Probate Law FAQs
Written and edited by our team of expert legal content writers and reviewed and approved by Attorney Jeffrey Thomas
Our Florida Probate Attorneys Answer Client Questions
The Law Offices of Travis R. Walker, P.A. Has You Covered
If you find yourself in need of an experienced Florida probate attorney, look no further than The Law Offices of Travis R. Walker, P.A. Our probate services are tailored to individuals and families who are dealing with a deceased individual’s estate plan or personal injury case. We also provide probate services for attorneys seeking executors or local counsel to assist with estates along the Treasure Coast. Below, please find answers to several frequently asked questions regarding the probate process. If you do not see answers to your questions, we encourage you to contact us and schedule a consultation.
What Is a Probate Law Attorney? Do I Need One in Florida?
Probate is a process in which the courts must decide where a person’s assets will go after their death. Assets are anything of value, including real estate, cash, and personal belongings. A Florida probate law attorney is required unless it’s a very small estate or if the executor (personal representative) is also the sole beneficiary. Probate lawyers ensure all probate-related documents are filed correctly and on time. These may include death certificates, property appraisals, wills, and final tax returns.
When Is Probate Necessary?
Probate may be necessary when someone dies if there are questions regarding dividing their assets or collecting any debts owed. Probate is often necessary to resolve disputes when several people claim they’re entitled to the deceased’s estate. The process helps clear land titles, bank and savings accounts, and other assets so that these items can be put in the rightful heir’s name without any legal issues.
What Happens During the Probate Process?
The first step is appointing a personal representative or executor to handle the deceased’s affairs. This person is specified in the person’s will or appointed by the court. The executor is usually the deceased’s spouse, child, or another close relative. However, a bank, lawyer, or trust may be selected if none of these people are available. Next, the deceased’s will is handed over to the court. The executor must provide an asset inventory to the court. If assets need to be sold to pay certain expenses, the executor is typically also responsible for this. Creditors are given written and public notice of the death and must bring forth any claims or debts against the estate within three months. Heirs named in the will are also located and notified, as well as people who owed debts to the deceased. Final tax returns are prepared. Finally, the court ensures all debts are settled and decides how the deceased’s assets will be distributed.
How Long Does Probate Usually Take in Florida?
Generally, probate can take anywhere from six to nine months in the state of Florida. Factors include the size of the estate, how much property must be sold, if taxes or debts are still owed, and if there are any disputes among the heirs about the division of the assets. Smaller estates may be settled quickly and more informally. In some cases, the probate process may be started right after someone’s death.
The Will Says I Am the Personal Representative. Do I Need a Probate?
You will likely need probate unless you are both the personal representative and the sole beneficiary, which is pretty rare.
What Does a Personal Representative Do?
The personal representative gathers an inventory of the deceased’s assets, sells estate assets to pay off the deceased’s debts, and notifies all heirs and creditors of the death. They generally receive a fixed percentage of the estate’s total value for their services. A probate attorney is also advised to help you achieve desirable results. They can help you avoid complicated tax issues and resolve disputes.
Do All Estates in Florida Have to Go Through “Full” Probate?
No. Small estates without real property involved may not be required to go through the full probate process. A process known as summary administration may be recommended instead, which is usually less formal, faster, and cheaper. If the deceased has been dead for over two years, it may also be eligible for this type of administration. However, there is not a deadline for probate in Florida. You may start the process whenever you’re comfortable and ready to move things forward.
Do I Need to Appear Personally in Florida to Probate an Estate?
Generally speaking, no. Most probate proceedings are conducted via phone, mail, and email these days. The only time a personal representative would be required to appear in person would be in the case of a formal hearing to resolve a dispute. However, your probate attorney may be able to attend on your behalf. The Law Offices of Travis R. Walker, P.A. would be happy to answer any additional questions you may have regarding how probate works. It is but one of our many specialty areas of practice. We are also here to assist with estate planning, real estate transactions, foreclosures, bankruptcies, and family law matters, including divorce, adoption, paternity, and parenting plans. Please contact us today to request a consultation with our seasoned Florida probate attorneys!
What Is Estate Planning, and Why Is It Important?
Estate planning is essential because it establishes guidelines for the distribution of your debts and assets after your death. Issues discussed with an estate planning lawyer include your last will and testament, living wills, pet trusts, special needs trusts, probate, and powers of attorney, should you become mentally or physically incapacitated and unable to make decisions regarding your healthcare. Most estate planning attorneys charge sliding scale legal fees for these services, meaning how much they charge is usually proportional to your estate’s gross value.