Will I need a probate lawyer?

Will I need a probate lawyer?

March 30, 2023

Losing a loved one is already hard enough. You likely do not want to think about the complexities of probate law and how to settle an estate. Getting a probate lawyer can help facilitate the probate process in Jacksonville. 

1. Do I Need a Probate Lawyer in Florida?

2. To Avoid Family Conflict

3. Determining Beneficiaries

4. Challenging the Validity of a Will

5. To Overcome The Technical Hurdles

6. Creating Estate Plans

7. Hire a Probate Attorney in Florida – Free Consultation! 

1. Do I need a Probate Lawyer in Florida?

Yes. Most of the time when you have probate assets, you need a probate lawyer in Florida. 

While some states have County Court Clerk’s offices that may offer some guidance, they may not provide legal advice and the Florida probate system has many complex rules and statutes to follow throughout the administration. These complexities make it nearly impossible for you to properly navigate the probate process without a probate lawyer. In Florida, Probate Rule 5.030, states in pertinent part: ATTORNEYS (a) Required; Exception. Every guardian and every personal representative, unless the personal representative remains the sole interested person, shall be represented by an attorney admitted to practice in Florida.

A probate lawyer provides legal counsel and will help guide you through the probate process. What exactly does that mean they can do for you? 

2. Help Avoid Family Conflict

Settling the estate means assets will typically need to be divided and distributed. Unfortunately, family conflict may arise when it comes to splitting assets from a decedent’s estate. Beneficiaries may raise objections to asset distribution and valuation,  which could result in disputed or contested issues prolonging the administration. Disagreements can prolong the probate process by months, maybe years. 

Based on the decedent’s Last Will & Testament, a probate lawyer can help execute the decedent’s last wishes as objectively as possible, according to Florida law, and ultimately may help avoid family conflict. 

3. Determining Beneficiaries

One of the things that a probate lawyer does is identify the beneficiaries and heirs, whether based upon the decedent’s Will and/or Florida’s intestate statutes (when no Will). The beneficiaries or heirs should be notified and may ultimately receive the proper assets which they are entitled. In some cases, such as if a beneficiary is a minor, or the heir’s name is listed differently than the present name, or if an heir has predeceased, it may be confusing to determine eligible beneficiaries, but a probate lawyer can  help the client simplify the process. 

Identifying estate assets and their value can be challenging. If real estate is involved, it’s very important to hire an experienced attorney so everything can be properly settled. After all, the transfer of a decedent’s Florida real estate can be tricky and perhaps counterintuitive to handle.

4. Challenging the Validity of a Will

The following statutes set forth who can make a Will and how to properly execute it.

Florida Statute section 732.50, states - Who may make a will.—Any person who is of sound mind and who is either 18 or more years of age or an emancipated minor may make a will.

732.502 Execution of wills.—Every will must be in writing and executed as follows:

(1)(a) Testator’s signature.—

1. The testator must sign the will at the end; or

2. The testator’s name must be subscribed at the end of the will by some other person in the testator’s presence and by the testator’s direction.

(b) Witnesses.—The testator’s:

1. Signing, or

2. Acknowledgment:

      a. That he or she has previously signed the will, or

      b. That another person has subscribed the testator’s name to it,must be in the presence of at least two attesting witnesses.

     (c) Witnesses’ signatures.—The attesting witnesses must sign the will in the presence of the testator and in the presence of each other.

(2) Any will, other than a holographic or nuncupative will, executed by a nonresident of Florida, either before or after this law takes effect, is valid as a will in this state if valid under the laws of the state or country where the will was executed. A will in the testator’s handwriting that has been executed in accordance with subsection (1) shall not be considered a holographic will.

(3) Any will executed as a military testamentary instrument in accordance with 10 U.S.C. s. 1044d, Chapter 53, by a person who is eligible for military legal assistance is valid as a will in this state.

(4) No particular form of words is necessary to the validity of a will if it is executed with the formalities required by law.

(5) A codicil shall be executed with the same formalities as a will.

A probate lawyer will analyze the Will according to the foregoing statutes and determine if it’s believed to be valid or not.  Sometimes, it may be necessary to challenge the validity of the decedent’s purported Will.  

5. To Overcome The Technical Hurdles

The larger the decedent’s estate, the more complex the probate process may be. Some common hurdles that arise during the probate administration include a personal representative (aka executor) not wanting this role to handle the affairs of the probate estate, a dispute over asset valuations or what is and is not a probate asset, the Will being challenged, and assets existing in multiple states, such as real property. All of these matters can complicate the probate process. 

. Additionally, certain taxes may be owed, including having to file a federal estate tax return, handle any life insurance policies that are payable to the estate  and settle potential debts appropriately. Specialists may need to be hired to properly evaluate certain assets as well. 

6. Creating Estate Plans

A good estate plan can help immensely with your peace of mind and ensure that your wishes are carried out properly. A basic estate plan typically includes a Last Will and Testament, Beneficiary Designations on certain assets, a Durable Power of Attorney, Designation of Health Care Surrogate, Living Will, and Declaration Naming Preneed Guardian for a minor and/or adult. 

A Florida licensed estate planning lawyer may be able to help you identify your in-depth goals and help devise a valid and comprehensive estate plan. 

7. Hire a Probate Attorney in Florida – Free Consultation!

It is never too late or early to start the probate process in Florida. No matter if days or decades have passed, a probate lawyer can help you determine how you may open a probate case. 

When it comes to finding a good probate lawyer in Jacksonville, we can help. Leggett Law Offices has a Florida licensed attorney with a focus on probate matters and offers free initial phone consultations for those in need of probate assistance, in most cases.

Schedule a Free Initial Consultation Today!

Call Leggett Law Offices today to schedule Probate phone consultation.

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