Court.

    The second step is for the appellant to write their first brief, called the initial brief. There are very strict rules governing how briefs are written. It is a job best left to appellate experts. That initial brief will explain what happened below, lay out the facts that were established by the documents and testimonies, and then argue what legal mistake or mistakes the Court committed.

    The next step is for the appellee to write their brief, called the answer brief. It is similarly formatted and the argument will be focused on why the Court was right and the appellant is wrong.

    Step four, the last brief, known as the reply brief, is again written by the appellant and is limited to addressing new issues raised by the answer. It is not an opportunity to rehash what was said in the initial brief.

    The last step is the oral argument. Again in a departure from what happened before the Trial Court, time actually in court in an appeal is extremely short. All that has taken place so far happened in writing. Oral argument may, in fact, not take place at all. If it does, each side will have twenty minutes in front of a panel of three appellate judges to answer their questions and explain one last time why the arguments they made in their respective briefs should carry the day.

    The Skill Set

    As is hopefully evident from all this, the skill set to win an appeal is different from the one to win at trial. We are now talking to three judges with legal training and a vast experience in the law, not to a jury. And we are doing so nearly entirely in writing.

    The skills we bring to bear are a deep knowledge of the law, an ability and disposition to research the legal questions down every possible avenue, and a passion for clear and persuasive writing. These are the skills we hone every day to best represent you in your appeal.

    Probate Appeals Specifically

    Compared to other areas of law, some areas of probate leave appeals that are harder on appellants and gentler on appellees. That is because the standards on topics such as undue influence or mental capacity give the trial judge a lot of discretion. It would be a disservice to pretend otherwise.

    Nevertheless, probate appeals on such topics can go both ways. For instance, a Court of Appeals reversed a finding of undue influence when the probate judge had based it on the will suddenly changing, but there was no evidence the testator had been influenced to do so.

    Questions addressed on appeals from rulings in probate court cover a myriad of legal issues. The examples below do not begin to cover them all, but illustrate the kinds of subjects we encounter.

    Undue Influence.

    Appellate courts will review determination by probate courts at the various stages of an undue influence claim. Was there influence at all? Was the influence undue, meaning, essentially, coercive? Did those exerting influence so overwhelm the person to later died as to rob him or her of their free will? Or was the will a mere reflection of affection and kindness toward the heir? Did the alleged influencer sufficiently benefit from the will? While the probate court has wide discretion to answer those questions, if it departs too widely from established precedent, or misapplies known standards by considering improper factors, it will open the door to appeal.

    Mental Capacity.

    Questions the appellate courts will wrestle with can cover whether the probate judge made findings specific enough to show that someone who was ill or of uneven memory had lost—or not—the ability to comprehend what they were doing in their will. Did they still know what property they had and who the people around them were?

    Lost Will.

    A lost will is presumed to have been revoked. Questions on appeal can cover such topics as to whether a will was known to have existed, who could testify about it, or what a copy of the will can actually prove.

    Gifts Before Death.

    Certain gifts made before death can be challenged during probate. Appellate courts will review a number of legal aspects in those cases. Did the donor have full and unencumbered rights to the gifted property, and the right to convey it? Did the probate court make findings supporting the donor’s independent (but subjective) intent to make a gift? Did the document evidencing the gift actually transfer title? Was the property in fact delivered—and accepted?

    Procedures.

    Both the probate and the appeal from the probate must follow strict procedures. For instance, in case of co-personal representatives, could just one appear? Was expert testimony necessary and properly admitted or excluded? For lost wills, was the procedure prescribed to establish its contents followed?

    Evidence.

    In probate as in every other area of law, questions of law arise about the admission of evidence. This includes both documentary evidence and the decision to hear testimony in response to a given question over the other side’s objection. Was the evidence relevant? Was it prejudicial? Was the evidence proven authentic? Was there proper foundation for its admission? Was the question a topic for expert or lay testimony?

    We Are Ready to Help You

    At the Roth Law Firm, we have made appeals a focus of our constant dedication. Whatever your issue coming out of a probate, whether you recognized it in our few examples or not, give us a call so we can help you understand what your appeal will entail and handle it from start to finish.

    Roth Law Firm Handles Probate Appeals.

    Appeals in Florida are completely different from what you might have experienced in the trial court. In a way, appeals have a different purpose. Of course, your purpose is always to win, and ours is always to give you the best chances to do so. But appeals achieve that with a completely different philosophy. Appellate law involves a new kind of process for someone who just experienced a trial.

    At the Roth Law Firm, we have developed the skills, nurtured the inclination, and accumulated the experience to best represent you in your appeal. We sharpen those skills every day. We are dedicated to our understanding of the law, to an obsessive research of the legal questions raised in your appeal, and to the art of persuasive writing to present your arguments to three judges’ inquisitive minds.

    Roth Law Firm can handle probate appeals on any of the nearly infinite issues that can arise in probate court, including in the areas of:

  • Lost or damaged wills
  • Undue influence
  • Validity of gifts prior to death
  • Fraud
  • Failure to follow proper procedures
  • Lack of mental capacity
  • Lack of testamentary capacity

  • We represent clients on appeals from probate court in front of all five district courts of appeal, depending on where the trial took place.

  • The First District, which is based in Tallahassee, hears appeals from cases originating in Alachua, Baker, Bay, Bradford, Calhoun, Clay, Columbia, Dixie, Duval, Escambia, Franklin, Gadsden, Gilchrist, Gulf, Hamilton, Holmes, Jackson, Jefferson, Lafayette, Leon, Levy, Liberty, Madison, Nassau, Okaloosa, Santa Rosa, Suwannee, Taylor, Union, Wakulla, Walton and Washington Counties.
  • The Second District with offices in Lakeland and Tampa covers five judicial circuits comprising Pasco, Pinellas Hardee, Highlands, Polk, DeSoto, Manatee, Sarasota, Hillsborough, Charlotte, Glades, Collier, Hendry, and Lee Counties.
  • The Third District in Miami hears appeals from Dade and Monroe Counties.
  • The Fourth District works form West Palm Beach and covers Palm Beach, Broward, St. Lucie, Martin, Indian River, and Okeechobee Counties.
  • The Fifth District in Daytona hears appeals from cases that started in Orange, Osceola, Volusia, Flagler, Putnam, St. Johns, Lake, Marion, Sumter, Citrus, Brevard, and Seminole Counties.

  • We also represent our clients before the Florida Supreme Court whenever it may be called for. The Supreme Court will hear cases that involve constitutional issues and others where the various District Courts disagreed on a question of law. When confronted with those questions, we will take your case as far as it needs to go.

    Before the Trial Court

    If you are looking at an appeal, you experienced a probate that became adversarial. In the months that followed, you went through a long and laborious process that lead to a trial or a summary decision by the probate judge. You probably know more about probate and trial courts than you ever wanted to.

    That process had a singular purpose. It aimed to develop the facts that would enable the probate judge to rule. You went through discovery, developed evidence, fought about what could or could not be admitted. There were depositions and documents galore.

    Unless the facts were undisputed and the judge could rule on the papers filed, you then had a trial involving live testimony. It wasn’t quite “Law & Order” but the process may have looked familiar. Each witness was examined then cross-examined by the attorneys. Evidence was presented. At the end, the judge made a ruling, though that may have come in writing and quite some time after trial depending on the circumstances.


    The Appeal

    The Nature of an Appeal

    An appeal is different. It is started by the person against whom the trial court ruled. That party is now known as the appellant. The party who prevailed before the Probate Court will respond and is called the appellee.

    There will be no new evidence, no testimony taken in court, no new document or physical evidence produced. The sole purpose of the Appellate Court is to determine whether or not the Trial Court committed an error of law. The facts are already established.

    What is important to notice here is that we talk about errors of law. The facts are already established. And it is not an error of law for the trial judge to have believed one side over the other.

    The Process

    The Appellate Process has its own intricacies but is fairly linear as well. You can divide it into five steps.

    The first step is to gather the record—all those documents, transcripts, and papers accumulated during the proceedings before the Trial Court. Nothing may be added, but (nearly) everything that came in will be available for review by the Appellate Court.

    The second step is for the appellant to write their first brief, called the initial brief. There are very strict rules governing how briefs are written. It is a job best left to appellate experts. That initial brief will explain what happened below, lay out the facts that were established by the documents and testimonies, and then argue what legal mistake or mistakes the Court committed.

    The next step is for the appellee to write their brief, called the answer brief. It is similarly formatted and the argument will be focused on why the Court was right and the appellant is wrong.

    Step four, the last brief, known as the reply brief, is again written by the appellant and is limited to addressing new issues raised by the answer. It is not an opportunity to rehash what was said in the initial brief.

    The last step is the oral argument. Again in a departure from what happened before the Trial Court, time actually in court in an appeal is extremely short. All that has taken place so far happened in writing. Oral argument may, in fact, not take place at all. If it does, each side will have twenty minutes in front of a panel of three appellate judges to answer their questions and explain one last time why the arguments they made in their respective briefs should carry the day.

    The Skill Set

    As is hopefully evident from all this, the skill set to win an appeal is different from the one to win at trial. We are now talking to three judges with legal training and a vast experience in the law, not to a jury. And we are doing so nearly entirely in writing.

    The skills we bring to bear are a deep knowledge of the law, an ability and disposition to research the legal questions down every possible avenue, and a passion for clear and persuasive writing. These are the skills we hone every day to best represent you in your appeal.

    Probate Appeals Specifically

    Compared to other areas of law, some areas of probate leave appeals that are harder on appellants and gentler on appellees. That is because the standards on topics such as undue influence or mental capacity give the trial judge a lot of discretion. It would be a disservice to pretend otherwise.

    Nevertheless, probate appeals on such topics can go both ways. For instance, a Court of Appeals reversed a finding of undue influence when the probate judge had based it on the will suddenly changing, but there was no evidence the testator had been influenced to do so.

    Questions addressed on appeals from rulings in probate court cover a myriad of legal issues. The examples below do not begin to cover them all, but illustrate the kinds of subjects we encounter.

    Undue Influence.

    Appellate courts will review determination by probate courts at the various stages of an undue influence claim. Was there influence at all? Was the influence undue, meaning, essentially, coercive? Did those exerting influence so overwhelm the person to later died as to rob him or her of their free will? Or was the will a mere reflection of affection and kindness toward the heir? Did the alleged influencer sufficiently benefit from the will? While the probate court has wide discretion to answer those questions, if it departs too widely from established precedent, or misapplies known standards by considering improper factors, it will open the door to appeal.

    Mental Capacity.

    Questions the appellate courts will wrestle with can cover whether the probate judge made findings specific enough to show that someone who was ill or of uneven memory had lost—or not—the ability to comprehend what they were doing in their will. Did they still know what property they had and who the people around them were?

    Lost Will.

    A lost will is presumed to have been revoked. Questions on appeal can cover such topics as to whether a will was known to have existed, who could testify about it, or what a copy of the will can actually prove.

    Gifts Before Death.

    Certain gifts made before death can be challenged during probate. Appellate courts will review a number of legal aspects in those cases. Did the donor have full and unencumbered rights to the gifted property, and the right to convey it? Did the probate court make findings supporting the donor’s independent (but subjective) intent to make a gift? Did the document evidencing the gift actually transfer title? Was the property in fact delivered—and accepted?

    Procedures.

    Both the probate and the appeal from the probate must follow strict procedures. For instance, in case of co-personal representatives, could just one appear? Was expert testimony necessary and properly admitted or excluded? For lost wills, was the procedure prescribed to establish its contents followed?

    Evidence.

    In probate as in every other area of law, questions of law arise about the admission of evidence. This includes both documentary evidence and the decision to hear testimony in response to a given question over the other side’s objection. Was the evidence relevant? Was it prejudicial? Was the evidence proven authentic? Was there proper foundation for its admission? Was the question a topic for expert or lay testimony?

    We Are Ready to Help You

    At the Roth Law Firm, we have made appeals a focus of our constant dedication. Whatever your issue coming out of a probate, whether you recognized it in our few examples or not, give us a call so we can help you understand what your appeal will entail and handle it from start to finish.


    Contact Us to Arrange a Consultation

    904-595-7900


    Contact Us to Arrange a Consultation

    904-595-7900