The probate process almost always requires the assistance of a probate attorney. When someone close to you dies and leaves you as the personal representative (or executor), you will need the assistance of an attorney unless the assets that might need probate are under $75,000. Regardless of the estate value, however, it is often a good idea to consult with a probate attorney to cover all necessities. As the process of probate is often confusing, an attorney is often necessary.
Here are some of the most frequently asked questions we receive as Florida probate attorneys.
I am the personal representative. What do I do?
Most of the time the individual appointed as the personal representative has some knowledge of the deceased’s personal property and assets. As the personal representative, it is your responsibility to identify the assets, notify creditors of the death, hire a probate attorney, file the tax return, and distribute assets to beneficiaries. This is one of the reasons an attorney is so valuable — there is a lot expected of you and it is important to keep track of each task.
I do not live in Florida. Do I have to appear in person?
No. This is one of the biggest reasons hiring a probate attorney you trust is key. Assuming this is an uncontested probate case, Florida law does not require you to appear in person. You and your attorney can work through the process on the phone, electronically over email, and occasionally via regular mail through the USPS.
Does the probate process cost anything?
Yes. Depending on the county in which the deceased resided, probate fees and costs will vary. Your probate attorney should share with you the fees and costs connected with probating an estate once he or she has looked into the assets on your behalf. To make sure everything is as clear as possible, all arrangements regarding fees and costs should be noted in a written agreement signed by both you and the attorney.
How long will probate take?
There is no simple answer to this question. At a minimum, probate must be open for three months so creditors can make their claims against the estate. If there is a home that needs to be sold, probate cannot be closed until after the sale. When creditors have to wait for a home sale, it can take several months after the house closes. We tell our clients to expect the process to take at least six months.
Florida law requires that an explanation be made to the probate court if the estate cannot be closed within a year from the date letters of administration are issued and an order of continuance will be obtained. At times, tax issues may also hold an estate open beyond a year.
Does every asset pass via probate?
There are some assets transferred outside of probate. Life insurance and annuities often fall into this category. Families frequently need assistance from the probate attorney to collect those assets. This is an additional service, so you will want to discuss updated fees and costs with your probate attorney prior to having the work done.
Wagstaff Law Office can assist you with the probate process whether the estate is large or small. We are ready to work with you in person or over the phone to assist any way we can. Our compassionate team is here to simplify the process and help take some stress out of a difficult situation. Call us today at (727) 584-8182 for your initial consultation.