It may be tempting to think you can handle your estate without consulting with an experienced Florida probate lawyer. A respected probate attorney can help the testator prepare the right legal documents to save on taxes, minimize attacks against your will, and maximize the amount you have available for your family and loved ones.
How an experienced probate attorney helps the testator
Many assets don’t need to pass through probate. There are tax advantages to avoiding probate. Avoiding probate administration of assets can save on time and expenses. Probate planning can help the people you love to obtain the assets you want them to have. Good probate planning can also help avoid claims by creditors.
Proper planning can also help to avoid litigation over the validity of a testator’s will. Wills can be contested due to:
- Undue influence on the testator
- A lack of testamentary capacity
- There’s a later will
- The will fails to comply with the witness and other formalities
An experienced lawyer understands the steps needed to comply with the formalities and verify that the will is the latest. He’ll work to minimize the likelihood of questions about your mental and emotional conditions at the time you created the will.
How a probate attorney helps the executor
The Florida probate lawyer will help defend any claims that the will is invalid. He’ll then work with the executor to administer the estate. If there are any claims by heirs that the executor should be removed, an experienced probate lawyer will aggressively argue that the testator chose you for good reason – and that you’re doing your duty to comply with the will’s terms.
The administration of the estate involves a lot of tasks. The attorney understands what tasks must be met, the time limits for those tasks, who needs to be informed of your work, and many other matters. Some of these tasks include:
- Identifying all the estate assets
- Placing a proper value on estate assets. Some assets such as the value of a business can be difficult to determine. Often a good probate attorney works with business appraisers, real estate appraisers, and other types of value experts.
- Filing any past due to income tax returns
- Filing any fiduciary returns if the administration process takes too much time
- Opening up an estate checking banking account
- Getting the right court papers so the executor can acquire the estate assets
- Paying any taxes that are due
- Accounting for all the funds that came in
- Negotiating and litigating any disputes
- Representing the executor at the sale of a home
- Explaining when and how the Florida homestead exemption applies
- Paying the creditors
- Collecting insurance proceeds
Paying administrative fees such as court costs
- Seeking court approval to distribute assets
How a probate attorney helps if there is no will
If the decedent did not write a will, then the estate property is distributed according to the Florida intestate laws. An experienced probate attorney explains these laws. He also works to help clients file for approval as an administrator/personal representative of the estate.