Kelly is a Shareholder in the Litigation Department. She represents professional and family member fiduciaries and individuals in estate, probate and trust litigation, and businesses in real estate, land use and complex commercial litigation. She also represents businesses before government agencies and advises candidates regarding campaign laws. Kelly’s experience spans state, federal and local government forums. She has managed cases in multiple parallel forums, including arbitration, and brought cases successfully through appeal. Her clients appreciate the thoughtful manner in which she finds creative and cost effective solutions to difficult legal issues and seemingly intractable disputes regarding inheritance, personal and family wealth.
Prior to entering private practice, Kelly served as a law clerk to three Florida Supreme Court Justices. She is regularly recognized by The Best Lawyers in America, Florida Trend and Super Lawyers magazines and is AV Preeminent Rated by Martindale-Hubbell. She is a frequent lecturer and author on a wide variety of topics related to estate, probate and trust litigation.
Kelly has made significant contributions to the legal profession through her leadership roles in local and state bar associations and her work with the Legal Aid Foundation and North Florida Legal Services. Through these organizations she promotes professionalism in the legal community and access to the courts for all.
Estate, Probate and Trust Litigation
Kelly has experience in complex and high-stakes estate, probate and trust disputes and litigation, including the following:
- Representing trustees and beneficiaries of multimillion dollar trusts in breach of fiduciary duty claims, including claims related to conflicts of interest, investment management, distributions to beneficiaries, trustee compensation, accountings and trustee removal.
- Litigation regarding the construction of trusts and wills.
- Will contests, including undue influence challenges.
- Litigating equitable adoption claims.
- Defending fraud claims against guardians and other challenges to guardians’ authority.
- Litigating exceptions to specific needs trusts.
- Challenging inter vivos transfers.
- Litigating business succession disputes.
- Negotiating and litigating trust modifications and terminations.
- Prosecuting creditor claims against probate estates.
- Litigation regarding inheritance of unique assets, including multi-million dollar art collection.
- Litigation regarding powers of appointment.
- Resolving heir property disputes.
Real Estate and Land Use Litigation
Kelly also represents developers, property owners, management companies and parties to real estate related agreements in a variety of real property and land use disputes, including complex commercial foreclosures. Her experience in this area includes the following:
- Representing property management companies in landlord/tenant and leasing disputes, including breach of covenants, ADA claims, disputes over operating expenses, evictions and first amendment issues.
- Representing property owners in permitting and zoning related disputes, including code violations, ordinance challenges, state and local government sign permit violations, and property rights disputes.
- Representing developers and owners in an array of restrictive covenant, condominium and community association disputes.
- Representing owners in storm water litigation.
- Representing owners in boundary and easement related disputes.
- Representing parties to construction related disputes.
- Litigating purchase related disputes, including pursuit of claims for specific performance.
- Litigating real estate related partnership disputes.
- Litigating partition actions.
- Representing lenders and corporate debtors in complex real estate foreclosure proceedings, including cases with lender liability, guaranty and deficiency claims.
Government, Administrative, Election and Political Activity Law
Kelly has represented both government entities, and those subject to government rules and regulation, including political and judicial candidates and an array of Florida businesses. Her representations include the following:
- Challenging government decisions before state agencies and the Florida Division of Administrative Hearings.
- Representing businesses in procurement litigation over the award of State contracts, including transportation, environmental and security related contracts.
- Representing government bodies in pursuit of ethics charges against public officials.
- Advising judicial and political candidates on election laws.
- Challenging ballot initiatives for proposed amendments to the Florida Constitution and local ordinances.
- Challenging constitutionality of state legislation.
- Navigating various regulatory hurdles for companies expanding into the Florida market.
- Drafting legislation and agency rules on environmental and real estate related issues, including the use of coastal erosion protection product that mitigated hurricane damage and condominium related issues.
- Represented major automobile manufacturers in franchise related litigation before the Department of Administrative Hearings.
Complex Commercial and Fiduciary Litigation
Kelly also represents distressed companies, creditors, receivers and government entities in bankruptcy, receivership, and related adversary proceedings. Her experience includes the following:
- Litigating fraud claims against corporate directors and officers.
- Representing debtors and unsecured creditors' committees in adversary litigation in bankruptcy proceedings, including representation of Creditors Committee in class action suit.
- Representing securities brokers and investors in securities fraud arbitrations and litigation, including one of the first cases against Bear Stearns challenging its procedure for valuation of mortgage-backed securities, which ultimately contributed to the company's downfall.
- Litigating mortgage fraud matters for some of the largest providers of mortgage services in the county.
- Representing consumer credit data repositories in antitrust litigation.
- Counsel to insurance companies in coverage disputes, including a case in which she defeated a competing insurer’s attempt to have her client’s procedures declared inconsistent with Florida law.
- Litigating the rescission of purchase and sale agreements based on allegations of fraud in the inducement and breach of warranties.
Professional & Community Involvement
- The Bridge to Law School Program, Co-Founder and Director, 2023-Present
- Community Foundation of North Florida, Board Member, 2022-2025
- Tallahassee Memorial Hospital Foundation Donor Advisory Council, 2022-Present
- Capital City Bank Community Foundation Board, 2018-Present
- The Florida Bar, Florida Probate Rules Committee, 2017-Present
- Tallahassee Chamber, Board Member Grow Business Committee Member, Community & Prosperity Committee Member, 2014-Present
- Tallahassee Regional Estate Planning Council, 2014-Present
- President, 2022-2023
- Vice President, 2021-2022
- Secretary, 2020-2021
- Treasurer, 2019-2020
- The Florida Bar Real Property, Probate and Trust Law Section (RPPTL), 2010-Present
- Florida Supreme Court Historical Society, 2010-Present
- President 2015-2017
- Vice President, 2014-2015
- Women United Steering Committee, 2017-2019
- Florida Bar Judicial Administration & Evaluation Committee, 2010-2016
- Chair, 2014-2015
- Tallahassee Chamber of Commerce, Leadership Tallahassee Class XXV, 2007
- William H. Stafford American Inn of Court, 2002-Present
- Tallahassee Bar Association, 2000-Present
- Senior Director, 2022-Present
- President, 2009-2010
- President-Elect, 2008-2009
- Treasurer, 2007-2008
- Secretary, 2006-2007
- Director, 2002-2006
- Legal Aid Foundation, 2000-Present
- Guardian Ad Litem, 2000-Present
- Florida Association for Women Lawyers (FWL), 1998-Present
- Secretary, 2000-2001
- Public Relations Officer, 1998-1999
- Attorney Coach of Lincoln High School Mock Trial and Moot Court Teams, 1996-2020
- Tallahassee Women Lawyers (TWL), 1995-Present
- President, 1999-2000
- Florida Bar Foundation Fellow
- Girl Scouts of the Florida Panhandle, Board Member, 2012-2015
- Florida Bar,
- Second Circuit Grievance Committee, 2011-2014
- Chair, 2013-2014
- Florida State University Real Estate Trends Networking Conference, Conference Committee Member, 2009-2012
- Florida State University Law School Alumni Board, Outreach Chair, 2006-2009
- Florida Bar Appellate Rules Committee, 2004-2010
- Vice Chair Administrative Practice Subcommittee, 2007-2010
- Robert Orsek Memorial Moot Court Competition, Chair, 2006
- Florida Bar Special Committee on Website Advertising Rules, 2005-2006
- Florida Bar Young Lawyers Division Board of Governors
- Second Circuit Representative, 2001-2006
- Executive Committee Member, 2004-2006
- Florida Bar Advertising Task Force, 2004-2005
- Florida Bar Judicial Administration, Selection and Tenure Committee, 2000-2002
- Chief Justice’s Advisory Committee for the Tobias Simon Pro Bono Award, 2001
- First 150 Florida Women Lawyers Project: Co-Chair Research Committee, 1999-2000
- Legal Services of North Florida, Legal Intake at Homeless Shelter and Legal Advice Clinic, Volunteer, 1994-2000
- Martha Barnett Women Lawyers of Achievement Award, Tallahassee Bar Association, 2022
- The Best Lawyers in America®, 2017-Present
- Tallahassee Democrat, 25 Women You Need to Know, 2019
- Florida Super Lawyers
- Business Litigation, 2013-2018
- Administrative Law, 2014
- Appellate Practice, 2006
- Estate & Trust Litigation, 2019-2020
- Florida Trend’s Legal Elite
- Commercial Litigation, Hall of Fame, 2010-2022
- Up & Comer, 2007
- Women of Distinction, Gemstone Honoree, Law, Girl Scout Council of the Florida Panhandle, 2011
- Florida Association for Women Lawyers Leaders in Law Award, 2010
- Attorney of the Year Award, The Florida Law Related Education Association, 2005
- Lynn Futch Most Productive Young Lawyer Award, The Florida Bar, 2001
- Martindale-Hubbell, AV® Preeminent™ rated
Publications & Presentations
Trust Banking: Who’s the Boss? Navigating the Trustee-Guardian Relationship
Florida Banking|October 2023
Estate Planning & Family Law Panel Discussion
Florida Bankers Association Trust & Wealth Management Conference|September 2023
Join Stearns Weaver Miller In Bridging The Gap To Law School For Minority And First Generation Students!
Tallahassee Bar Association - Public Annoucements|July 2023
Trust Banking: The Florida Family Trifecta
Florida Banking|May 2023
Help Build a "Bridge to Law School" for FSU's First-Generation CARE Students
Tallahassee Bar Association Bulletin|January 2023
The Season of Giving... to Your Ex-Spouse
Florida Banking|December 2022
Tipping The Scales With Florida Community Property Trusts: Do The Rewards Outweigh The Risk?
Florida Banking|September 2022
The Trustee's Tightrope - Balancing the Conflicting Interests of Income and Remainder Beneficiaries
Florida Banking|July 2022
In the Media:
Tallahassee Bar Association Bulletin
Kelly O'Keefe Receives Tallahassee Bar Association’s 2022 Martha Barnett Women Lawyers of Achievement Award
Kelly O'Keefe Appointed on Community Foundation of North Florida’s Board of Directors
In the Media:
TLH Briefcase: Aug. 29, 2021
Tallahassee Democrat|August 2021
Stearns Weaver Miller honored with 2020 Tallahassee Women Lawyers Diversity & Inclusion Leadership Award
Stearns Weaver Miller Lawyers Recognized in 2020 Florida Super Lawyers
In the Media:
Briefcase: Aug. 25
Tallahassee Democrat|August 2019