Florida Elder Law & Estate Planning Blog

Use A Florida Lawyer for Florida Estate Planning

Attention Florida residents: Always use an experienced Florida estate planning lawyer to draft your estate plan. Avoid the temptation to use an out-of-state attorney, even if you know that person is trustworthy, practices in this field of law outside Florida, even if it’s a friend or relative willing to do your work for free or on the cheap. There are good reasons for our warning.

You see, different states have different laws related to estate planning. These laws apply to taxation, execution requirements and a slew of other regulations. If your out-of-state attorney gets even a minor detail wrong, the success of your plan could be jeopardized. Here is an example of one Florida resident who learned the lesson the hard way:

In November 2021 Kevin Chadwick, a resident of St. Petersburg, Florida, tapped Jamie Katzen, an attorney in Dallas, Texas for estate planning guidance. Katzen advised Chadwick to transfer four Florida properties, one of which was Chadwick’s homestead property, out of the Kevin L. Chadwick Family Revocable Trust and into the Chadwick Family Limited Partnership. Chadwick made the transfer. He soon discovered he been given bad advice: The transfer caused the property tax on his Florida properties to increase substantially. Dismayed, Chadwick turned to the Pinellas County Value Adjustment Board for relief. The board denied his appeal.

Chadwick then turned to Katzen, the Texas attorney who had advised him, suing him for malpractice. In response, Katzen filed a motion with the U.S. District Court in Tampa, arguing that the suit should be dismissed based on the fact that he was not a Florida attorney and therefore, Florida has no jurisdiction over him. U.S. District Judge William Jung disagreed. On November 30, 2023, he denied Katzen’s motion. Jung noted that Katzen communicated with his client who lived in Florida, gave advice about Florida-based real estate, and therefore should have easily foreseen that he was, in fact, subject to the constraints of Florida law. You can read the judge’s opinion here.

The malpractice suit is ongoing and Chadwick is still stuck with the consequences of bad legal advice. We will keep our eye on how this case turns out, but the lesson for Florida residents is clear. When you are doing your estate planning, make sure you consult with an experienced lawyer licensed in Florida!

To schedule a consultation with one of our estate planning attorneys, call our office at 561-625-1100.