3 Stumbling Blocks Your Probate Estate in Florida May Run Into

probate estate in Florida

Administering a probate estate in Florida does not always run smoothly.

While probate administration can be simple in some cases, others encounter plenty of stumbling blocks along the way. Having a probate lawyer to assist you is not only required by law in most probate administration actions in Florida, but it also makes a lot of sense.

A probate attorney can, in most cases, either prevent or fix some of the stumbling blocks that can arise during probate administration.

The Laws are Complicated, and There’s Plenty of Legal Jargon

One aspect of probate administration that many people find difficult is the various Florida probate laws and the legal jargon.

It’s true.

Florida probate law can be complicated and confusing to navigate without an experienced probate lawyer.

In part, this is attributable to the fact that the laws pertaining to Wills (“Last Will and Testament”) and trusts are so old. Indeed, probate administration in the United States was influenced and shaped by the Norman Conquest in 1066 A.D.

Plus, this area of law has been slow to change over the years.

Many people find the legal language used in probate administration or by probate attorneys confusing. And indeed, it can be.

Yet it is critical to know the difference between, for example, “descendant” and “decedent.” As well as to know what probate is and what it does.

Florida law has 3 main ways an estate may be probated:

  • Formal administration
  • Summary administration, and
  • Disposition without administration

Formal administration is the most common type of probate administration in Florida. It applies to any estate valued at more than $75,000, or in cases where the decedent (i.e., the person who died) has been dead less than two years.

Summary administration applies in fewer cases because it is used to probate estates of less than $75,000 or where more than two years have passed since the decedent’s death.

Disposition without administration is only used when the decedent leaves no property or where the value of the entire estate is less than the amount of final expenses (in other words, less than the costs of decedent’s end-of-life care, funeral/burial expenses).

Unless a person has an understanding of the basics of probate in Florida (and so much more), you may run into stumbling blocks in your probate estate in Florida. That’s why reaching out to an experienced probate attorney near you is vital.

Here are 3 Stumbling Blocks Your Probate Estate in Florida May Run Into

  1. Your Personal Representative Refuses the Role

One of the purposes of creating a Last Will and Testament (“Will”) is to name who you want to act as the executor or personal representative for your probate estate in Florida.

A personal representative (also known as an “executor” or “executrix” in some states) is the person who is responsible for gathering a decedent’s assets, accounting for everything, and ultimately distributing them to the decedent’s heirs in accordance with the decedent’s Will.

It is a difficult and demanding job. The personal representative must be completely trustworthy and must be able to handle a variety of legal and non-legal issues that affect the estate, including taxes and beneficiary disputes. In addition, he or she must follow many complicated court rules and procedures. Because this role is so challenging and complicated, Florida law requires personal representatives to hire a probate and estate lawyer to help them.

The probate of an estate may hit a stumbling block if the person named as a decedent’s personal representative refuses to accept the role. When that happens, the court must appoint someone else. If the decedent worked with an experienced probate lawyer to create an estate plan, he or she will have named an alternate personal representative in the Will, thus making this process less cumbersome and expensive.

  1. Family Fights

Family conflicts are another stumbling block that can derail your smooth probate in Florida. Family life today is complicated. Many people have blended families or are dealing with divorce, and not all families have harmonious relationships.

When a person dies, family discord and tension can get worse.

Especially if the decedent (person who passes) did not have a proper Florida estate plan.

Generally speaking, the worst of these conflicts happen when a person dies intestate —without having made a Will or trust or any other instrument providing for the distribution of his estate. Without the direction of a Will or trust instrument to make a decedent’s wishes known, family members will fight over who gets what.

Bitter disputes also arise if you fail to execute other necessary estate planning documents like Living Will or Health Directive. Family disputes over whether to provide you with end-of-life procedures can last for years and are heartrending in and of themselves. Nothing emphasizes this point better than the tragic case of Terri Schiavo.

Unless you have a proper estate plan and all the necessary supporting documents addressing incompetency and end-of-life in place before you die, family disputes could disrupt the probate of your Florida estate and tie it up in litigation for years.

  1. Owning Property in States Other Than Florida

Another stumbling block your probate estate in Florida could run into is that of owning property outside of Florida.

When a Florida resident dies owning property in another state, it results in ancillary probate proceedings. Basically, this means that two probates will have to be conducted. One in Florida to distribute the Florida property and a separate probate proceeding (an ancillary proceeding) in the other state where the Florida resident owned property.

If the decedent was not a resident of Florida but owned property in Florida, then the situation will be reversed: a primary probate proceeding will take place in the state of the decedent’s domicile, and an ancillary proceeding will take place in Florida where he or she owned property.

Any number of stumbling blocks could arise to derail the smooth running of your Florida probate. However, if you work with an experienced Florida probate attorney to develop a comprehensive estate plan, you will avoid these and many other stumbling blocks.

Talk to Our Estate Planning Attorneys 

Our probate and estate lawyers work hard to ensure that your wishes will be followed, and your loved ones taken care of when you are gone. Our team expertly guide individuals and families through the complex probate process and capably handle all aspects of the creation, administration, and settlement of estates and trusts. When you work with our probate estate attorneys at SJF Law Group, you get more than just an estate plan: you get peace of mind.

As trusted probate and estate lawyers, we serve clients in Plantation, Fort Lauderdale, Boca Raton, West Palm Beach, and Miami, FL. We are also pleased to offer the options of both in-person and virtual appointments throughout Florida to make our services accessible no matter where you are located.

If you want to discuss your specific situation with one of our estate planning lawyers, contact SJF Law Group at 954-580-3690. You can also fill out our contact form. We take pride in responding to inquiries in a timely manner.

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