When a person dies, their estate is distributed according to their will and trusts, if they have either. Any assets that are not already jointly owned or held in trust will need to go through the probate process. If you’ve been named the executor or estate administrator, you might want to hire a probate attorney to guide you through the process.
Here’s an overview of what a probate lawyer can do for you.
A probate attorney is also known as an estate planning attorney. They can offer their expertise on anything from drafting wills and trusts to assigning powers of attorney and creating advance healthcare directives. They may also help executors and administrators manage the probate process. Some attorneys will agree to be an estate’s administrator themselves.
If you’ve ever managed probate before, you might not need a probate attorney to advise you on the process. However, if you suspect there will be (or should be) a will contest, or the estate is particularly complex, working with a probate lawyer can be invaluable.
Duties when there is a will
There are a number of different legal issues that can come up during probate and estate administration, even if the deceased had a will. Probate attorneys can review the will and other estate planning documents to ensure they’re valid. They can also handle will contests. These usually occur when one party argues that a will is invalid because it was either created under duress, someone had undue influence on the deceased or the will doesn’t meet Florida state standards.
Even if there’s no reason to believe that the will is invalid, probate attorneys can help by overseeing the probate process. For example, you might hire them to handle and file all probate court documents, obtain appraisals for property and consult on tax issues.
Duties when there is no will
When a person dies without a will (“intestate”), a probate attorney can help you navigate probate court and Florida state intestacy laws. For example, they can help you identify, appraise and secure assets, get life insurance proceeds and other benefits due to the decedent, file income taxes and pay debts, distribute assets and more. They’ll also guide you through how the assets and benefits should be distributed, according to state law.
Since intestacy law has a designated order for who receives assets, how much and in which order of succession, you won’t have to deal with issues like will contests. However, if you’re the appointed administrator, you may need help navigating probate court and intestacy laws. A probate lawyer can make the process significantly easier, especially if you’ve never dealt with this sort of proceeding before.
Whether you hire an attorney to guide you through the probate process is completely up to you—but it’s a smart idea. Not only will this guarantee that the job is done right the first time, you’ll have someone upon whom you can rely if things become contentious.
To get in touch with Florida probate attorneys, call the Law Offices of Granoff & Kessler today.
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