When a loved one passes away, financial uncertainties can add to an emotional burden. Not only are you navigating the emotions associated with grief, but you are also thrust into the complicated probate process as you, other heirs, and named beneficiaries navigate your loved one’s end-of-life decisions in their estate plan. This legal process is confusing and can often last for an extended period of time, but a Ponte Vedra probate attorney can answer all your questions.
For sound legal advice, guidance, and support during a probate case, look no further than Douglas A. Oberdorfer, P.A. With decades of experience in probate law, he strives to provide his clients with the representation they deserve through compassionate, knowledgeable counsel.
When a person dies, their estate needs to be settled. This legal process is known as probate. Settling the estate includes not only distributing assets but also settling any outstanding debts, including credit card debt, bills, and even owed taxes, with creditors. The probate process will begin with settling debts by using the necessary assets from the deceased’s estate.
Then, any remaining assets will be distributed to family members. The assets taken into account include property, investments, financial accounts, investment accounts, retirement accounts, and more.
In addition to these processes, if the deceased leaves a will, the probate process will evaluate its legitimacy. If the will meets all the correct legal determinations, then the probate court will identify the executor, who will oversee the distribution of assets named in the will.
However, if the probate court determines that a will is invalid or is missing altogether, the assets will be distributed in accordance with Florida intestate law to the deceased’s next of kin. Depending on the family members you have, your property will be distributed first to your spouse and then to your children, parents, and siblings.
Saving money can be valuable. However, when it comes to the probate process, the cost of an attorney may save you more time and money in the future. When you hire a probate attorney, you bring a professional onto your team who can help with the following essentials of the probate process:
Valuing assets. Before any assets can be distributed, they will need to be assessed for value. An attorney will have the resources necessary to accomplish this, to be sure that the estate’s value is properly calculated, and to determine that all assets are accounted for.
Working with creditors. An attorney can represent you and your interests when speaking with creditors. Often, they will take on this responsibility so that you don’t have to. They can work to legitimize claims and help to manage them properly.
Navigating the legal system. From filing deadlines to courtroom litigation, there are many potential complications that could be encountered during the probate process. When working with an experienced attorney such as ours, you can gain knowledge and experience from representation that has been working on probate cases for decades.
Interpreting a will. Because a will is a critical legal document, its interpretation is important. Everything from word choice to punctuation could impact the implications of a will. Determining the intention of the document is left to interpretation, which is why an experienced attorney can help you understand its contents.
Dispute resolution. Disputes could easily arise during the probate process. This is often a highly emotional time for all involved, as they are often still grieving the loss of the loved one. Attorneys can work with other heirs and beneficiaries to navigate the will’s validity and more.
A: Unfortunately, probate attorney fees are often the most expensive costs associated with the probate process. Florida, unlike other states, sets the legal parameters for the costs of probate attorney fees. For smaller estates of $40,000 or less, fees could be $1,500. Conversely, attorney fees for large estates of $100,000 and more could be $3,000, along with one to three percent of the estate value, capped at $10 million.
A: Unless considered a simple estate, Florida is one of only a few states that require an attorney to work with a personal representative during the formal administration of an estate. For others involved in the probate process, legal advice is always recommended but not required. However, probate can involve many complexities that can cause unexpected results. It is advised to work with an attorney regardless of your exact involvement.
A: In Ponte Vedra, Florida, although some assets are considered exempt from the probate process, the value of an estate without those assets must be $75,000 or more to go through probate. However, this rule only applies if the deceased has passed within the previous two years. If the deceased has passed more than two years ago, their estate must go through probate.
A: A probate attorney serves the representative of the estate in their role as the executor. However, the probate attorney cannot represent this same person in any other capacity, such as if they are named as a beneficiary. The services of a probate attorney are strictly to protect the estate and work to fulfill the wishes of the deceased through the named executor.
Estate planning is an important step in one’s end-of-life plans. Many people do all they can to ensure that their wishes are carried out and that their loved ones are taken care of. When you are tasked with ensuring that your loved one’s estate is distributed properly, there are many legal complications that could arise. If you are named the executor of an estate, get the legal help you deserve from the probate attorney at the Law Office of Douglas A. Oberdorfer, P.A. Contact our offices today.
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