Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Fourth DCA Reverses Imposition of Lien on Homestead Property

In Herrilka v. Yates (4D08-1727), the Fourth District reversed the trial court's imposition of a lien in favor of the "Curator of the Estate" on homestead property.

"The trial court’s decision to impose the lien pursuant to section 733.608 was improper because, in accordance with the plain meaning of the statute, Yates failed to meet its requirements. This is because: (1) Yates has not, and cannot, take possession of the property, as it is occupied by an “interested person;” and (2) the fees incurred by Yates for which the lien was imposed were not incurred for the purpose of preserving, maintaining, insuring, or protecting the homestead property."


For purposes of probate litigation, the Florida Legislature has defined an “interested person” as “any person who may reasonably be expected to be affected by the outcome of the particular proceeding involved.” Id. § 731.201(23). In order to impose a lien, section 733.608(3) also requires that the “expenditures and obligations incurred,” which include “fees and costs,” for which the lien is imposed were incurred for the purpose of “preserv[ing], maintain[ing], insur[ing], or protect[ing]” the homestead property. In this case, the trial court erred in imposing the lien because the homestead property was never taken into possession, either legally or factually, by Yates, as Constance still occupies it. This failure to take possession negates a claim for the imposition of the lien because, to do so, section 733.608 first requires that the personal representative take possession of the property “for the limited purpose of preserving, insuring, and protecting it.” § 733.608(2). Furthermore, Yates cannot legally take possession of the property because it is “occupied by a person who appears to have a n interest in the property..."


"Even if Yates met the threshold possession requirement of section 733.608, the lien was still not properly imposed. This is because the expenses the lien represents were incurred for legal services having to do with the administration of the Estate."


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