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P. Simmons
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Experience:  16 yrs. of trial experience
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Florida abandoned auto possession: A Florida condo owner

Customer Question

Florida abandoned auto possession:
A Florida condo owner dies leaving both his estate and his unit underwater and an auto in the building in his name which has some equity.
The owner dies while owning substantial funds to the Condo Ass'n.
The designated heirs refuse the inheritance (after improperly emptying the condo of all moveable objects of value) and advise the Condo that they have no interest in the auto.
It is a given that the condo has the right to have the auto towed.
The Ass'n manager, without asking anybody above him, takes it upon himself to call a towing company that tows the car, keeps it for the statutory time (30 days?) and then sell sit for an unjust enrichment of some $7000.00
The Ass'n manager claims only the towing company has the lawful right to 'realize' any profit on the equity of the car, and that therefore he did nothing wrong.
Question:
Since the only equity belonging to the deceased was the car, would it not have been lawful to either
1.leave the car in place till rightful title to the car would have been achieved by the ass'n through foreclosing on the unit (subject to the Mortgage) and then seizing the car on a judgment, or
2. work out a suitable arrangement with a towing company to allow the equity (after towing costs) to accrue to the Ass'n?
3. Can anything be done to recover the equity from the towing company on the basis of unjust enrichment?
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Legal
Expert:  P. Simmons replied 1 year ago.
Thanks for the chance to help. I am an attorney with over 12 years experience. Hopefully I can help you with your legal question.

The problem the condo association has here is that to recover anything from the estate, they need to go to probate

Only the probate court will be able to award a property interest in the deceased personal property

What you describe, the association clearly had the ability to recover from the estate of the deceased. If the deceased owed money to the association, the association, as a legal entity, could file suit in probate court to recover from the estate of the deceased.

OR...had the heirs of the deceased opened probate the association could have filed a claim with the probate court.

So what can the association do now?

They can open probate (as a creditor) and ask that the deceased's estate be probated. This would allow, for example, the chance to recover the property removed from the condo, and to recover the money recovered at the auction of the vehicle (less the towing and storage charges)

There is a cost associated with probate...so the association will need to bear that cost. But if there are assets in the estate of the deceased? Then they can use probate to get to the assets to satisfy the debts to the association.



Customer: replied 1 year ago.

There is no probate opened. So any attempt to proceed would require paying both the lawyer s and perhaps an additional sum for the appointment of an ad litem representative for the estate.


You have said the recovery of any excess funds over the cost of towing and storage would be an estate asset. If that is correct it may be worthwhile. Did I read you right?

Expert:  P. Simmons replied 1 year ago.
That is correct...you need to open probate to pursue this. And it may be the costs outweigh the potential benefit

And yes..if there is money in the estate (including money from the sale of the vehicle and the property taken by the relatives) then it may be worth hiring a lawyer to pursue this. It really will come down to how much money is in the estate.

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P. Simmons
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