Probate proceedings in March of 2007 regarding a wrongful death lawsuit set a unique and esoteric precedent for probate law in Florida. Furthermore, it undoubtedly gives reason to proceed carefully when retaining representation in matters such as these. With so much to lose, understanding the probate process, as well as the jurisdiction a judge may have over contested property is crucial.
On March 10th 2007 the tragic death of 22 year old Christina M. Pitcher, as a result of a multi-car accident, and subsequent wrongful death lawsuit bestowed upon the two liable individuals, caused a cacophony of appeals and unrest.
The victim’s father, John Pitcher, and mother Olga Waldo, were divorced but amicable. They retained the same attorney for the wrongful death claims, as well as their own interests in the estate created if the wrongful death claim was successful. This is where knowledge of the process itself, and the jurisdiction, or lack thereof, of the judges involved could have made an impact on the outcome, and the appeals that followed.
Their attorney secured retainers from both parents of the deceased, and assured Pitcher that there would be “an amicable division of any proceeds that may result from our representation.” He also advised Pitcher to renounce his right to be the personal representative of his daughter’s estate and instead had Pitcher consent to the decedent’s mother becoming the personal representative.
Knowing the role of a personal representative could have been key in avoiding the unfair outcome that Pitcher ended up with. As the personal representative, Waldo essentially became the executor of the estate of her deceased daughter; which after the wrongful death suit was successful, it was valued at $1.1 million dollars. The supposed ‘amicable’ agreement proposed by their attorneys initially, left Waldo with $1 million dollars and Pitcher with only $100,000. Furthermore, there could be no appeal at this point, as the court now lacked the jurisdiction.
Cases such as this serve as a vexing reminder that securing a knowledgeable attorney, who will proceed with your best interests and inform you of your rights, is paramount in navigating the course of an otherwise difficult probate or estate planning case. During times of grief or frustration, the best thing to do is retain a trustworthy attorney like David Bauer of Bauer Brofksy Law Firm, one of the most committed South Florida Law Firms. For more information, please contact us at (305) 712-7979 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Pitcher v. Waldo, 159 So.3d 422