In Giller v. Giller, 2016 Fla. App. LEXIS 6355 (Fla. 3d DCA, 2016), Personal Representatives, Ira and Anita Grossman (“Appellants”), of the estate of Norman Giller (“Decedent”), filed a Complaint for declaratory relief in probate court against Brian Geller et al. (“Appellees”) after learning of six parcels of real property titled in the Decedent’s name as trustee. Appellants noted that the parcels were owned by Decedent in fee simple and that the properties became assets of the estate after his death, thus should have been part of the estate action. In response, Appellees filed their Answer and Affirmative Answers urging the court to dismiss Appellants’ Complaint on the grounds that Appellants lacked standing pursuant to Section 689.07(1), Fla. Stat. which does not apply until after a subsequent conveyance of the property takes place. The trial court agreed with Appellees and dismissed Appellant’s Complaint for declaratory relief.
On appeal to the Third DCA, Appellants asserted that as personal representatives, they had the right to bring a suit for declaratory action under Section 689.07(1), Fla. Stat. which governs real estate deeds and conveyances which add the words “trustee” or “as trustee” to the name of the grantee. However, Appellees argued that relief sought under Section 689.07(1), Fla. Stat. is limited only to subsequent purchasers or others relying on the deed. Appellees further argued that Decedent’s trust agreement contained no reference to the properties and none of the public records of the counties in which the properties were located contained a declaration of trust executed by Decedent declaring the purposes of Decedent or referencing the properties.
However, The Third DCA did not find Appellees’ arguments persuasive and agreed with Appellants, reversing the trial court’s dismissal. The Court held that Section 689.07(1), Fla. Stat. does not state that its application is limited to benefit “subsequent parties,” nor does the case law support such a conclusion. Since personal representatives are given the ability to bring an action on the estate’s behalf and are charged with the obligation to take possession of the decedent’s property for purposes of administration, the Court held that the personal representative’s action for declaratory relief stated a legally sufficient cause of action under Section 689.07(1), Fla. Stat.
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