Valdes v. Estate of Valdes, 2005 WL 2861179 (Fla. 3d DCA Nov. 2, 2005) Ambiguity is the bane of a probate practitioners life. When the answers are clear, opposing parties are able to define their positions with certainty and usually come to some sort of negotiated compromise without the need for expensive litigation. When the law is “fuzzy,” litigation is often the only tool available to achieve clarity. Which is why the concrete, unambiguous, nuts-and-bolts guidance provided by the Third DCA in this case should be welcomed. Here the key legal question was the following: may a probate judge revisit earlier decisions setting the amount of reasonable family allowance? Miami-Dade Probate Judge Arthur Rothenberg said YES, and was upheld on appeal (although his second ruling reducing the amount of family allowance was reversed). The appellate court provided the following summary of the law:
Section 2005->Ch0732->Section%20403#0732.403″>732.403 authorizes a probate court to award a “reasonable allowance” out of the money of the estate for the benefit of a surviving spouse or lineal heirs the decedent was supporting or was obligated to support during administration of the estate. 2005->Ch0732->Section%20403#0732.403″>§ 732.403, Fla. Stat. A surviving spouse and qualified lineal descendant are “entitled” to a family allowance without regard to the necessity of the allowance. DeSmidt v. DeSmidt, 563 So.2d 193, 194 (Fla. 2d DCA 1990). However, the reasonableness of the allowance must still be established. Id. As such, we conclude the probate court necessarily retains the authority to re-examine and modify an award, either upward or downward as circumstances may require, during the course of administration of the estate. Id.