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St. Petersburg & Lakewood Ranch Probate Lawyer
Know Your Options for Probate in Florida
As in other states, the probate process can be complicated in Florida. Depending on the factors involved in your unique situation, it may be possible to avoid probate. However, if you do not meet the criteria for a simpler method, you will likely be required to go through a formal probate proceeding.
Our probate attorney in St. Petersburg or Lakewood Ranch can help you understand your options and determine the best course of action. Attorney Melissa Williams has a background in psychology, giving her unique insight for each client's needs during such personal family matters. In every instance, we tailor our legal services to meet your unique goals, working with you in an effort to secure a speedy resolution and the best possible outcome in your probate case.
Understanding the Probate Process
If a person dies and does not leave behind a will or trust, their estate will go through probate. This is the process used by the court to distribute assets to the deceased’s heirs and other beneficiaries. An estate is also subject to probate if it does not qualify for a simpler form of administration (see below), even if the deceased did create a will.
- Appointing the Personal Representative - An individual, sometimes the executor named in the deceased’s will, requests to be appointed as the personal representative of the estate by a circuit court.
- Probate Notice - Heirs or beneficiaries (if a will exists) are provided with notice of the probate proceedings. They then have the opportunity to object, if they wish.
- Authority to Settle Estate - The personal representative is given authority to settle the estate by the court.
- Proving the Validity of the Will - If a will exists, it must be proven valid through the court. If the will is “self-proving,” simply filing the document is sufficient. In other cases, statements must be made regarding the will’s validity.
- Inventory and Division of Assets - The personal representative, under the supervision of the court, inventories the assets of the deceased’s estate, pays any outstanding debts and divides the remaining assets.
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If any individual objects to an aspect of the probate process, for instance, how remaining assets are distributed amongst heirs and/or beneficiaries, they may make an objection with the court.
Avoiding Probate in Florida
In some instances, it may be possible to avoid probate altogether. Under Florida law, certain assets do not go through probate, including property belonging to multiple people, assets in a living trust, or assets designated to a specific beneficiary.
Additionally, one can avoid the probate process through Disposition without Administration. This statute is meant to offer reimbursement to those who pay a deceased individual’s final expenses, such as burial costs. This method is typically only applicable when the deceased had few assets.
Another alternative to probate is summary administration—a probate shortcut that may be used when the total value of the deceased’s estate is less than $75,000 or the death occurred over two years ago.
Speak with Our Probate Lawyer in St. Petersburg or Lakewood Ranch
If you have received notice of probate proceedings, or you wish to be named the personal representative of an estate going through probate, our Florida firm can help. We regularly assist clients with a range of complex, probate-related issues, including trust administrations. Attorney Williams has an in-depth knowledge of probate law in Florida, and will thoroughly assist you with the process.
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