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Get Probate Help in South Florida

Probate Attorneys for South Florida

When a relative dies in South Florida, it is important to contact a law firm experienced in the probate process. Death is a painful time for family and friends of the decedent. However, the loss of precious family assets left behind by the decedent can make it that much more difficult to cope. It is important to protect the future for you and your loved ones through adequate estate planning to avoid the chance of losing such family treasures due to a lack of preparation.

The decision to plan for the future of your estate will make the transferring of your assets to your loved ones a simpler transition. The transfer of ownership of a decedent’s estate is a legal procedure known as Probate. Probate is a term that inevitably familiarizes itself with survivors of decedents. It is essential that those survivors understand the probate process and its complex area of the law.

What is Probate?

Probate is the legal process of transferring real and personal property in the estate of a deceased person to the appropriate heirs and beneficiaries. It is a procedural term that encompasses all that occurs from the time a person passes away to the time that person’s property transfers legally to its new owners.

How does Probate work?

- A standard probate procedure includes submitting a will, appointing a personal representative, paying creditors, paying tax returns, paying court costs and attorney fees, and ultimately the legal transferring of the decedent’s property to the beneficiaries and heirs.

- The probate process begins by presenting the decedent’s death certificate.

- The county where the decedent was domiciled determines which South Florida probate court will have jurisdiction over the estate’s property.

- Probate is necessary whether or not the decedent had a will. A will can be the main instrument used under Florida Law to facilitate the probate process; however, it does not substitute probate.

- The court appoints a personal representative, who receives legal authority to act on the decedent’s behalf and is responsible for the probate of the estate.

How long will probate take?

- The state encourages efficiency and is set up to bring resolution in a timely manner. While probate generally takes between six and eighteen months, the duration of probate depends on the complexity of the estate as well as other variables.

How Can Our Probate Attorneys Help?

Working with a South Florida Estate Planning and Probate attorney can help protect your loved ones from unwanted expenses and time consuming procedures. For example, a qualified attorney’s expertise can assure that your Will is properly drafted and executed; establish numerous types of Trusts; and advise you on gift giving and property transfers. The use of a competent Estate Planning attorney can help avoid many of the problems that are not easily recognizable to clients or unqualified attorneys. Have the foresight to work with an Estate Planning attorney on your estate plans and drastically reduce the pain and anguish of the probate process for your family.

For more information on successful Florida estate planning and probate techniques, please contact the South Florida law firm of Wild Felice & Partners, P.A. at 954-944-2855 or via email at info@wfplaw.com to schedule your free consultation. It’s a Wild world. Are you protected?

How Can Florida Probate Lawyers Protect Long-Term Legal Interests?!

Florida Probate Lawyers Protect Long-Term Legal Interests!

In legal parlance, “probate” is a collective reference to an array of procedures associated with executing the terms of a legally valid will. Like all legal proceedings, probate entails many technical facets and details. Such formalities are subscribed by law as being mandatory components of the legal probate machinery. Their overall purpose is intended to ensure the proper administration of the decedent’s estate plan.

Florida law requires probate proceedings in all situations wherein the deceased owned any type of asset(s). Probate provides a formalized judicial or quasi-judicial process for orderly asset assembly, debt settlement, and property title transfers to the decedent’s designated or legal heirs.

Historically, probate has often been touted as a tortuous ordeal to avoid at all costs. Prolonged waits for final estate resolution and additional administrative and court fees are the primary bases of this perspective. Legislators have largely eliminated these drawbacks within the Sunshine State, however.

For instance, asset inventories and similar financial data are no longer open to public scrutiny. Equally significant is that the entire process must now be completed within one year. More commonly, however, probate is concluded in less than six months.

Since its initial induction into the Union as official state in 1845, Florida’s legal code has contained numerous provisions that govern probate. Every aspect of the probate process is governed by the Florida Probate Code. This law is codified at Chapters 731 – 735 of state statutes.

The Florida Probate Code authorizes a trio of formats for probate administration. These include:


-    Summary Administration

This alternative is usually available when the cumulative value of non-exempt assets do not exceed $75,000; or, the decedent’s death occurred more than two years prior to probate commencement.


-    Formal Administration

As its title implies, this estate plan execution scheme takes its course via the judicial system much as lawsuits and other legal matters do. All appropriate forms and documents must be prepared and filed with the Circuit Court along with the required fee. The clerk then assigns a case number and opens a new court file to document and record all subsequent filings and in-court proceedings that pertain to the matter. This step is typically completed in the Florida county of the decedent’s primary residence when he or she were alive.


-     No Administration

Non-Administration is an option only for estates comprised entirely of exempt real property and non-exempt personal property below a certain threshold level. The specific allowable maximums are: 1) $6,00 for burial costs; and, 2) all customary and essential medical or hospital expenses accrued during the last two months of the decedent’s final illness.

Former state law also authorized a specialized probate proceeding denoted as “Family Administration.” As of January 1, 2002, however, this option became obsolete – except for estate plans filed prior to that date. In such instances, proceedings may continue as Family Administrations until the case concludes.

A Florida probate attorney is the best source of the most accurate, recent legal provisions. Such a qualified legal professional possesses the necessary skills, training, and specialized knowledge to devise and execute a competent estate plan.

For more information on successful Florida estate planning and probate techniques, please contact the South Florida law firm of Wild Felice & Partners, P.A. at 954-944-2855 or via email at info@wfplaw.com to schedule your free consultation. It’s a Wild world. Are you protected?

 


Probate: Frequently Asked Questions

Probate FAQs

What are the steps of Probate?

Generally, the probate process follows the same basic steps regardless of which US state you are domiciled in. The Probate Court, in the state of which you reside, will govern the probate process. The Probate steps include:

• Filing the Will of the decedent with the local court

• Notifying heirs, creditors, and the public of one’s death

• Identifying and inventorying the decedent’s property

• Appraising the property

• Paying off all debts and estate taxes

• Having the Court validate the Will

• Distributing the estate

What are the costs of Probate?

Typically, Probate costs anywhere from 3% to 7% of the total Estate value. There are appraisal costs, executor’s fees, court costs, the costs of a surety bond, legal fees, and accounting fees. Also, if the decedent holds property in more than one state, the Estate may have to face separate probate hearings in each applicable state.

How can I avoid Probate?

A Will is the main facilitator in the bestowment of property from a decedent to his/her beneficiaries. Still, with a valid Living Will probate results. Alternatively, the execution of many legal strategies should occur in an attempt to avoid the probate process. The most frequent probate avoidance strategies include:

• Revocable living trust

• Joint tenancy and tenancy by the entirety

• Payable-on-death designations

• Life insurance

• Gift Planning

A good Estate Plan should absolutely include the implementation of these probate avoidance strategies. It is important to understand that an Estate Plan is not a “cookie cutter” template that can be applied to everyone. What works for one person may not be right for another. By visiting an Estate attorney, you can create an Estate Plan that fits your situation, needs and wants, to assure that you and your family are protected. Such a decision will make the probate process easier on your loved ones.

For more information on how to protect your family and your assets, please contact the law firm of Wild Felice & Partners, P.A. at 954-944-2855 or via email at info@wfplaw.com.

Trust Administration to Lessen or Eliminate the Probate Process

Trust Administration

Trust administration is the legal process of administering your trust and ultimately protecting your assets. The advantage of trust administration is that its saves time and money by drastically lessening or eliminating the probate process. It can also save a lot of heartache by assuring the particular assets in your estate are protected.

Allowing our South Florida law firm to handle your Trust Administration will not only give you the assurance of proper asset protection but will lessen the stress of the mandatory legal procedure involved in administering your trust. That procedure includes inventory of the trust’s assets, the assessment of the value of the assets, the filing of tax returns, the notification of creditors, the notification of beneficiaries, the payment of debts, the attending of all hearings, and the filing of court ordered reports.

Trust administration is a mandatory legal process during which an attorney must be used. The Florida Courts govern the process and administration of a trust according to the Florida statutes. The legal process of trust administration begins immediately at the death of a settlor, and includes time sensitive, court set deadlines that must be adhered to for estate settlement.

At the death of the settlor, a successor trustee selected by the settlor administers the trust. For a person to qualify as a successor trustee, he or she must be a mentally competent, Florida resident of at least 18 years of age with no prior felonies on his or her criminal record. The attorney can help the settlor choose a successor trustee to assure that the trustee has sufficient legal and accounting knowledge to administer the trust properly. In some cases, if the settlor does not have a specific trustee in mind, it may be best to select the estate attorney as the trustee considering that he or she is already familiar with the exact wishes and intentions of the settlor.

The successor is selected at the time the trust is created. It is imperative to consult an attorney when selecting a successor because it is a decision that will absolutely influence the effectiveness of an estate. Such responsibilities of a successor trustee include the duty to be loyal and unbiased to all parties and potential beneficiaries of the trust, assure the trust assets are in an interest bearing account to keep the trust productive, decide on whether to make potentially prudent investments, inform beneficiaries of the trust’s status, and file tax returns, distribute income, keep records and handle all expenses.

For more information on successful Florida estate planning and asset protection techniques, please contact the South Florida law firm of Wild Felice & Partners, P.A. at 954-944-2855 or via email at info@wfplaw.com to schedule your free consultation. It’s a Wild world. Are you protected?

Probate Administration With the Help of a Skilled Estate Attorney

Probate Administration

During Probate, many complications arise that are unrecognizable by those unfamiliar with Probate Administration. Our law firm has the experience and training to avoid such complications, and we take pride in our ability to advise Personal Representatives through Probate.

With the help of a skilled Estate attorney, ensure the proper administration of the estate for the Personal Representative, heirs, and beneficiaries as well as the prevention of costly errors that can occur during Probate Administration.

Our firm can handle all areas of a decedent’s estate. Our services include resolving debt with creditors, following proper procedure to avoid litigation, and gathering the assets of the estate. Your assets will be protected because of our ability to address issues with property exemption, family allowance, elective share benefits, and estate tax reduction.

Furthermore, we will organize and file the US Estate Transfer Tax Return and Florida Estate Tax Return as well as the US Individual and US Fiduciary Income Tax Returns.

Once the beneficiaries receive their assets, the Personal Representative will pay their final fees, and we will have the Personal Representative released and discharged properly to avoid any chance of an estate administration lawsuit down the road.

While probate administration can be costly, stressful, and both energy and time consuming, our firm can manage the process for you to assure that administration of the estate is efficient, cheap, and correct.

For more information on successful Florida estate planning and probate techniques, please contact the South Florida law firm of Wild Felice & Partners, P.A. at 954-944-2855 or via email at info@wfplaw.com to schedule your free consultation. It’s a Wild world. Are you protected? We specialize in asset protection, estate planning and probate administration.

How a Will Affects Probate in Florida

Wills and Probate

The Will plays a crucial role in the Probate process, acting as the main facilitator during Probate. Many people wrongly believe that having a will avoids probate. If the decedent died without having a Will, he or she died intestate, meaning that the Court will follow state statutory law to determine the disbursement of the Estate. Probate will be required whether or not the decedent has left a will since the laws of the State of Florida provide a “will” for those who chose not to make one through the intestacy statutes.

At that point, the fate of your estate is left to a set “Will” provided by the State of Florida based on intestacy statutes, which declare that a decedent without a Will shall have their assets distributed as previously determined by Florida statutes. Generally, intestacy statute process goes as follows: all of a decedent’s estate will go to their spouse (if married without children) or $60,000 will go to the spouse with the remainder of the estate split amongst the children (if married with children). The only way probate can be avoided is with a trust-based Estate plan in place.

If well planned, the Probate process does not have to be complicated or an unpleasant experience. The use of an Estate attorney can help drastically reduce the chances of a Will contest by constructing a Will that both, meets your needs, and abides by the laws of the state. For example, the concerns with the validity of a Will reach beyond the mere drafting of the Will. There are very specific requirements for the execution of the Will as well. So, while the actual language of a Will may be acceptable, a Court can still deem a Will invalid when contested if the proper procedural law was not followed.

Usually a Will contest occurs with large Estates when family members or heirs have conflicting interests. Each party in the Estate will then hire an attorney with the interested party bringing the claim as the plaintiff and the personal representative of the Estate as the defendant. The most common objections in a Will contest include the questioning of the decedent’s mental capacity at the time of the Will’s execution, if the decedent was under duress or undue influence, if the Will was forged, and if the Will meets the states formal procedural requirements such as was the Will properly drafted, signed, witnessed, etc.

Also, a potentially terrifying thought is that Probate litigation becomes public knowledge to anyone who wishes to attain details. Thus, Probate litigation is not only expensive, but also embarrassing for the family and all those involved with the Estate. Lastly and most importantly, if the plaintiff party succeeds in their suit, the decedent’s wishes are not fulfilled, which defeats the whole purpose of the Will.

For more information on successful Florida estate planning and probate techniques, please contact the South Florida law firm of Wild Felice & Partners, P.A. at 954-944-2855 or via email at info@wfplaw.com to schedule your free consultation. It’s a Wild world. Are you protected?

Drawbacks to Probate

Planning your estate to assure the protection of your loved ones in the event of your death is an incredibly important task. Avoiding the subject because the event may seem implausible at this very moment or scary to discuss can leave your family and friends with a tremendous amount of stress and financial hardship in Probate.

Probate is necessary when the decedent has left assets titled in his or her individual name. These assets may include houses, cars, bank accounts, and even life insurance policies or retirement funds. It is irresponsible to go continue through life without having planned your estate, considering that one can be customized specific to your needs at a low cost and in a timely fashion.

The ideal Estate plan allows one to maintain control of their property while living, but allows for your assets to be protected, and your loved ones taken care of, upon your death or disability. A proper Estate plan would allow your very specific intentions to be carried out. Therefore, should you die, your exact wishes would be enacted on, instead of your property being subject to statutory interpretation.

Anyone who says that “Probate is not as bad as it sounds” is probably an Estate attorney. The bottom line is if you have over $75,000 in assets, you should do everything to either avoid probate, or simplify the process, as there are certainly negatives to probate.

The first and most obvious is the cost, with the lawyers, Courts, and creditors being paid prior to the family or beneficiaries seeing a single penny. Another drawback to probate is how time consuming the process is, with the probate of a simple estate taking between 6 and 18 months, while a complex estate can take over 3 years. During the probate process, your family does not have the ability of managing the assets in your estate. So, unfortunately, while certain assets depreciate in value, your family’s hands are tied as they do not have the ability to sell off those particular assets.

A third drawback is the idea that your family’s probate process including all that is included in the estate becomes public knowledge with probate litigation. Wills are filed with the Court and are considered public records, meaning anyone with internet access can view your family’s Will. However, if a Trust is set up, it not only eliminates the Probate process, but it is private information that can only be viewed by the appointed Trustee.

Finally, a very important drawback that should be addressed in a properly planned estate is that beneficiaries are poorly protected in Probate once they inherit an estate. The good news is with adequate estate planning through a trust-based plan set up by a qualified Estate attorney, your loved ones will be protected from manipulation, litigation, and divorce. Without a trust-based plan, your assets that you intended for your family could possibly be stripped from them and end up in the hands of a person you have never met.

For more information on how to protect your family and your assets, please contact the law firm of Wild Felice & Partners, P.A. at 954-944-2855 or via email at info@wfplaw.com. We are specialists in asset protection, estate planning and probate administration.

Probate is Mandatory, Even With a Will

Many people are surprised to find out that a probate proceeding may be necessary whether or not the decedent had a will. A will doesn’t eliminate the requirement for probate; rather, a will is the main mechanism used in the probate process. Probate is a supervised process for recognizing and collecting the assets of a deceased person, resolving their debts, and splitting up the remainder if the assets among the beneficiaries.

A judge from a circuit court oversees probate matters. The judge appoints the representative and gives them “letters of administration.” Woman learning that her inheritance is in probateThis document represents to the world that the personal representative is empowered to act on behalf of the deceased’s estate. The judge also may hold hearings when called for, and answer any and all questions voiced during the administration of the estate by entering directions called “orders.” Probate is a required process which ensures that the affairs of the deceased are taken care of. This process ensures that every one of the deceased’s creditor’s is paid. This includes tax debts from the IRS. The probate process usually costs from 3% to 7% of the total estate value. The transfer of assets from the decedent to a proper beneficiary is the main function of probate.

If the person died without a will it is referred to intestate. If they died intestate, the execution of the estate will be handled in accordance with state statutes. Probate court ensures that the law is followed. If a person died with a will in place, their estate is referred to as a testate estate. The court will make sure that it was properly executed, and the assets are distributed according to the will. However, it is crucial to remember that a will can be contested. This can delay the distribution of the will for years and incur high costs for the deceased’s estate.

Many times, when the estate is very large, family members or other heirs may have clashing interests. The interested parties with contrasting claims commonly hire an attorney. The plaintiff is the person who made the complaint, and the defendant is the personal representative in the lawsuit. Lack of mental capacity is often used as an objection. Another common objection is that the deceased was forced to create the will. Others objections include undue influence; the will is not the original, authentic will;  or the will was not properly designed, signed or witnessed according to the formal requirements of the state. Once litigation starts, the will is made available to the public, and anyone can access it. In addition to the embarrassment and cost, if the plaintiff wins the claim against the estate, the deceased’s wishes may not be carried out.

Although the probate process can be costly, it does not need to be complicated. The most effective way to reduce or avoid time in probate court is to pre-plan the estate. However, planning in advance does not mean going to the local OfficeMax and picking up a “fill-in the-blank” will or downloading it from a website.

Keep in mind that you must obey state laws. There are very clear statues that regulate the execution of a will. These include who can or should be a witness, and where and when you and your witnesses may sign. The specific wording used in the will may be legally correct; however, the will can still be questioned if it is not correctly executed. Also, certain family members may have declared rights according to state statues. To minimize the possibility of your will being contested, hire an Estate Planning attorney. A well-versed lawyer can draft a will for you that will meet your needs and the statutes of your state.

In South Florida, contact the Estate Planning and Probate attorneys at Wild Felice and Partners at (954) 944-2855

Probate: What You Need to Know

Fortunately, for the majority of people, death of a loved one is not a common occurrence.  However, when it does happen, it can result in a great deal of stress.  This is particularly true when the deceased has not planned the distribution of his assets.  Family members must go through probate to acquire these assets.sadness:a death in the family

During probate proceedings, the court transfers ownership of the deceased individual’s assets to the beneficiaries of the estate.  This process begins with filing a petition.  This petition lists everything that the deceased person owned.  It also directs the distribution of the assets.

The petition might be more complicated for a larger estate, and there is a greater chance of conflicting interests from within the family.  As a result, it can take up to 18 months for the petition to be filed.  The probate proceedings might take around 6 months if the estate is smaller in size.  In either case, the costs will be approximately three to seven percent of the overall estate.

For individuals with wills, probate is still a required process.   Ultimately, if there are any asset is in the deceased person’s name, probate is necessary.   However, in some situations, the probate hearings may not be as complex.

In Florida, if the estate is less than $75,000, an informal hearing can be conducted with a probate administration.   Conversely, if the estate is worth more than $75,000, family members will probably have to go to court.

In any case, if you are required to attend a probate hearing, you must follow proper procedure.  You will need to be represented by an attorney unless you are the only one claiming the estate.  An attorney is required because there is the possibility that the estate could be contested for 3 years after the initial proceedings.   An attorney will guarantee that you have fair representation.

To avoid probate, family members should consider alternative options for estate planning.  A living trust is one of the easiest options because it immediately transfers ownership of the assets upon the decedent’s death.

While the beneficiaries will still need to visit an attorney, the overall process is less stressful.  It is faster, cheaper and generally more convenient than traditional probate. Also, a lawyer will sometimes take payment out of the estate.  So, while you will receive less from the probate, you will not have to pay anything upfront.

Regardless of how you approach settling an estate, it is prudent to consult with a trust and estate attorney.

In South Florida call the Estate Planning and Probate attorneys of Wild Felice and Partners at :
(954) 944-2855

Wild Felice & Partners, PA
Attorneys at Law
101 North Pine Island Road,
Suite 201
Fort Lauderdale, Florida 33324
TELEPHONE 954.944.2855
TOLL FREE 888.832.5554

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