People always ask, “Do you need a Florida inheritance lawyer?” The answer to this question depends on several factors. First, if you have little or no idea what probate is, it is important to consult with a lawyer. Second, if there is no will and/or there are family conflicts, an inheritance lawyer can help guide you through the maze and educate you on your rights.
Probate is a legal process that not only proves the validity of the will but also ensures that the decedent’s estate is distributed in a fair manner to the beneficiaries according to the wishes of the decedent. If the decedent did not leave behind a will, the estate will be distributed by the courts according to the Intestate succession laws. Even in the simplest cases, probate can take anywhere from 3-6 months to resolve but more complex cases can take several years. In Florida, if the estate goes to probate court, a Florida inheritance lawyer is required.
An inheritance lawyer is a licensed professional who guides both beneficiaries and personal representatives through the probate process. The lawyer assists with a listing of all the assets, and names of all the beneficiaries, creditors, and lien holders. The Florida inheritance lawyer’s job is to ensure that the inheritance is distributed according to the probate court without any conflicts.
Do You Need a Lawyer?
Do you need a Florida inheritance lawyer? It is recommended, yes. And in the majority of Florida probate cases, you will be asked to hire a probate lawyer. Only very rarely is this not necessary. For example, if the decedent had a very small estate and the only beneficiary is the personal representative, then in such scenarios, probate may not be necessary. However, even then it is important to consult with a lawyer to ensure that you don’t make any legal mistakes that may later prove costly.
Reasons Why You Need an Inheritance Lawyer in Florida
- Technical difficulties: When someone dies in Florida, with or without a will, the instructions for the living family on what to do next are not always clear. Even though there is a fair amount written on probate, the wording can be complex, and most people have great difficulty understanding what exactly everything means. Most people have no idea what probate is, why it is necessary, and what happens during the process. On top of that, there are all sorts of rules and regulations that people have to follow when registering a will with the probate court. Plus, there are different forms to be filled out, many of which are not always available online. Do you need a Florida inheritance lawyer? For these reasons alone, it is helpful to have a probate lawyer who can help you navigate the complex maze of Florida probate rules; and this will save you a major headache and a lot of frustration.
- Avoid family drama and conflicts: After a member of the family has passed away, inevitably there will be some conflicts among the beneficiaries. The reasons may range from doubting the validity of the will, claiming that the will was written under duress, or that the decedent did not have the right mental capacity to know what he or she was doing when writing the will. Therefore, an experienced estate lawyer can help straighten out these issues and, hopefully, resolve family conflicts and ensure that all beneficiaries get their assets according to what was stated in the will.
- Belligerent family member: Unfortunately, it is not uncommon when one member of the family is unhappy about the will and/or his or her share of the estate. And this individual may become volatile and make threats about litigation. At this stage, the best advice is to consult with an estate lawyer. Lawsuits that involve probate cases can not only tear families apart but can be very costly as well. By acting fast, the lawyer can minimize the losses and hopefully reach a fair resolution for all the beneficiaries with good negotiating techniques.
- Can one avoid probate? This is a common question that only estate lawyers can answer. This all depends on the size of the estate and the types of assets. Of course, not all assets go through probate, but you will need to consult with an estate lawyer to determine which ones do and which ones don’t. In general, when there is a beneficiary designated for certain investments, probate is not required.
- Identifying the beneficiaries: If it is not known who the beneficiaries are or if there is no will, it can be a real struggle to find out the names of the inheritors of the estate. In addition, one needs to know what assets were left by the decedent and who was named as the personal representative. In such scenarios, when things are not clear, assistance from a probate attorney can help track down the beneficiaries.
- Contesting the validity of the will: If there is doubt about the validity of the will or if you feel that the will was written under duress or that the individual was not competent to write a will, it is important to consult with a probate lawyer. An experienced probate lawyer can help you contest the will and determine if it is valid or fraudulent.
- Help with estate planning: If a senior member of your family has a chronic illness like dementia, a probate attorney can assist with estate planning. This can ensure that the wishes of the individual will be carried out after death.
- Surviving spouse: Some surviving spouses may have no idea about their rights after the death of the spouse. In Florida, some laws entitle the surviving spouse to keep certain assets. An experienced inheritance lawyer can advise you of your rights and ensure that you get the legal maximum share of your entitlements.
- Who will pay the bills? One natural question that beneficiaries have is who will be responsible for the court costs, administrative fees, taxes, funeral costs, fees for the personal representative, and creditors? In general, the majority of these fees are paid from the estate. If there is not enough money in the estate, the courts will decide who ends up getting paid.
- Creditors and lien holders: If you are aware that the decedent did owe money to creditors and that there are also lien holders, you should not voluntarily reimburse these individuals, as they have to meet certain legal criteria first. An experienced estate lawyer can provide guidance on the management of creditor claims and also ensure that your rights are protected at the same time. In most cases, creditors are paid out of the estate funds.
While there is no question that probate is a complex, lengthy, legal process, an experienced Florida inheritance lawyer can help you navigate the process with ease. The earlier you seek assistance from a Florida inheritance lawyer, the fewer hassles you are likely to face. Call Elder Law, P.A. today at (561) 933-4769 to learn more. Our knowledgeable and experienced team members specialize in issues facing seniors today.