Peter A. Cohen
In business since 1980, the firm is engaged in seven principal areas of law: will contests, probate litigation, trust litigation, guardianship litigation, probate administration, tax litigation, and insurance litigation. These specific areas of law are discussed below.
The firm is involved in the representation of contestants to wills and trusts throughout the State of Florida and other states. As our population grows older, so does the incidence of elderly abuse. As a person ages, he or she is more susceptible to the influence of others. Alzheimer's Disease and dementia, for example, are becoming more and more prevalent; indeed, it has been established that one out of two persons over the age of 85 suffers from the effects of Alzheimer's Disease. These conditions lend themselves to successful challenges to wills and trusts. There are also many instances where unfair advantage is taken of our elderly. Mr. Cohen has recognized that in the probate area persons, otherwise law-abiding, many times get involved in very aggressive and fraudulent acts in procuring wills from weak and suggestible testators, with the result of family members and loved ones being unjustly cut out of an inheritance. Mr. Cohen feels strongly that a life-long relationship should not be cut short and dishonored by an unscrupulous, opportunistic person who just happened to be the "last one there." Mr. Cohen has taken on a number of these cases - in Florida and other states - and has successfully set aside testamentary instruments procured while a decedent lacked capacity or as a result of the exercise of undue influence or duress.
There are many circumstances involving Personal Representatives, beneficiaries, surviving spouses, and creditors where litigation is necessary to achieve a fair and just result. This area includes prosecuting and defending creditor claims, elective share rights of surviving spouses, determination of beneficiaries, and construction of wills, to name a few.
Florida statutes set out specific provisions with respect to the duties of trustees and the rights of beneficiaries. Beneficiaries, for instance, have the right under Florida Statutes to receive accountings and the right to receive information from trustees. Unfortunately, many trustees do not adequately recognize those rights and their corresponding duties, and it becomes necessary to bring an action to compel same to right these wrongs and level the playing field. If excessive compensation is present, provisions are set out in the Florida Statutes where excessive compensation can be challenged.
Many times guardianships are established for weakened persons who cannot adequately handle their affairs, and a guardian is appointed to represent those persons. Unfortunately, in this area sometimes there are things that are done that are not in keeping with the guardian's duties and responsibilities to the ward, and litigation is sometimes called for.
At any given time the firm is involved in the administration in Dade and Broward counties of a large number of estates. Many times the representation involves the continued running of a business until the assets of the business can be liquidated at the highest possible price for the estate. Included in these services is the collection of rents and effecting of necessary repairs. The firm has assembled a network of real estate professionals, appraisers, electricians, plumbers, contractors, air conditioning specialists, and handymen in order to maximize the income of the estate while the estate assets are on the market for sale.
The firm represents taxpayers before the Examination, Appeals, and Collection Divisions of the Internal Revenue Service and in U.S. Tax Court.
The firm represents policyholders against insurance companies in first party insurance litigation.
Mr. Cohen is licensed to practice in Florida, New Jersey, Illinois, and Maine and sometimes handles matters in these states, although Mr. Cohen's primary place of practice is in Florida.
The seven principal areas of law described above often overlap and complement one another. For instance, during the course of a probate administration it may be necessary to bring an action to set aside a conveyance of real property to a third party that was procured while a testator lacked capacity. Or, during an administration it may be necessary to bring an action against an insurance company to compel the payment of a decedent's homeowner's insurance claim. Or, it may be necessary to defend a meritless claim brought against the estate by a creditor or, on the other hand, to prosecute a bona fide claim brought by a creditor against an estate. Tax issues present within an estate may require negotiation with the Appeals Division of the Internal Revenue Service or litigation in U.S. Tax Court. Or, a decedent with homes in Florida and Maine may become victim to the exercise of undue influence, requiring the initiation of litigation in both states, states in which Mr. Cohen is licensed to practice. The firm's areas of concentration lend themselves to the efficient handling of these matters.