Probate & Will Contests
The death of family members or friends can be a devastating event. Hiring an attorney sensitive to the family issues surrounding the loss can minimize the difficulty of the loss.
If you are selected as a personal representative (some states use the term executor or executrix) you should be fully informed of your obligations and tasks.
If there is no will, trust or other testamentary documents in what is known as an intestacy proceeding, then Florida Statutes provides the process whereby assets are distributed and wills are validated. Knowing your rights and obligations as a beneficiary either as a surviving spouse, lineal descendant or otherwise can assure that the wishes of the decedent are carried out.
The term probate also means the process of gathering assets, valuing the estate (assets and liabilities of the decedent) at date of death, paying the debts, taxes and expenses of administration, and making final distribution to the named beneficiaries in a will. Theexecutor or personal representative named in the will is the individual who, with the help of an attorney, facilitates an orderly method for administration of the decedent’s estate. This individual is held accountable by the beneficiaries and may be entitled to a reasonable fee or commission for their services.
Please call us today for information on how we can assist you in the probate process.
Whether your estate is large or small estate planning is a good idea.
An estate plan should include meeting lifetime objectives, death transfer objectives and incorporate tax planning strategies. The estate plan should anticipate and provide for life time needs including income from retirement, replacement of income in the event of disability, and management of the estate in the event of incapacity. The durable power of attorney (DPOA) is often used in the event of incapacity. The durable aspect means that the DPOA shall survive the incapacity of the principal. The DPOA is terminated upon death, revocation or appointment of a guardian. The guardianship process is a process most families should avoid and can be avoided in most cases with the DPOA. Thought should be given as to who is best to act as agent, who should act as alternative agent, or whether joint or dual agents should be appointed. Caution should be exercised in selecting the agent. The agent designated in a power of attorney may be able to access bank accounts, sell property and take other actions provided for in the document. Certain powers must be specifically provided for in the power of attorney or the power of attorney will not be effective. Florida provides for a springing power of attorney whereby a power of attorney only becomes effective upon the incapacity of the principal.
Death transfer objectives should include maximization of assets transferred. Planning often avoids the cost of probate. Properly titling assets may result in the streamlined and less expensive summary administration procedures provided for in Florida as opposed to a full administration. Revocable living trusts are often used to avoid or minimize probate. Trusts can take on many different characteristics and thus the many names that trusts are known by: revocable, irrevocable, inter vivos, testamentary, charitable remainder, etc. Your estate planning attorney can discuss whether a trust is an advisable tool in your estate plan.
Federal Estate Tax is a tax on transfer of net worth. Tax planning for wealth transfers should address both gift tax and death tax issues.