Probate Lawyers Fort Lauderdale Florida
Probate is the process by which someone’s assets are distributed to intended beneficiaries after death. This is an oversimplification, of course — some assets, for example, do not even go through probate. Nevertheless, you are likely to be involved in a probate proceeding at some point in your life, even if only as a beneficiary.
How Probate Works in Fort Lauderdale
In a probate proceedings, the deceased’s last will and testament is deposited with the probate court with jurisdiction over the case. The court then appoints a personal representative(usually the person named in the last will and testament; otherwise the court will usually appoint a close relative). The personal representative closes out the estate by paying its debts, collecting whatever debts are owed to it, and distributing assets according to the will.
The probate court supervises the entire process. If a probate dispute erupts (if someone challenges the validity of the will, for example), the court will hear the dispute and make a decision. Once all disputes have been resolved and all estate assets have been properly distributed, the court will issue an order closing the estate.
Exceptions to Probate
Following are the two major exceptions to the requirement for probate proceedings:
- Non-Probate Assets: Certain types of assets, such as assets in a living trust, life insurance proceeds, property held in joint tenancy, and IRA accounts are not subject to probate — they pass under their own terms. The beneficiary of a life insurance policy, for example, is likely to receive the value of the policy within a few weeks, without the involvement of the probate court.
- Summary Administration: Summary administration is a simplified probate proceeding for small estates, or for situations in which more than two years have passed since the deceased’s date of death. If the estate is eligible for summary administration it is an option, not a requirement. It is quicker than probate and does not even require the appointment of a personal representative to administer the probate estate.
Some of Our Practice Areas
Jose Lorenzo is a probate attorney and a member of the Florida Bar with years of experience practicing law in the following areas:
- Asset protection
- Probate litigation
- Trusts & estates
- Estate planning
- Estate administration
- Personal injury
- Probate litigation
- Probate trust administration
- Real estateprobate planning
- Trustee/personal representative breach of fiduciary duty
The foregoing is only a partial list of the areas of law in which Lorenzo Law serves clients.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What are the grounds for invalidating a will in Florida?
A will can be invalidated for a number of reasons in Florida. Some of the most common reasons include:
- Someone exercised undue influence over the testator (the testator is the person who wrote the will and whose assets are subject to probate);
- The testator lacked mental capacity at the time the will was written (because of dementia, for example);
- The appropriate legal formalities for writing a valid will were not complied with (lack of two witnesses, for example);
- Fraud occurred (the testator did not realize that what he or she was signing was actually a will, for example); and
- The will was the product of an insane delusion on the part of the testator (this may apply if, for example, someone leaves all of their assets to their cat, or to extraterrestrials).
Is a lawyer required during probate proceedings?
A lawyer is usually required to represent the personal representative. Situations in which a lawyer is not required include:
- The personal representative of the estate is the only beneficiary (the deceased’s spouse, for example); or
- The estate has no real estate and all of its property is exempt from creditors’ claims, except for funeral expenses and certain expenses that arose during the last two months of the deceased’s life. Remember, the estate still includes no real estate even if the deceased owned real estate but put it into a living trust, for example, of it the real estate is otherwise not a part of the probate estate.
Will I have to go to court?
Probably not. You will almost certainly not be required to come to court as long as no dispute erupts. Even if a dispute does erupt, as long as you have a lawyer, you can send your lawyer to court for you. In some disputes you might be required to testify, but this is not the typical case.
What happens if there is no valid will?
In probate, there may be no valid will for one of two reasons: (i) the deceased did not leave a will; or (ii) the will is invalidated by the probate court. If the will is invalidated, the deceased’s probate estate will pass to beneficiaries according to Florida intestate succession law. Florida intestate succession law rank-orders beneficiaries according to their relationship with the deceased — the spouse is first priority, for example — and then distributes assets accordingly.
What are Letters of Administration?
Letters of Administration are written orders from a probate court that authorize the personal representative to administer the estate. They may authorize, for example, the personal representative to draw on the assets contained in the deceased’s bank account to pay estate debts. In short, they grant the personal representative the formal authority to administer the estate.
Contact Lorenzo Law Today
It is dangerous to select a name at random out of an online lawyer directory– a lawyer whose primary experience lies in business law, for example, is not likely to be your best choice of probate attorney. Jose Lorenzo is an estate planning and probate lawyer with years of experience handling estate and probate problems — and that means helping to avoid problems in advance as well as resolving them when they do occur. Our law firm offers its extensive legal servicesto clients throughout Fort Lauderdale, FL including Coral Springs, Victoria Park, Rio Vista and Bay Colony, as well as elsewhere in Broward Countyand South Florida. Call us at (305) 999-5411, fill out our online contact form, email us at email@example.com or visit our office at Coral Gables or Ft. Lauderdale.