Board Certified in Wills, Trusts, and Estates Law

Florida Bar Board of Legal Specialization and EducationUnder Rule 6-7.1, a lawyer who is a member in good standing of The Florida Bar and meets the standards prescribed below may be issued an appropriate certificate identifying the lawyer as "Board Certified in Wills, Trusts, and Estates Law." The purpose of the standards is to identify those lawyers who practice in the area of wills, trusts, and estates and have demonstrated special knowledge, skills, and proficiency to be properly identified to the public as board certified in wills, trusts, and estates law.

Find a Lawyer in Florida board certified in Wills, Trusts, and Estates Law.


Definitions for Speciality Certification in Wills, Trusts, and Estates Law

Rule 6-7.2, defines the terms used for the minimum requirements to become board certified in Wills, Trusts, and Estates Law. The definitions include:


(a) Wills, Trusts, and Estates.

"Wills, trusts, and estates" is the practice of law dealing with all aspects of the analysis and planning for the conservation and disposition of estates, giving due consideration to the applicable tax consequences, both federal and state; the preparation of legal instruments to effectuate estate plans; administering estates, including tax related matters, both federal and state; and probate litigation.

(b) Practice of Law.

The "practice of law" for this area is defined as set out in rule 6-3.5(c)(1). Notwithstanding anything in the definition to the contrary, legal work done primarily for any purpose other than legal advice or representation (including, but not limited to, work related to the sale of insurance or retirement plans or work in connection with the practice of a profession other than the law) shall not be treated as the practice of law.

Service as a judge of any court of record shall be deemed to constitute the practice of law. Practice of law that otherwise satisfies these requirements but that is on a part-time basis will satisfy the requirement if the balance of the applicant's activity is spent as a teacher of wills, trusts, and estates subjects in an accredited law school.

Requirements for Certification in Wills, Trusts, and Estates Law

Rule 6-7.3 set out the minimum requirements for board certification in Wills, Trusts, and Estates Law.

(a) Minimum Period of Practice.

Every applicant shall have been engaged in the practice of law in the United States, or engaged in the practice of United States law while in a foreign country, and shall have been a member in good standing of the bar of any state of the United States or the District of Columbia for a period of 5 years as of the date of application.

Notwithstanding the definition of "practice of law" in rule 6-3.5(c)(1), receipt of an LL.M. degree in taxation or estate planning and probate (or such other related fields approved by the board and wills, trusts, and estates certification committee) from an approved law school shall be deemed to constitute 1 year of the practice of law for purposes of the 5-year practice requirement (but not the 5-year bar membership requirement) under this subdivision; provided, however, an applicant may not receive credit for more than 1 year of practice for any 12-month period under this subdivision; accordingly, for example, an applicant who, while being engaged in the practice of law, receives an LL.M. degree by attending night classes, would not receive credit for the practice of law requirement by virtue of having received the LL.M. degree.

(b) Substantial Involvement.

Every applicant must demonstrate substantial involvement in the practice of law in estate planning, planning for incapacity, administration of estates and trusts, fiduciary and transfer taxation, probate and trust law, estates and trust litigation, and homestead law during the 5 years immediately preceding the date of application, including devoting not less than 40 percent of practice to estate planning, planning for incapacity, administration of estates and trusts, fiduciary and transfer taxation, probate and trust law, estates and trust litigation, and homestead law in this state during each of the 2 years immediately preceding application.

Service as a judge in the probate division of the circuit court of this state during 6 months or more of a calendar year shall satisfy a year of substantial involvement.

Except for the 2 years immediately preceding application, upon an applicant's request and the recommendation of the wills, trusts, and estates certification committee, the board of legal specialization and education may waive the requirement that the 5 years be "immediately preceding" the date of application if the board of legal specialization and education determines the waiver is warranted by special and compelling circumstances.

Except for the 2 years immediately preceding application, receipt of an LL.M. degree in estate planning and probate (or such other degree containing substantial estate planning and probate content as approved by the board of legal specialization and education) from an approved law school may substitute for 1 year of substantial involvement.

An applicant must furnish information concerning the frequency of work and the nature of the issues involved. For the purposes of this section the "practice of law" shall be as defined in rule 6-3.5(c)(1) except that it shall also include time devoted to lecturing and/or authoring books or articles on wills, trusts, and estates if the applicant was engaged in the practice of law during such period. Demonstration of compliance with this requirement shall be made initially through a form of questionnaire approved by the wills, trusts, and estates certification committee, but written or oral supplementation may be required.

(c) Peer Review.

Every applicant shall submit the names and addresses of 5 other attorneys who are familiar with the applicant's practice, not including attorneys who currently practice in the applicant's law firm, who can attest to the applicant's reputation for professional competence and substantial involvement in the field of wills, trusts, and estates. The board of legal specialization and education and the wills, trusts, and estates certification committee may authorize references from persons other than attorneys in such cases as they deem appropriate. The board of legal specialization and education and the wills, trusts, and estates certification committee may also make such additional inquiries as they deem appropriate to complete peer review, as provided elsewhere in these rules.

(d) Education.

Every applicant must demonstrate that, during the 3-year period immediately preceding the date of the application, the applicant has met the continuing legal education requirements in wills, trusts, and estates as follows. The required number of hours shall be established by the board of legal specialization and education and shall in no event be less than 90 hours. Credit for attendance at continuing legal education seminars shall be given only for programs that are directly related to wills, trusts, and estates. The education requirement may be satisfied by 1 or more of the following:

(1) attendance at continuing legal education seminars meeting the requirements set forth above;

(2) lecturing at, and/or serving on the steering committee of, such continuing legal education seminars;

(3) authoring articles or books published in professional periodicals or other professional publications;

(4) teaching courses in estates and trusts, fiduciary administration, fiduciary and transfer taxation, and homestead law at an approved law school or other graduate level program presented by a recognized professional education association;

(5) completing such home study programs as may be approved by the board of legal specialization and education and the wills, trusts, and estates certification committee, subject to the limitation that no more than 50 percent of the required number of hours of education may be satisfied through home study programs; and

(6) such other methods as may be approved by the board of legal specialization and education and the wills, trusts, and estates certification committee.

The board of legal specialization and education and the wills, trusts, and estates certification committee shall, by rule or regulation, establish standards applicable to this rule, including, but not limited to, the method of establishment of the number of hours allocable to any of the above-listed subdivisions. Such rules or regulations shall provide that hours shall be allocable to each separate but substantially different lecture, article, or other activity described in subdivisions (2), (3), and (4) above.


(e) Examination.

The applicant must pass an examination that will be practical and comprehensive and designed to demonstrate special knowledge, skills, and proficiency in estate planning, postmortem planning, planning for incapacity, administration of estates and trusts, fiduciary and transfer taxation, substantive and procedural aspects of probate and trust law, estates and trust litigation, homestead law, joint tenancies, tenancies by the entirety, conflicts of interest, and other ethical considerations. Such examination shall justify the representation of special competence to the legal profession and the public.


Rules for Recertification in Wills, Trusts, and Estates Law

The rules for certification in Wills, Trusts, and Estates Law can be found in Rule 6-7.4.

(a) Eligibility.


Recertification must be obtained every 5 years. To be eligible for recertification, an applicant must meet the following requirements:

(1) A satisfactory showing, as determined by the board of legal specialization and education and the wills, trusts, and estates certification committee, of continuous and substantial involvement in wills, trusts, and estates law throughout the period since the last date of certification. The demonstration of substantial involvement of more than 40 percent during each year after certification or prior recertification shall be made in accordance with the standards set forth in rule 6-7.3(b).

(2) Completion of at least 125 hours of approved continuing legal education since the filing of the last application for certification. This requirement shall be satisfied by the applicant's participation in continuing legal education approved by The Florida Bar pursuant to rule 6-7.3(d)(1) through (6).

(3) Submission of the names and addresses of 3 individuals who are active in wills, trusts, and estates, including but not limited to lawyers, trust officers, certified public accountants, and judges who are familiar with the applicant's practice, excluding persons who are currently employed by or practice in the applicant's law firm, who can attest to the applicant's reputation for professional competence and substantial involvement in the field of wills, trusts, and estates law during the period since the last date of certification.

The board of legal specialization and education or the wills, trusts, and estates certification committee may solicit references from persons other than those whose names are submitted by the applicant in such cases as they deem appropriate. The board of legal specialization and education or the wills, trusts, and estates certification committee may also make such additional inquiries as it deems appropriate.

(b) Denial of Recertification.


The board of legal specialization and education may deny recertification based upon any information received from the peer review or from any individual referenced in subdivision (a)(3), above.


(c) Examination Requirement.


If, after reviewing the material submitted by an applicant for recertification and the peer review, the wills, trusts, and estates certification committee determines the applicant may not meet the standards for wills, trusts, and estates certification established under this chapter, the wills, trusts, and estates certification committee may require, as a condition of recertification, that the applicant pass the examination given by the wills, trusts, and estates certification committee to new applicants.