Jacksonville Probate Lawyer

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Jacksonville, FL Probate Attorney

Probate court can be confusing and stressful, particularly when you are struggling with the loss of a loved one. When someone passes away leaving assets that did not automatically transfer upon their death, their estate must go through probate administration. The process of probate administration can take a long time, and it can be overwhelming if you are unsure how probate administration works. It can be made more straightforward with experienced legal counsel managing the administration process.

Whether or not the person died with a Last Will and Testament, our office is here to assist you with the administration of their estate to get the assets transferred to the rightful heir(s), saving you time and stress while providing you the time you need to grieve.

With more than 15 years of experience, the Law Office of Douglas A. Oberdorfer, P.A., is here to make the process as stress-free as possible. Douglas A. Oberdorfer is an experienced probate attorney here to assist you through this difficult time.

Our Comprehensive Approach

After losing a loved one, the last thing you want to deal with is having to distribute his/her assets. Their will may name an executor, or they may have no will and the court will assign one to follow intestate inheritance laws. The larger an estate is, the more important it is to have dedicated and experienced legal representation for probate administration. Extensive estates are more likely to lead to a high volume of creditor claims and disputes by interested parties. The Law Office of Douglas A. Oberdorfer, P.A., can assist you with the process and defend the estate against creditor’s claims.

Our firm has been aiding families in the Jacksonville area for 20 years, and we understand how delicate and emotional these cases can be for families. Our office is ready to assist with:

  • Formal administration and asset distribution
  • Summary administration
  • Valuing assets
  • Handling and negotiating creditor’s claims
  • Following the deceased’s wishes in a will
  • Mediating disputes between heirs
  • Guardianships and conservatorships

We can also answer any other questions you may have about estate planning and probate court. It’s our goal to make this legal process as clear as we can.

Types of Probate in Jacksonville, FL

Probate places an executor in charge of an estate to:

  • Catalog and value it.
  • Identify and pay the estate’s debts.
  • Distribute the remaining estate to the intended heirs.

Florida probate can be handled through formal administration, summary administration, and disposition without administration.

  1. Formal Administration
    Most estates go through formal administration, and this is the longest type of probate court. This process generally takes 6 months to more than a year, though it could last several years if the estate is contested. The steps of probate are handled by the local probate court.
  2. Summary Administration
    Summary administration is an expedited form of probate court, which is available to estates that are worth $75,000 or less in non-exempt assets and have no debt. Summary administration is also an option for estates that belonged to an individual who died more than two years ago, meaning that creditors cannot make claims on the estate. The only action that has to be taken is distributing assets to heirs. This process generally takes a few weeks to a month.
  3. Disposition Without Administration
    Disposition without administration allows the deceased’s estate to avoid probate hearings and only requires filing forms with probate court. This is only an option if there is no real estate in the estate and the expenses are greater than the total value of the estate after probate.

The Process of Probate

The administration of an estate in probate court usually follows these steps:

Filing a Probate Petition

A beneficiary, named personal representative or creditor can file the petition for administration of the estate. The petition is filed in the county where the decedent lived (or the county where the decedent owned property if not a Florida resident). Filing this petition will include several supporting documents, including the deceased’s will if there is one. The Court must initially determine the validity of the purported will. If there is no will, Florida law establishes a priority for who should be appointed personal representative.

Notifying Relevant Parties

This includes all beneficiaries of a will or heirs by succession laws. It also includes notifying all creditors. The representative of the estate must inform known creditors by mail of their ability to make a claim and notify all unknown creditors by publishing a newspaper notice. Creditors can then file their claims with the estate within a certain time period.

Inventorying the Estate

The executor of the estate must then list, value, and inventory all assets and debts in the estate. All the deceased’s assets and liabilities must be evaluated, including:

  • Personal property
  • Loans
  • Bank accounts and other financial accounts
  • Businesses and interests
  • All other high-value assets

Valuation of some assets may require a professional. Cataloging and finding all assets in an estate may be a simple task, or it may be incredibly complex, depending on the estate.

Paying Claims

Once the period of time for creditor claims has ended, the executor of the estate can pay all valid claims. Paying these claims is generally done in cash, and some estates may require assets to be liquidated to pay creditor claims. After creditor claims are fulfilled, the executor must pay estate taxes. Florida does not have an estate tax, but there are federal estate taxes.

Distributing Assets

Once creditor claims are paid, the executor can distribute the remaining assets to heirs and beneficiaries. This is done according to either the deceased’s will or state inheritance laws if there is no will.

Verifying Accounting

The executor must file a report with probate court listing the accounting details. This includes the list of all assets and debts in the estate, valid creditor claims and their payments, and any other expenses in the estate. The court must verify and approve the accounting.

Closing the Estate

Once distribution, payments, and any litigation are taken care of, and all beneficiaries receive a copy of the final accounting, the executor must request that the court relieve them of their duties as executor. Beneficiaries also receive a copy of this. If there are no beneficiary objections and the court approves, the estate can be closed.

What Is the Average Cost of Probate in Florida?

Probate costs depend on the unique estate, its value, and the provisions of a will. There are also court filing fees, attorney costs, executor fees, and even fees to notify creditors in certain situations. The factors that impact the cost of the process are:

  • The gross value of an estate, the amount of assets, and the resulting taxes on this value
  • The number of beneficiaries listed in a will
  • If there are complex provisions in the will
  • If there are any disputes or challenges to a will, and how long litigation continues

The more complex an estate’s probate is expected to be, the more expensive attorney services are likely to be. However, a complex probate process means that an attorney’s knowledge and skills are even more necessary to protect your interests and manage things efficiently.

FAQs About Florida’s Probate Process

Whether you are planning ahead for the administration of your own estate or you recently discovered that a loved one named you in their will as their personal representative (executor), you probably have many questions about the probate process. At Law Office Of Douglas A. Oberdorfer, P.A., we have been helping clients through probate for nearly two decades. Here are some of the most common questions our clients ask:

Does everyone have to go through probate?

No. Only estates with certain assets need to go through probate, mainly assets that are solely in the deceased person’s name and are not in a transfer on death (TOD) or payable on death (POD) account. For example, life insurance policies have a named beneficiary and are payable on death, so they do not usually have to go through probate. Assets placed in a trust also pass outside of probate. In addition, a summary process is available for certain estates with a total value of $75,000 or less.

How long does probate take?

Probate takes longer than people think. Television and movies make it appear as though heirs receive their inheritance within days of their loved one’s passing. In reality, the process takes anywhere from several months to over a year. Certain situations take longer, such as selling real estate or needing to file a federal estate tax return.

What does a personal representative do?

A personal representative oversees the administration of the estate. Other states refer to this person as the executor or administrator. Often, the will nominates the personal representative that the deceased preferred. If not, the heirs can nominate someone for the role. This person has many jobs, including:

  • Filing the paperwork with the court necessary to start the probate process
  • Serve notice to all interested parties
  • Gather the estate’s assets and debts
  • Liquidate any assets, such as selling real estate or cars
  • Pay any debts, including taxes
  • Distribute the remaining assets to family, heirs and other beneficiaries
  • Close the probate with the court

What if there is no will?

When someone dies without a will, their estate is considered intestate. In those cases, the court will decide who the decedent’s legal heirs are under Florida law and appoint a personal representative. Florida statutes lay out which heirs inherit in what order under these circumstances.

Who pays for the probate?

The personal representative pays all costs, including court fees and attorney fees, out of the estate assets.

Bring Your Questions To Us

Probate is a complicated process, difficult to navigate without legal help. If you have questions about your own situation, please contact our Jacksonville office to schedule a free initial consultation with our attorney. You may call our office at 904-299-6912 or reach out to us online.

Plan for the Future With Us

When you are dealing with the loss of a family member, business partner, or other loved one, the probate process can feel especially complex. The team at the Law Office of Douglas A. Oberdorfer, P.A., knows probate law and estate planning. We can help whether you have been made the estate’s executor or are a beneficiary of the estate. For over 15 years, we have successfully administered probate cases for our clients. Let us take care of your probate needs so you can enjoy the peace of mind that our legal services permit. If you want to protect your loved ones and your estate from the probate process, our attorneys can work with you on an estate plan that meets your needs.

You can contact us online today or call 904-299-6913 to speak with an experienced probate attorney. We serve clients in Jacksonville, Florida.

Practice Areas

Probate & Estate
Elder Law


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