Losing loved ones is never an easy process, and ensuring assets are properly distributed in accordance with his/her will can be even tougher. That is where a probate lawyer in Florida can help.
Probate is a court-supervised process of finding and collecting the assets of a deceased person (called the “decedent”), paying the decedent’s debts, and distributing the remainder of the assets to the decedent’s beneficiaries. Some examples of assets include bank accounts in which a decedent may have an interest; a life insurance policy or retirement account payable to the decedent’s estate rather than a specific individual; or real estate in which a decedent may have an interest.
When you search ‘Probate lawyer Florida near me,’ you will be inundated with law offices that can help you. However, before selecting your attorney, you should have a better understanding of the scope of their work.
What Does A Probate Lawyer Do?
When an individual passes, they often leave behind unsettled debts and assets for distribution (with or without leaving a will behind). Probate lawyers are state licensed attorneys who work with the beneficiaries of the decedent to help settle the affairs they have left behind. Probate lawyers may also help with drafting wills, living trusts, estate planning, serve as an executor, and even advise on powers of attorney.
Can A Probate Lawyer Help When There Isn’t A Will?
Whether or not the decedent left a will, a probate lawyer can help, though their work will vary.
If an individual dies without a will, which is called “intestate,” the State of Florida distributes his or her assets to their “heirs”—people related to the deceased. In accordance with Florida statute, the state will govern the distribution of probate assets of those who die intestate. Florida has a list of additional rules regarding who inherits what under varying circumstances.
In general, assets are first distributed to the decedent’s surviving spouse, if there is one. If not, assets typically go to the decedent’s children and are divided among them. If the decedent had more than one surviving child, assets may be divided between the surviving spouse and the decedent’s descendants. However, if no surviving spouse or child can be found, assets would be passed to the decedent’s parents, siblings, or more distant relatives, and in that order. There are exceptions for things like homestead property, but the asset reallocation process for intestate estates generally proceeds in that order. You can view Florida’s intestacy laws here.
You may also find yourself in contentious situations over the decedent’s will or lack thereof. As a result, you may end up in probate litigation, which can be a strenuous and emotional process.
Hiring an experienced probate litigation attorney may help with challenging an estate plan—for example, contesting a will or trust that was improperly procured. A probate lawyer may also be able to help you with defending and upholding the decedent’s wishes and safeguarding the inheritance for his or her heirs.
Do You Need A Probate Lawyer Consultation?
Hiring a Florida probate lawyer can help you make sure everything is prepared the way you want and guide you through the probate process that may be suited for your circumstances. The attorneys at Apfelbaum Law can help you through the probate process and assist in probate disputes and litigation, whether the decedent had a will or not. Contact us for a consultation if you need assistance or have questions about any potential legal matter.