Sheets v. Palmer, 2005 WL 3403620 (Fla. 1st DCA Dec 14, 2005)

In this case the parties settled a will contest by executing a settlement agreement that provided, in part, that the party challenging the will would

“receive a $38,500.00 credit from the Estate as a specific bequest made to him under the terms of the . . . [w]ill.”

Apparently when the settlement agreement was signed the parties did not address if this “bequest” would bear any of the taxes and administrative expenses of the estate. Well, they should have. The residuary assets of the estate were insufficient to cover these expenses. As such, the personal representative said the $38,500.00 specific bequest would have to bear a proportionate share of these expenses. The will-challenger said NO, arguing the parties never intended that result. Duval County Judge James L. Harrison agreed.

The First DCA said not so fast, holding as follows:

Lesson Learned:

It can be incredibly frustrating to find yourself in litigation after apparently settling a case in mediation. However, as this case makes clear, carefully drafting the settlement agreement is just as important as negotiating the underlying deal. If the parties had explicitly addressed in the settlement agreement whether or not the $38,500.00 specific bequest would have to bear a proportionate share of the estate’s taxes and expenses, the acrimony, expense and delay associated with this post mediation litigation might have been avoided.