William J. Kelley (1906 – 1977) was born in St. Louis, Missouri and moved to Ft. Lauderdale in 1926. He went to college in Golden, Colorado at the Colorado School of Mines, where he graduated as a geological engineer. He came to Ft. Lauderdale just before the “land bust” in the late 1920s, which was then followed by the great depression. Although he worked for the state road department for a period of time, he was unable to find steady work as an engineer, so he began a career in real estate and insurance. In more than 50 years as a resident of the then small town of Ft. Lauderdale, he had a distinguished and interesting career as a real estate broker, a land developer and, for the last 36 years of his life, as a prominent practicing lawyer. While working full time during the day, and a second job at night, he also attended night school at the University of Miami Law School and earned his law degree in 1941, the year his first child, Rohan, was born.
In 1941, after graduation from law school, he joined two senior lawyers, C.N. McCune and Carl Hiaasen in law practice in Ft. Lauderdale and the firm was known as McCune, Hiaasen & Kelley. Mr. Kelley practiced with that firm for nearly 20 years, for most of the time as its managing partner, and the firm grew to one of the largest and most prominent firms in Ft. Lauderdale by 1960. In 1960, Mr. Kelley left that firm and stared his own firm which was known initially as Kelley, Tompkins and Griffin, and later became Kelley, Tompkins, Frazier and Kelley, after his son, Rohan, joined the firm in 1965. Mr. Kelley’s practice included general litigation, real property conveyancing and financing, and probate and estate planning. William J. Kelley was a mentor and teacher for his son, Rohan, and father and son practiced together until the death of the senior Mr. Kelley in 1977.
William J. Kelley was also very active in community affairs and as a community leader in Ft. Lauderdale. In 1937, he joined with several other citizens of the then small town of Ft. Lauderdale, to raise funds and build a public hospital on south Andrews Avenue. That hospital is now known as Broward General Medical Center, the flagship hospital in the North Broward Hospital District. (It was completed just in time for his son, Rohan, to be among the first babies born there in 1941.) He served on the hospital board for 24 years, retiring from that position in 1961, after serving numerous terms as its chairman.
At his retirement, Jack Gore, the editor of the Ft. Lauderdale News wrote an editorial saying “It is safe to say that no one man in Broward County has done more to bring modern, adequate and highly essential hospital facilities to this area than William J. Kelley.” Mr. Kelley believed that government should be fiscally responsible and only spend what it could raise through its tax base (an idea that seems to have been lost in modern times). He opposed borrowing money and burdening the future taxpayers with the excess of current consumption. When he retired from the board in 1961, the North Broward Hospital District was still debt free. Editor Gore also wrote “So while the pay-as-you-go method of financing these improvements was painful at the time, they have been built at far less overall cost to the taxpayers than would have been the result if bond financing had been resorted to with all the interest payments involved in that procedure.” As the unconventional politician, Mr. Kelley believed we should gift to the next generation a modern debt-free public facility, rather than handing it a debt-ridden obligation and he convinced the hospital board that was the best policy.
William J. Kelley was a founding member of the Broward County Opera Guild and served on its board for many years, and at his death, was serving as its chairman. He served several terms as the chairman of the executive committee of the Broward County Democratic Party (then composed of southern conservative democrats), and during this service, founded the Emerald Society which continues in existence today. He was also the first chairman of the Broward County Area Planning Board.
Mr. Kelley died in Ft. Lauderdale in 1977 at the age of 71 years, still actively involved in the practice of law and community affairs. At the time of his death, he was married for 47 years to the former Phyllis Farrington, who had been a resident of Ft. Lauderdale since 1912. He was also survived by his two children, Rohan and Shaun. Shaun is a Vice President and Estate Settlement Specialist at U.S. Trust.
Rohan Kelley was born in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on January 12, 1941. His mother's family settled in Fort Lauderdale in 1912 and were pioneers in this area. His maternal grandfather was one of the first attorneys in the then small settlement and later became one of the first mayors of the new city of Fort Lauderdale. His two maternal uncles and his maternal aunt were also lawyers. His father's family settled in Fort Lauderdale in 1926 at the height of the land boom. William J. Kelley, Rohan’s father, graduated as a geological engineer but was unable to find steady engineering work during the depression. He opened a small real estate office in Fort Lauderdale and subsequently an insurance agency. In the late 1930s he went to law school at the University of Miami Law School at night and began to practice law in Fort Lauderdale in 1941. William J. Kelley was actively involved in community affairs throughout his lifetime including more than 25 years service as chairman of the Broward General Medical Center Board.
Rohan Kelley attended Pine Crest School in Fort Lauderdale and graduated in 1958. He then attended Duke University and received a bachelor’s degree after 3 1/2 years of study. In 1962 he entered law school at the University of Florida and graduated in 1964 with his doctorate of jurisprudence. Mr. Kelley has also been active in civic and community affairs. He served for several years as a member of the Broward County Planning and Zoning Board, as President of the Pine Crest School Alumni Association and as a member of the governing board of that school. He has also been an adjunct professor of law at Nova University Law School and a guest lecturer at St. Thomas Law School and the University of Miami Law School tax masters program.
Upon graduation from law school in 1964, Rohan Kelley joined his father, William J. Kelley, in his legal practice. Father and son practiced together until the senior Mr. Kelley's death in 1977. Rohan Kelley's practice in the earlier years was broadly based, but in the last thirty plus years he has concentrated exclusively in the areas of the law which include Wills, Trusts, Estates, Estate Planning, Taxation of Estates and Litigation involving Wills, Trusts and Estates. Mr. Kelley has been and continues to be a prolific speaker and author within his legal fields of expertise, as well as a teacher.
He is best known throughout the State of Florida and nationally as author of The Florida Bar Probate System, the leading legal practice manual on Florida estates. The Florida Bar first published this book in 1979 to make it available to lawyers throughout the state as an instructional treatise to advance the skills of attorneys who practice in this substantive area of the law. This publication is now being revised to its fourth edition. The Florida Bar has sold copies of this publication to more than 2,000 law offices.
In addition to The Florida Bar Probate System, Mr. Kelley's other published works include:
Chapter 21 "Probate Litigation", Chapter 15 "Fees and Other Expenses of Administration" (co author) and Chapter 19 "Homestead and Exempt Personal Property" (co author with his daughter, Tae Kelley Bronner) of Practice Under Florida Probate Code (5th edition 2007) published by The Florida Bar.
Chapter 11 entitled, "Compensation Disputes", of Litigation Under Florida Probate Code, Second Edition (7th edition 2009) published by The Florida Bar.
"Protecting the Corporate Fiduciary's Tender Backside" an article published in the February 1988 issue of Trusts and Estates magazine (a national publication circulated to lawyers and financial institutions.)
"Homestead Made Easy" originally a two part article which appeared in the March and April 1991 issues of the Florida Bar Journal, which is the definitive work explaining the intricacies of Florida Homestead as it relates to (and complicates) the probate of Florida estates and Florida estate planning. These articles first published the now famous "Kelley’s Paradigm," a graphical instructional tool explaining the interpretation of homestead law. Two more articles in the series were published in the 1995 June and July/August issues of the Florida Bar Journal. These last two were co authored with Rohan's daughter, Tae Kelley Bronner who practices law in Tampa, Florida.
1996 Survey of Florida Trusts and Estates Law, Nova University Law Review, Fall 1996, an article analyzing evolving changes in the law of Trusts and Estates law.
Beginning in 1987, Mr. Kelley has been continuously listed in the prestigious publication, The Best Lawyers in America in the area of Trusts and Estates. He was the first lawyer in Broward County to be so honored. He is also listed among “Florida Legal Elite” by Florida Trend Magazine as a “Top Lawyer” by South Florida Legal Guide and as a “Super Lawyer” by Super Lawyers Magazine.
Mr. Kelley has also been widely sought as a lecturer, mostly to other lawyers who wish to upgrade or refine their legal skills in the area of drafting wills and trusts, estate planning, and probate administration and litigation. Some of his lectures sponsored by the bar and other legal professional organizations include the following topics:
The Florida Bar Probate System (1979, 1980); Will Drafting (1979); Basic Probate (1980); Florida Will and Trust Drafting (1980); Probate Litigation (1980, 1988, 1989, 1991, 1993, 1997); Will Contests (1982); Estate Planning Aspects of E.R.T.A. (1982); Post Mortem Estate Planning (1982); The Probate Team (1982, 1986 1988, 1990, 1992, 1994, 1996, 1998, 2000, 2002, 2004, 2006); Probate Litigation Updated (1983); Will Drafting & Probate for the General Practitioner (1983); Probate Administration/Litigation (1983), (1985); Legislative/Appellate Update (1984, 1987, 1988 1991); Probate Rules Update (1984, 1988); Will Litigation and the Deadman's Statute (1984); The Tax Reform Act of 1984, Estate Tax & Estate Planning (1985); Trial of a Will Contest (1985); Trust Law Seminar Trust Litigation (1985); Estate and Trust Administration Update (1986); Probate Litigation for the Office Lawyer (1987); Advanced Estate Planning (1988); Probate and Guardianship Case Update (1989); Estate Planning in the Real World (1989, 1991, 1993, 1995, 1997, 2001, 2003, 2005, 2007); Survey of Florida Law (Probate) (1990, 1991); Probate Practice (1992); Annual Conference of Circuit Judges (1992, 1993); Wills, Trusts. Estates Certification Review (1993 - 2000); Representing the Elderly (1993); Nuts and Bolts of Fiduciary Administration (1994); Homestead Made Easy (1995, 1996, 1997). Etc.
In addition to the lectures listed above, Mr. Kelley has also lectured to the Florida Conference of Circuit Judges, the Florida Bankers Association, Trust Division and the Alabama Bankers' Association in addition to many local and regional bar associations and estate planning councils. He is the author of the lecture material presented annually to new probate judges to teach them the basics of probate law. He is also called as an expert witness to testify in court about complicated estate procedures.
In 1982 Mr. Kelley was elected as a Fellow of the American College of Trusts and Estate Counsel, a prestigious national organization of recognized experts in the field of estate planning and probate law. Membership is by invitation only and less than three in each thousand lawyers meet the requirements for admission to the College. (In 2008, his son, Shane, was also elected as a fellow.) For many years, he has served on the fiduciary litigation committee of that organization.
Mr. Kelley was appointed by the President of the Florida Bar in 1984 as Chairman of the Probate Rules Committee, the committee of the Bar which has responsibility for the legal rules under which probate of wills are conducted by the Courts and he served in that capacity until 1988. During his tenure, that Committee proposed massive changes in the probate rules, which changes were adopted and approved by the Florida Supreme Court. 30 years later, in 2005, his son, Shane Kelley held that same appointed position.
In 1985, the Supreme Court approved a plan whereby the Florida Bar certifies attorneys as having special knowledge, skills and proficiency in the area of estate planning and probate to be "board certified" by the Florida Bar. The Court instructed the President of the Bar to appoint a committee of seven "eminent attorneys in [the] field" to investigate and examine the qualifications of applicants to determine if they meet the standards promulgated by the Bar. Mr. Kelley was the only attorney in Broward County (only one of two on the Gold Coast) appointed as a member of that select committee to test and review the knowledge and qualifications of other lawyers to be "board certified" in the field of estate planning and probate. As part of his appointment, he was granted automatic "board certification" without the requirement of examination or further review. He served as committee chairman in 1988 1989.
In 1990, Mr. Kelley was tapped as the recipient of the prestigious Award for Excellence in Continuing Legal Education from the Association of Continuing Legal Education Administrators. This award is granted by ACLEA, a national organization of professional state bar continuing legal education administrators, and lawyers from throughout the country are nominated for the award. The award is for excellence and outstanding service to the legal profession in the area of educating other lawyers to maintain or improve their professional skills.
In 1993, the Real Property Probate and Trust Law Section of The Florida Bar awarded Mr. Kelley the Robert C. Scott Award, their highest award for service to the bar and the profession.
From 1997 through 2001, Mr. Kelley served as chairman of the Probate Law Committee of the Real Property, Probate and Trust Law Section of The Florida Bar. During that time, that Committee proposed extensive revisions to the Florida Probate Code that were presented to the Florida Legislature. The Florida House of Representatives Staff Analysis of that bill said: AThis represents the most comprehensive overhaul of the probate code since it became law on January 1976. . . . Rohan Kelley [is] a frequent contributor to the legislative process regarding the Probate Code and the author of numerous articles and treatises regarding the Florida Probate Code . . .@. In 2009, his daughter, Tae Kelley Bronner became chairperson of the Probate Law committee, another Kelley offspring following in the father’s footsteps.
Mr. Kelley has served in various executive positions in the Real Property, Probate and Trust Law Section of The Florida Bar, the largest division of the bar with 10,000 members. In 2006-2007, he served as chair of the Section. During his tenure as chair, from a budget of more than one million dollars, the Section reported the largest surplus in its more than 50 year history.
In 2008, he was the recipient of the President's Award of Merit, from Frank Angones, president of The Florida Bar. This award was given for Mr. Kelley’s leadership and activities in promoting diversity within The Florida Bar.
As an author, lecturer, and recognized expert in his fields, he is frequently sought as a consultant by other attorneys, both in Florida and nationally on matters involving wills, estate planning, administration and estate litigation, and is often retained by other attorneys and judges, to prepare their personal wills and estate plans.
Shane Kelley, a member of The Kelley Law Firm, P.L., concentrates his practice in probate, trust and guardianship administration and litigation, and estate planning.
Mr. Kelley is Board Certified by The Florida Bar as a Wills, Trusts and Estates Lawyer. He is a member of the Real Property, Probate and Trust Law Section of The Florida Bar, serves as a member of the Probate Rules Committee of the Florida Bar, and is a past Chairman of that committee. He has been a long time member of the Estate Planning Council of Broward County. He was also recently elected as a Fellow of The American College of Trust and Estates Counsel, a prestigious national organization of recognized experts in the field of estate planning and probate law.
Mr. Kelley graduated from the University of Colorado at Boulder in 1993. He earned his J.D. from Stetson University College of Law in 1995 and earned an LL.M. in taxation from the University of Florida, College of Law – Graduate Tax Program in 1999.
- "The Effect of Section 684 on the Death of the Grantor of a Foreign Grantor Trust," Journal of Asset Protection, Volume 4, Number 4, March/April 1999, Pg. 23. Article subsequently reviewed in the Summer 1999 issue of Conspectus Current at pg. 24 - 27, which stated that, “This article is critical for all advisers who practice in the asset protection arena and who counsel clients regarding foreign trusts."
- Chapter 4 “Functions of Lawyers And Personal Representatives” of the Florida Bar Publication, Practice Under Florida Probate Code, 5th Edition.
- Chapter 1 “Procedural Considerations” of the Florida Bar Publication, Litigation Under Florida Probate Code, 6th Edition.
- Member of the Probate Rules Committee of The Florida Bar, 2001 to present; Chairman 2005-2006
- Member of the Fiduciary Litigation Committee, July 2001 to present
- Member of the Probate Law and Procedure Committee, 2006 to present, Vice Chair 2008-2009
- Member Trust Law Committee 2009 to present, Vice Chair 2009-2010
- Member of the Real Property, Probate and Trust Law Section of The Florida Bar since 1996
- Member of the Executive Council of the Real Property, Probate and Trust law Section of the Florida Bar since 2005
- Member of the Estate Planning Council of Broward County since 2000
- Member of the Broward County Bar Association since 1996
- Member of the Florida Bar since 1996
Thomas K. Topor, a member of the firm, concentrates his practice in the areas of contested wills, estate litigation, trust litigation and guardianship litigation. He has extensive experience in trial practice and was an Assistant State Attorney in the 17th Judicial Circuit for Broward County, Florida from 1980 to 1988 (including serving as a Division Chief and a Felony Trial Division Supervisor).
Mr. Topor is a 1974 graduate of the College of the Holy Cross (Worcester, Massachusetts). He received his Juris Doctor degree in 1979 from the New England School of Law (Boston) and earned a Master of Laws degree in estate planning from the University of Miami School of Law in 1988. Mr. Topor is licensed to practice law in Florida, New York, Massachusetts and Colorado.
Mr. Topor is a member of the Florida Bar and recently served several years as a member of the Probate Rules Committee of The Florida Bar, the committee appointed by the President of The Florida Bar which writes the rules governing practice in probate courts throughout Florida. During that time he also served on the Rules of Judicial Administration Committee of the Florida Bar. Mr. Topor is a member of the Real Property Probate and Trust Law Section of the Florida Bar, a voluntary section of the bar with approximately 10,000 members, and serves as a member of the Executive Council of that organization, where he is the Section’s liaison to the Florida Clerks of Court.
His publication credits include co-author (with Shane Kelley) of Chapter 4, entitled “Functions of Lawyers and Personal Representatives,” in the practice manual published by The Florida Bar, Practice Under Florida Probate Code, 4th Edition.
Mr. Topor has been a member of the Broward County Bar Association since 1980, the Estate Planning Council of Broward County since 2003 and served as a certified public pension trustee on the City of Fort Lauderdale Police and Firefighters Retirement System from 1995 to 2006.
Mr. Topor holds Martindale-Hubbell’s AV rating. He was selected in 2006, and again in 2007, by the South Florida Legal Guide as a “Top Lawyer” in his practice area and has been similarly recognized in the 2007 publication of Florida Super Lawyers.