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Webb v. Blue

Florida Court of Appeals, First District

April 25, 2018

Norann D. Webb, Charles A. Daniell, Claude O. Daniell, Roberta D. Jernigan, James E. Daniell, Alisa D. Lopez, Rebecca E. Daniell, Beth M. Daniell and Marc M. Daniell, Appellants,
v.
Judith D. Blue, as personal representative of the Estate of Herbert Otis Daniell, Appellee.

         Not final until disposition of any timely and authorized motion under Fla. R. App. P. 9.330 or 9.331.

          On appeal from the Circuit Court for Baker County. Stanley H. Griffis, III, Judge.

          William S. Graessle and Jonathan W. Graessle of William S. Graessle, P.A., Jacksonville, for Appellants.

          Nicholas L. Bruce of Collins, Brown, Barkett, Garavaglia & Lawn, CHTD., Vero Beach, for Appellee.

          JAY, J.

         In this appeal from various probate orders, we affirm in all respects and write only to address Appellants' claim that the trial court erred in finding that the decedent validly devised his homestead as part of the probate estate. Specifically, we reject Appellants' assertion that the decedent was required to specially devise his homestead to Appellee, a non-heir, where the decedent was survived by heirs.

         I.

         On August 21, 2016, the decedent, Herbert Otis Daniell, died testate with no surviving spouse or children. The decedent's last will and testament, executed on February 26, 2013, named Judith D. Blue ("Appellee") as the personal representative and sole beneficiary. The will included the following provision: "My entire estate is all property I own at my death that is subject to this will. I leave my entire estate to Judith D. Blue."

         On October 4, 2016, Appellee filed a petition for administration. The petition and an inventory listed two estate assets: (1) the decedent's non-exempt homestead (valued at $136, 236.00); and (2) the decedent's truck (valued at $12, 000.00).

         On February 9, 2017, relatives of the decedent ("Appellants") filed a Petition to Determine Homestead Status of Real Property. The petition asserted the real property was the decedent's homestead and descended to the decedent's legitimate heirs where there was no specific intent in the will to pass the homestead property to Appellee, who was at most a friend rather than legal heir of the decedent. Appellee objected to the petition on the ground that the decedent claimed a homestead exemption for ad valorem taxation purposes, but devised the property without homestead protection. Appellants responded that the will was prepared by a non-attorney and did not contain the language required to include homestead property into the estate.

         On March 15, 2017, the trial court rendered an order that, among other things, denied the Petition to Determine Homestead Status of Real Property. Specifically, the court found that the decedent was not survived by a spouse or minor child and that the decedent could freely devise his homestead to anyone. The court further found that the decedent's will very clearly stated his intention to leave his entire estate, including his homestead, to Appellee. This appeal followed.

         II.

         Article X, section 4(c) of the Florida Constitution provides in pertinent part:

(c) The homestead shall not be subject to devise if the owner is survived by spouse or minor child, except the homestead may be devised to the owner's ...

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