Many people tell us they are not exactly sure what Estate Planning entails. Some clients believe that Estate Planning only concerns people with great wealth. Other clients believe it’s something you do just before death. Neither idea is correct. Your Estate Plan should begin now to create an orderly transfer and disposition of your funds and assets into the future.
In Florida, there are two types of Probate: Formal and Summary. A Probate Lawyer can determine the type of Probate Administration that applies to your specific situation. Formal Administration is the regular Probate Process. This is where the Personal Representative represents the Estate in court proceedings, pays the bills and distributes the assets to beneficiaries as directed in the Will, among other fiduciary responsibilities. Since it can be a long and complicated process, especially if heirs contest the Will, it is advisable to seek the advice of a Probate Lawyer.
However, for smaller Estates with less than $75,000 in Assets, or if it has been more than two years since the death of the Decedent, the Estate may be eligible for Summary Administration. This is a simpler, faster and less expensive Probate Process. It allows the Personal Representative, which is often the surviving spouse or immediate family member, to inherit the Estate as long as they are the rightful heir as specified in a Legal Will. In the absence of a Will, Formal Administration will generally apply.
In the state of Florida, any family member, sibling, spouse or friend who is an adult and is a Florida resident can be appointed, either through the Will or via a Probate Judge, as the Personal Representative of the Estate. The Personal Representative, also known as the Executor in other states, carries out the wishes of the deceased loved one as outlined in the Will, including the distribution of assets to surviving heirs, filing court documents, handling legal claims and paying the Estate’s bills, to name a few.
There are always questions and issues that come up and it is not unusual for a family member to contest a Will for one reason or another. There may even be heirs to the Estate whom the Personal Representative or other family members may not be familiar with, but are claiming an interest in the Estate. Since most individuals have not received formal training in Estate Administration, a Probate Attorney is a valuable asset to handle the Probate Litigation for the Personal Representative in Central Florida. In fact, things can get real complicated, real fast when there is minor children requiring Guardianship or a family business is part of the Estate.
Florida law requires that the Probate Lawyer for the Personal Representative file Formal Administration papers with the Probate Court. Once Probate begins in court the entire process becomes public record, including the inventory of all assets in the Estate. Many individuals who prefer to keep their Assets more private and reduce Probate costs at the same time are speaking to their Probate Attorney in Central Florida about Living Trusts in their Estate Planning Process.
Jerry B. Wells is an experienced Probate Attorney serving Daytona Beach, Orlando, Bunnell, Palm Coast, St. Augustine and surrounding communities throughout Central Florida with expert advice on Estate Administration, Will Disputes and other Probate matters. Whether you're an heir contesting a Will, or a Personal Representative seeking representation, his legal experience will protect your personal and financial interests.Find Out More