For probate, estate and guardianship litigation, choose a probate attorney you can trust.
Shigo Law Firm provides excellent probate counsel for a number of issues that often arise during the probate process. Whether you've been named a probate personal representative, are concerned about the probate process, want to contest a will, or worry that the decedent may have been exploited or in a state of duress while creating a will, contact our Florida probate attorneys.
Probate Attorney in Gainesville & Ocala
When a loved one has passed away, survivors are left with the difficult task of evaluating the deceased's assets. As you can imagine, this process can be emotional, and when family members cannot agree on dividing the assets, or if a will is in place, then the process can be overseen by the courts through probate. During probate, the assets of the deceased are identified and gathered, debts are paid, and the assets are distributed to the beneficiaries per the will. The cost of probate is paid for with the decedent's (the deceased person's) assets, then all debts are paid off.
Probate is a necessary process in order to ensure that the decedent's outstanding debts are paid and that assets are passed to the proper beneficiaries. Probate is useful whether the decedent left a will or not.
What are Assets?
Probate administration deals with only certain types of assets. Probate-applicable assets are those that the decedent owned at the time of death. Assets that are owned by other parties in addition to the decedent may be considered if there is no succession provision available at the time of death.
Common examples of probate assets include bank accounts, life insurance policies and real estate.
- Bank accounts that are in the decedent's name alone are considered probate assets. Joint bank accounts or joint investment accounts that become payable or transferable on death do not qualify as probate assets.
- Life insurance policies and individual retirement accounts that are payable to the estate of the decedent are probate assets. Policies that are payable to a beneficiary are not probate assets.
- Titles of real estate that are in the decedent's name alone are probate assets.
Probate Administration in Florida
In the State of Florida, there are two types of probate administration.
- Formal Administration: Formal administration applies if the decedent has been dead for 2 years or less and the value of the probate estate exceeds $75,000.
- Summary Administration: In Florida, if the value of the probate estate is less than $75,000, if the decedent's debts are paid, and if a will does not direct administration, summary administration may become available. Beneficiaries are accountable for liability claims against the decedent for up to 2 years after the time of death.
A third type of probate administration is used only in certain circumstances. It is called “Disposition of Personal Property without Administration,” and it is not supervised through the courts. This option is rarely applicable, and has several restrictions, so it is best to consult a professional probate attorney for details.
Probate Personal Representative
In each case, a personal representative is named to administer the decedent's estate. The personal representative gathers information about the assets, files specific paperwork, pays fees and claims, distributes the assets and closes the probate estate. The personal representative may be an individual, a bank or a trust company appointed by a judge. If a will names an individual or institution to serve as a personal representative, the judge may approve the appointment as long as the proposed representative is legally qualified to serve in the position.
If every single probate case, it is paramount that the personal representative obtain legal representation. A probate attorney is qualified to assist in every area of probate, from filing paperwork and publishing newspaper announcements to gathering information on assets and distributing those assets. The majority of personal representatives have never gone through the probate process before — they are often parents, spouses, children and other relatives of the deceased. A qualified probate attorney will provide the counsel and guidance needed to quickly resolve any issues and close the estate in a timely manner.
Probate Litigation Services in Gainesville
The State of Florida has several statutes in place that are designed to streamline the probate and guardianship processes in the majority of cases. However, it is not uncommon for disagreements, controversy, challenges and confusion to arise during the process. Personal representatives are not the only individuals involved in the probate process that may benefit from obtaining a probate lawyer.
Reasons to obtain an experienced probate attorney:
- Contesting a will
- Claiming the decedent had a lack of mental capacity when making his or her will
- Undue influence, or claiming duress, force, over-persuasion, coercion or fraudulent contrivances occurred that caused destruction to the freedom of the person making the will
- Tortious interference (with an expected gift or bequest)
- Breach of fiduciary duty by a personal representative, beneficiary, guardian or trustee
- Exploitation or abuse of the elderly
A Probate Attorney You Can Trust
At Shigo Law Firm, we provide probate counsel and representation to many clients in Ocala, Gainesville and throughout North Central Florida. Our attorneys are qualified in every aspect of the probate process, and we're here to answer questions, address concerns and act quickly if you think the rights of the decedent were impaired during the will-making process. If you have been appointed a probate personal representative, there are a lot of legal responsibilities that you will face, but you don't have to face it alone. We understand the grief and hardship that result from the death of a loved one, and when you're suddenly in charge of the probate process, it can be confusing, scary and even cause a rift between family members. Let us help you shoulder the responsibility and ensure that the probate process can be completed in a timely manner. Contact an experienced probate attorney today.