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- Validating the Will. When a person passes away, their will and the person’s death certificate must be sent to the probate court. The submission process is generally straightforward, but there may be certain rules for what must happen before the court date. For example, any beneficiaries must be notified about the court date and the person’s death might need to be published in a local newspaper to notify creditors and others about the death. During the hearing, the court will determine whether the will is valid. Either witnesses will need to state in court that they witnessed the signing of the will or witnesses may be required to sign sworn statements testifying that they were present when the will was drafted. Your estate planning lawyer may be able to provide these statements. Legal Counsel, PA is a probate lawyer in Orlando, Florida who can help you with providing documents to help the probate process move along as smoothly and as quickly as possible.
- Executor. Sometimes a person will designate a chosen executor in a will. If the deceased has not named an executor, the court will name one. The executor is in charge of handling matters related to the estate, such as appraising property (or hiring someone to perform appraisals), paying debts and taxes, and distributing assets to beneficiaries. Sometimes families might hire a probate lawyer. Legal Counsel, P.A. employs a probate lawyer who can assist you.
- Naming, Identifying, and Appraising all Assets. When administering an estate, it is important to identify all assets. Many of a person’s assets may be listed in the will, but if the deceased missed listing assets in the will, our probate lawyer at Legal Counsel, P.A. in Orlando, Florida can investigate the person’s records to account for all assets. Assets must also be appraised.
- Paying and Notifying Creditors. Debts must be paid before the estate can be distributed to heirs. In some cases, the executor may be required to publish an obituary in a newspaper to ensure that all potential creditors are notified about the person’s death.
- Paying Taxes. Taxes the deceased person owes must be paid as must any estate taxes. The probate attorney at Legal Counsel, P.A. can determine whether you need to fill out a final tax form on behalf of the estate.
- Distributing Assets to Heirs. Once taxes and debts have been paid, what remains can be distributed in accordance of the will to beneficiaries. In many cases, this process goes smoothly, but in some instances, heirs may dispute the will, or may challenge the will. This can lead to a complex probate process. If you anticipate challenges to a will in probate (either because the deceased disinherited a family member or because the will was made under duress or if there were no witnesses when the will was signed), you may want speak to our probate lawyer at Legal Counsel, P.A. in Orlando, Florida.
When probate goes smoothly, these are some of the steps that must be followed. However, if the deceased person had property in different states, the will may need to go through probate in several states. If there is no will, then a state’s intestate laws will apply. What are these laws? Have questions? We have answers. Contact Legal Counsel, P.A. today at 407-982-4321.
Florida’s Intestate Laws
Florida’s intestate laws govern how a deceased person’s assets and property will be distributed if there is no will. Some property and assets won’t need to go through Florida’s intestate laws if there is no will. Any property placed in a trust, any life insurance amounts where there is a designated beneficiary also won’t need to go through intestate probate laws. Retirement account funds, any funds held in accounts that transfer to another named party upon the owner’s death, or any shared bank accounts and property owned by two or more parties also won’t have to go through intestate laws. Some families may worry that they might have to go through a long, drawn-out court battle, only to learn that intestate laws don’t apply in their case because the only assets of value are assets that transfer immediately upon death.
However, if there is property that isn’t transferred upon death like the above properties and assets, then intestate laws apply. Generally intestate law in Florida works as follows. If you have a spouse and pass away, your spouse will receive all your assets. If you have children and you want to ensure that your children receive your assets in addition to your spouse, you may need to draft a will. However, if you have children from another marriage and pass away, under intestate laws, your current spouse will receive half your property and your children from your previous marriage will receive the other half of your property. If you have children but no spouse and no other descendants, then assets are distributed among the children. Intestate laws can get complex when a person has been married more than once, or when a person has children from multiple partners. If you have questions about Florida’s intestate succession laws and how they will impact a probate process, consider speaking to the probate lawyer at Legal Counsel, P.A. in Orlando, Florida today. Have questions? We have answers. Contact Legal Counsel, P.A. today at 407-982-4321.
Complex Probate Issues in Florida
What are some complex probate issues that can arise? One situation is where a person owns property in more than one state. If this is the case, the will may need to go through probate in more than one state. Another instance where complex probate issues can arise is when a family owns a business and the business interest needs to pass to a spouse or to children. Another situation where probate can get complex is where one beneficiary or multiple beneficiaries question the validity of the will. A will must be written when a person is of sound mind and must not be written under duress. A will must be signed by witnesses. If a person wrote a will alone and signed it themselves, the will could be challenged. Yet another situation where the probate process can get complex is if the executor decides he or she doesn’t want the job of being executor of the estate. Another executor may need to be appointed. Errors in a will or other unexpected issues can also arise during probate.
If a loved one has recently passed away, you and your family may be facing one of the most challenging times of your life. The idea of facing a court hearing to distribute your loved one’s assets can be understandably overwhelming. Fortunately, you are not alone. Our probate lawyer at Legal Counsel, P.A. in Orlando, Florida can assist you with the probate process. You don’t have to navigate this process alone.
Probate Processes in Florida: Summary Administration Versus Formal Administration
There are two types of probate processes in Florida. There is summary administration and formal administration. Summary administration is a simplified probate process that is available only if the deceased person’s estate is below a certain value, or if the person has been deceased for at least two years. Real estate may be exempt from the valuation of the estate if it qualifies for Florida’s homestead exemption. In most cases, families will use the formal administration probate process. If you are not sure which process you should use, contact our probate lawyer at Legal Counsel, P.A. in Orlando, Florida and our probate lawyer can review your situation and help guide you into the probate process that is right for your family. Have questions? We have answers. Contact Legal Counsel, P.A. today at 407-982-4321.