As Pinellas County probate lawyers, we hear many questions about probate. Some are asked during the process of drawing up a will or trust. Others are when we help settle an estate. If you have never been through the process in Florida, you will likely have many questions. Here are answers to some of the most common probate FAQs we hear.
But They Had a Will (or Trust) Why Do We Need to Go Through the Probate Process?
The purpose of the will or trust is to tell the probate courts what the deceased wishes were for their assets. Having a will expedites the probate process but does not eliminate it.
Is Probate Always Required?
The only time probate is not required is when the deceased did not hold any assets in their own name. For example, a couple owns everything, house, cars, and bank accounts jointly and only one spouse dies. Then probate would not be required. A trust can help avoid probate when one spouse dies.
Do I Have to Hire a Probate Lawyer?
Nearly all cases do require a probate lawyer. The few exceptions include small estates (defined currently as less than $75,000 in value) and when the executor is the sole beneficiary of the will. If you talk to anyone who has ever been through the process, they will agree that the help of a probate lawyer is worth the expense.
How Long Will the Probate Process Take?
In cases where there is a will or trust, you utilize an experienced probate lawyer, and no one disputes its contents, then the average probate case closes in about six months. If there is not a will, it can take several years. And, if someone contests the will, the process does not really start until the matter being contested is ruled upon.
Does Everyone Have to Be Present for the Reading of the Will?
Not at all. What you see on television is an outdated representation of the probate process. The personal representative and probate lawyer will contact everyone named as a beneficiary. In fact, it is rare that anyone has to go to court in Florida during probate.
Choose Wagstaff & Pitelis as Your Law Firm for Probate
Many of our team members have experience handling probate. If you need a probate lawyer, call us at (727) 584-8182 to schedule your appointment today and one of our compassionate team members will help you through the process.