The probate process can be stressful for everyone involved and can differ depending on whether the decedent died without a will (intestate) or left a Last Will and Testament setting forth his or her wishes (testate estates). The personal representative, beneficiaries, and other family members may feel confused and unsure of how to carry out their loved one’s estate plan and last wishes during a time of immense grief.
The legal and financial rules concerning probate can be difficult to navigate, but no matter how you are connected to your loved one’s estate, an attorney will be able to help you know your rights and get through probate smoothly.
Here are just a few ways an attorney can help you to navigate the process:
Assisting the Personal Representative. In Florida, every appointed personal representative must be represented by Florida counsel. The personal representative is the person in charge of sorting out the deceased’s estate. The personal representative is either nominated by the decedent in his or her will or is appointed by the Court based upon preference in an intestate estate. Probate attorneys work with the personal representatives and guide them through the estate administration process from beginning to end. The personal representative and the probate attorney work together to notify creditors and beneficiaries, marshal the assets, file the last income tax returns and finally, make distributions to the beneficiaries according to the deceased’s last wishes or the statutes governing intestacy.
Depending on the size of the estate, the personal representative might have to file an estate tax return as well. A probate attorney can assist with this process and advise you as to the requirements.
Some estates are more complicated than others, involve more creditors, or have unusual assets to divide. The probate attorney can handle any aspects that the personal representative finds daunting or to which she or he does not have adequate time to devote.
Will Contests. If a beneficiary (or potential beneficiary) wishes to contest a will, he or she will need strong representation to prove to a judge that the will in question was fraudulent or the result of undue influence. An attorney can help you through this process and assist you in challenging the will.
Representing Beneficiaries. If you are the beneficiary of an estate, your attorney can assist you with protecting your rights under the Florida Probate Code and ensuring that you receive all that you are entitled to from your loved one’s estate.
Challenges to Appointment of Personal Representatives. Disputes often arise as to who should act as the personal representative of an estate. If a beneficiary does not believe the nominated Personal Representative is qualified, an attorney can assist you in challenging the appointment. In addition, if a beneficiary believes an appointed Personal Representative is not performing their duties fairly and impartially, an attorney can assist you in seeking to remove them and appoint a new fiduciary.
Estate Planning. Many of the problems that arise during the probate process can be avoided with advance estate planning. Probate attorneys can assist you with your estate plan and advise you as to the documents that you may need to make the time after your passing an easier process for your loved ones. Work with an estate planning attorney to build the best future for your children and family. Beginning a relationship with a lawyer now will be an investment that will last until the end of your life.
Remember, probate attorneys are available to assist personal representatives, beneficiaries and others involved in sorting out a loved one’s estate. Depending on the particular needs of the estate, your probate attorney can also help identify other areas of concern such as tax planning, elder law and real estate matters. Give Wintter Law a call today to see how an experienced Florida probate attorney can help you.