When a loved one passes away, dealing with legalities and assets can be both challenging and exhausting. When you’re working through your grief, the probate process can be more difficult than needed. Fortunately, you don’t need to do it alone.
Knowing when to call a probate law firm for assistance can make the process a lot easier. The first step is understanding the foundations of probate law, and when you need to contact a probate attorney for guidance and assistance.
What Is Probate Law?
Probate involves the approval of a will so that the final document is legally valid. This serves as the last true testament of a deceased individual. The court-supervised process authenticates the deceased’s wishes for the distribution of their estate, asset, and possessions among their beneficiaries.
Normally, a will has an executor or personal representative named to execute desires of the deceased as set forth in the will. But this distribution only occurs after paying taxes and debts, and this is where the probate process becomes important.
Florida does not collect an estate tax, however, if an estate needs to file a federal estate tax return, it needs to do the same for the state.
When To Call A Probate Law Firm?
Knowing when to call a probate law firm will depend largely on the type of assets contained in the estate, the number of beneficiaries and the size of the estate.
In Florida, almost all cases will require a probate lawyer. The exception is ‘disposition without administration”, a term that refers to very small estates (usually $5,000.00 or less).
Even in these instances when a probate lawyer is not a legal requirement, it’s often within one’s best interests to hire professional services. Expert legal advice will assist in navigating the complex legal terrain of probate and estate.
Summary administration is a faster and less expensive form of probate administration. This route is taken in certain instances, such as when the deceased has been dead for more than two years, or the decedent’s asset subject to probate is $75,000 or less.
Formal administration is the more common probate process that occurs with estates and when a personal representative is required for other purposes.
Even when summary administration is possible, it may not be the best option. Hiring an experienced probate attorney to assist with formal administration is particularly beneficial in the following instances;
- Property is left to several beneficiaries and signatures are required
- When beneficiaries of a will are minors
- Finding a missing heir when the location of one or more of the beneficiaries is unknown
- When one or more of the beneficiaries is uncooperative
What Questions Should You Ask?
Knowing that you need to hire a probate attorney is half of the task. The other half is taking the steps to hire the right one. There are a few questions to ask your probate attorney that will help guide your decision.
- Does the attorney have experience in cases similar to yours?
- What can you expect from the probate process in your particular case?
- Are there any obstacles that you should be aware of during the process?
- What is the documentation process? And what is required of you?
- Are all assets subject to probate?
Interpreting whether or not you need to hire a probate lawyer will set you off on the right path. Understanding that all cases are unique, your next step is to pick the best lawyer for your needs.
At the law offices of Gary I. Handin, P.A., we have over 50 years of experience, helping clients in Florida Springs with their legal needs – including probate.