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Florida Second DCA rules that trial court erred in dismissing professional negligence complaint alleging that plaintiff was third party beneficiary of estate planning performed by law firm for her grandmother

On June 23, 2021, in Ellerson v. Moriarty, et al., No. 2D20-2563, a legal malpractice case, the Florida Second DCA reversed a trial court’s order dismissing the plaintiff’s case. The law firm defendant in the case had been retained by the plaintiff’s grandmother to assist in her estate planning and in that capacity had drafted an amendment to her trust which provided that the plaintiff would take ownership of parcel of real property owned by the grandmother. However, title to the property was never transferred to the trust prior to the grandmother’s death. After the plaintiff discovered that she was the beneficiary of a worthless unfunded devise, she sued the law firm, claiming that she was an intended third-party beneficiary of the attorney-client relationship between the law firm and her grandmother and that the law firm was professionally negligent in not following through to properly ensure that the trust was funded to fully effectuate the grandmother's intent as expressed in the trust amendment. The Second DCA concluded that trial court erred in concluding as a matter of law that the law firm owed no duty to the plaintiff, finding that sufficient facts were alleged in the complaint to raise the issues whether the plaintiff was an intended third party beneficiary of the attorney-client relationship and whether the law firm specifically undertook the duty to draft and record a deed for the property so as to effectuate the grandmother's intent as set forth in the trust amendment.