In a highly publicized case, the stepdaughter of a Florida millionaire stands to inherit his estate, despite the fact that the woman’s biological mother was convicted of killing her stepfather in 2009. Many observers believe that the woman is set to win her probate litigation claim involving her stepfather’s estate, which is estimated at $4.2 million. She would receive $150,000, while her two adult sons would split the remainder of the estate.

The estate’s administrator hypothesizes that the stepdaughter and her children will be the primary beneficiaries because of a Florida law that prevents convicted murderers from profiting from their victims’ deaths. The statute is likely to be invoked, which would cause assets to flow to the subsequent beneficiaries, which include the man’s stepdaughter and her sons.

Nevertheless, the man’s blood relatives are seeking financial compensation in connection with his death. His adopted half-brother is attempting to secure stake in the man’s assets, pushing to disqualify the man’s stepdaughters because of her connection to the incident that caused the man’s death.

Relatives plan to have the will invalidated under the theory that the stepdaughter’s mother pressured the man to include her family in his probate documents before he was killed. The woman reportedly threatened to reveal private information about the man if he did not amend his will. Previous attempts to change the outcome of the probate, which is why some speculate that the stepdaughter is likely to win the court battle.

The man’s assets include several properties in Fort Lauderdale, along with nine cars, many of which are highly valued. The man also left behind a large yacht and a barge, along with insurance policy payouts, several bank accounts and cash in the amount of nearly $100,000.

Of course, this case doesn’t represent the norm for a great majority of estates in probate. Yet it does raise some valuable lessons to prevent such complex will disputes. Anytime a will is changed, it’s important to make sure that the testator is of sound mind and is not being coerced to make specific amendments. Changing a will under such circumstances could lead to invalidation and the enforcement of an earlier document.

Luis E. Barreto