Interesting Will Contest

CarlRight before he died of pancreatic cancer in July 2016, Carl Bergstresser signed a will in which he stated that his 11.6-acre property on the Braden (Florida) River should be forever maintained as a nature preserve.

Bradley Magee, the attorney who drafted the will, said the Osprey-based Conservation Foundation of the Gulf Coast assumed ownership of the land. However, Bergstresser’s dying wish remains the subject of a prolonged legal battle. This question is further complicated by the uncertain outcome of an effort by Manatee County to acquire adjoining land from a developer to create an even larger nature preserve.

Bergstresser’s siblings, Diana and Phil Bergstresser, brought a probate court case that questions how the executors of their brother’s estate managed the assets which he left in addition to his homestead. They claim they’ve been deprived of most of the assets that would’ve remained in the estate, other than the donated land. Aside from his home and land, Carl’s estate is valued at $314,516.

Dated July 16, 2016, Bergstresser’s will states: “My homestead and all acreage owned adjacent to my homestead shall be donated or otherwise transferred to a nonprofit organization or government entity that will maintain such property for wildlife conservation and general conservation purposes on a perpetual or long-term basis.”

Bergstresser permitted his “personal representatives” named in his will—Magee, Phillip St. John, and Donald “Troy” Smith—to choose the nonprofit that would receive his property. The trustees paid a $32,000 mortgage and a $59,000 line of credit that Bergstresser owed from his remaining estate. The siblings say the will doesn’t state that Bergstresser wanted the debt paid out of the money that otherwise would’ve gone to his heirs and that his executors made the payments “without getting a court order.”

Their lawyer also claims the executors took $46,000 from the estate for their “personal representatives’ fees” and about $66,000 for attorney fees— amounts they feel are “excessive.” He also said the court ordered the foundation to return $47,000 to the estate that the trustees paid it as a “stewardship fee” for costs from the closing on the property and putting it in a conservation easement.

Another unknown is an effort to get Manatee County to acquire 32.38 adjoining acres for which a developer received approval for a subdivision. When initially proposed, residents in the neighboring area strongly objected. They argued that the heavily wooded site on the Braden River is an oasis for an abundance of wildlife. They asked the county to acquire it for a nature preserve.  The developer granted the Conservation Foundation an option to buy that land for $3 million, and the foundation is willing to transfer that option to the County.

Bergstresser, whose property was directly west of the proposed suburb, joined the opposition movement. When he found out he was terminally ill, he decided his land should be part of that proposed nature preserve. Now that it has the Bergstresser land, the foundation is to classify it as a “conservation easement”, so it can’t be developed.

Reference: (Sarasota) Herald-Tribune (December 15, 2017) “Outdoorsman’s siblings contest how trustees managed his estate”


Like this article?

Share on facebook
Share on Facebook
Share on twitter
Share on Twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on Linkdin
Share on pinterest
Share on Pinterest

Leave a comment


We have a LOT more where that came from!

We hate spam too. We will never share or sell your information.

Call Now ButtonCall Us Now https://jsfiddle.net/7h5246b8/

Request a free consultation

We hate spam too. We will never share or sell your information.

We've been putting together as many resources as possible so that we can continue to help:

  • If you’re a current client with a signing appointment or a prospective client with a consultation and would prefer that meeting take place in your own home, we can accomplish that with a little bit of pre-planning on our part and with the addition of a laptop, smartphone, tablet or other computer in your home to facilitate this virtual meeting. For those of you that need to sign legal documents, that too can be accomplished with the use of a webcam (FaceTime etc.), so that we can witness and electronically notarize all of your important legal documents.
  • We launched the rollout of our on-demand webinar early so that new clients and our allied professionals can view the important component parts of ‘an estate plan that works’ at their convenience.  That is available on our website.
  • Live video workshops will be produced as quickly as possible and certainly ahead of our previous schedule; we will keep you posted as these events become available. Given the ‘boutique’ nature of the firm, we rarely have more than ten people in our office including team members at any one time. During this period of ‘social distancing,’ we promise to have no more than 8 people at any time.   This allows us to comply with the Governor’s directive to limit in-person gatherings.
  • The best way to communicate with us is still by phone during regular office hours of 8:30 to 5:00, Monday through Friday, or, you can email any of our team members (that is, their first name followed by @zarembalaw.com).  We will respond to these emails as quickly as possible.
  • Please continue to follow the directives of our local, state, and federal agencies. For your health and in consideration of our team who is assisting you, if you’ve scheduled an office appointment or planned to drop off paperwork and are experiencing a fever, dry cough, or shortness of breath, please contact your primary care doctor for guidance and then our office to reschedule.

Thank you, Walt and the Zaremba Team

Update to our Process

The unprecedented coronavirus pandemic has taken our entire country by surprise. We understand how difficult this time is for America’s businesses and families.  However, we believe it is vitally important that we make every effort possible to continue to offer solutions that avoid disrupting our important partnership with you, your family and friends.  As you know, estate planning is not something that should wait for a more convenient time, therefore the opportunity to address your important goals both during and after this crisis should not wait.  To that end, we have added the option of a ‘virtual consultation’ to our office process.  You will now have a choice of either meeting with us in our office or in the comfort of your own home.