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Common Misconceptions About Florida Probate

As a probate attorney, I wish that Florida probate was simple and straightforward. Afterall, any family dealing with the loss of a loved one has enough grief and stress. However, it is not, and the deceased assets and liabilities must be dealt with, and the process in which that happens is probate. Here are a few things that come as a surprise to families going through the process.

The Will Holder Has 10 Days to File with the Clerk of Court

Generally, the personal representative (also referred to as the executor) is the will holder. That person can file in person or hire a probate attorney to begin the process. Because the executor is often a descendant, they are also dealing with planning a memorial and their own grief, so utilizing an attorney can reduce stress at this time.

You File in the County Where the Deceased Resided

This is another reason a probate attorney can be helpful. Even if the personal representative is a resident of Florida, they still must file in the county where the deceased lived at the time of their death. And, with the 10-day filing deadline, it can be a challenge depending on where you live.

The Judge Can Decline the Named Personal Representative

Even if there is a will naming a personal representative, a judge can reject that person as the executor. The common reasons someone is disqualified include:

  • History of substance abuse
  • Felony conviction
  • Someone deemed incompetent or who is incapacitated
  • A non-resident or non-citizen of the United States

If the judge feels that the named person could put the estate or its benefactors at risk, they can also be removed as the personal representative.

Only Assets Wholly Owned by the Deceased are Included in Probate

The most common assets not included are insurance and retirement accounts. Those have a named beneficiary so they go to that person or those people. Also excluded are household furnishings up to $20,000 in net value. Finally, anything that is in a trust is exempt from the probate process. (This is a great reason to discuss a trust rather than just a will with your estate planning attorney.)

Do You Need an Estate or Probate Attorney?

Wagstaff & Pitelis offers all types of family law services. If you are looking for a probate attorney to handle an estate, one of our compassionate team members are ready to help you. And, if you are ready to protect your estate, call to set up an appointment with one of our estate planning attorneys. Either way we can be reached at (727) 584-8182 or by completing our contact form.