Probate is a legal term which governs how the estate of a decedent is handled. Probate generally includes validating any wills. Florida probate also includes appointing a personal representative to handle the estate. Indian River County probate can also include resolving any claims that the will should be invalidated.
Helping Families After the Loss of a Loved One
If a loved one passes away without a will in place, probate is the judicial process of distributing the deceased person’s assets and settling any debts. Upon a person’s death, notice is given to heirs and beneficiaries, as well as creditors. Any debts or owed taxes are paid and the remaining is distributed per the decedent’s wishes, or according to state law if there is not will. Hiring an attorney can help avoid probate in certain situations:
- The Titling of Assets
Assets which are held as joint tenants with a right of survivorship – or tenants by the entirety (essentially a joint tenancy between spouses) can pass directly to the other joint tenants or a spouse without the need to go through probate. In addition, homes, bank accounts and other financial assets can be joint with the right of survivorship or as tenants in the entirety.
- Payment of Death Documents
Documents such as life insurance policies and bank accounts should name specific beneficiaries who will receive the proceeds or assets when the decedent dies. Your lawyer at Lulich & Attorneys will explain which documents should be made payable on death and how to formally complete the documentation requirements.
- Trust Agreements
Are legal documents an Indian River County resident creates. The creator places some assets in trust for the use by a beneficiary. A trustee that the creator appoints manages the trust. The trust assets do not pass through the estate, meaning they do not require probate. Trusts are often created for minors, people who are not competent, non-profits, and charities.
- Business Succession Plans
There are three basic types of business interests – partnership, stock in a corporation, and a sole proprietorship. Through partnership agreements, stock ownership agreements, and other documents – you may be able to transfer business interests without the need for probate.
IRAs, annuities, and other retirement accounts are assets that may be able to avoid probate.
Selecting the Right Personal Representative
Selecting a personal representative helps anyone concerned about their estate prepare a will. The personal representative will state who you choose as an executor and you can even appoint more than one executor. Your personal representative acts in a fiduciary capacity, meaning the representative is subject to lawsuits for nonperformance or incompetent performance. You may also appoint a spouse or an adult child as a personal representative. Whoever you choose, you should make sure the representative is able to perform the following:
- Make an inventory of all assets
- Obtaining certificates of appointment
- Open an estate checking account
- Determine who is entitled to assets under the will or the Florida interstate laws
- Notify creditors that the decedent has died
- Arrange for the sale or transfer of a home and any personal assets
- Pay the funeral and burial expenses
- Prepare, file, and pay any outstanding income taxes, fiduciary income taxes, and any estate taxes
- Resolve any claims by creditors – through settlement or litigation
- Manage estate assets until they’re ready for distribution
- Determine how much assets should be sold for
- Prepare an accounting of financial transactions
- Distribute assets to heirs and beneficiaries after court approval
At Lulich & Attorneys, we respect your need to grieve after losing a loved one. We have helped countless families with validating wills and will assist in appointing a personal representative. We will guide you through any contest by claimants against the estate. Our Probate Attorneys will also walk you through each phase of the estate administration process. Most estates are resolved amicably, however, we’re ready to advocate for you if litigation is needed to resolve any disputes.
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