Buettner v. Fass, — So.3d —-, 2009 WL 3446478 (Fla. 4th DCA Oct 28, 2009)
Why??!!, your clients will ask, do you have to start a new partition action in front of a new judge to adjudicate an existing dispute involving a decedent’s homestead property if everything else the decedent owned is already subject to the probate judge’s authority?
And your answer will be: "Hey, if it made sense, it wouldn’t be homestead." Well, maybe that’s what your inside voice would say. Your outside voice would hopefully say something like: "Because that’s the law, so don’t waste your time and money litigating a dispute involving homestead property in a probate court." At which point you can now point to the linked-to opinion as an example of what NOT to do:
Appellant . . . appeals an order evicting him from the entire premises of the apartment building and directing the personal representative to recover possession of the entire premises. Although no transcript is provided, and the appellant failed to appear at the hearing on the eviction, the order is fundamentally erroneous on its face in that it purports to evict appellant from the homestead premises and place them in the possession of the personal representative. As the court had already determined that the property was homestead, and thus not part of the decedent’s estate, the personal representative had no possessory interest in it. See Herrilka v. Yates, 13 So.3d 122 (Fla. 4th DCA 2009); Harrell v. Snyder, 913 So.2d 749 (Fla. 5th DCA 2000).
We reverse the order of eviction with instructions to modify the order to exclude that portion of the property which the court has already designated as homestead. While the personal representative claims that appellant is thwarting the personal representative’s ability to maintain the remainder of the property, remedies must be sought other than to dispossess appellant from his own property where the personal representative has no ownership interest in the homestead. See, e.g., Wescott v. Wescott, 487 So.2d 1099 (Fla. 5th DCA 1986) (holding that husband could seek partition of property despite wife’s claim of homestead).