When a loved one passes away, there are many matters to handle. Funeral arrangements have to be made, family members and friends must be notified, and legal and financial issues must be squared away. In most cases, the decedent’s will helps with the overall process through the specific designation of beneficiaries. Based on the will, a family knows who will be responsible for handling the deceased member’s assets; who will receive the assets; and how much and which assets will be distributed to the beneficiaries. However, when the value of an estate is at least $75,000 and a deceased member has been gone for less than two years, the process can become a little more complicated. Many times, disputes arise among family members (and/or with outside businesses) regarding the assets of a deceased member. This is when Florida probate litigation comes into play.
Consult a Probate Lawyer for Florida Estate/Probate Litigation
What Is Probate Litigation?
Probate litigation (or estate litigation) is a fancy legal term that is used to describe the process in which the Florida probate court resolves common disputes that may arise (mostly among families) after a decedent's death.
The Will May Be Illegitimate, Vague or Non-Standard
Florida has a very strict policy in terms of probate. When these rules are not followed, it becomes difficult to distribute assets properly. Most probate disputes occur because of simple errors that can be avoided. Florida law requires that drafted wills are well-established. They should be clear, specific and detailed to avoid future discrepancies. However, they should be standard. When a will attempts to govern the everyday activities of the beneficiaries or any other nontraditional aspects, then the will may be considered invalid for not adhering to a basic structural protocol.
Florida law also requires that a person is in his/her right mind when drafting a will. Someone that is inebriated or otherwise ill should not draft a will because he/she may make unsound decisions. Further, it is against the law for a will’s content to be coerced. If this occurs, the will may be considered invalid.
Mistakes in execution of assets can happen, and when it does, a probate lawyer is necessary to interpret Florida probate laws and make proper discernments on the deceased member’s assets.
A Deceased Member May Not Have a Will
In some cases, the death of a loved one may be completely unexpected or unlikely. The deceased member may not have drafted a will or indicated any sort of beneficiaries. When there is not a will available, Florida probate law determines how the funds and assets of a deceased member will be distributed. A probate litigation lawyer is well-versed in these types of issues and what the law requires of your family. By contacting an experienced probate lawyer, you can ensure that your family rights and your deceased loved one’s assets are protected in a Florida probate court.
The same is true for married spouses who do not have an established prenuptial agreement to govern how assets will be distributed between each other.
Another common dispute that is seen in probate courts is the problem of guardianship. When a person remarries before his/her death, or if there is not a prearranged (and court-approved) parenting plan, probate litigation may be necessary to determine 1) who will exercise the role of guardian over any children involved; and 2) which assets will the children receive.
Probate lawyers consistently agree that familiar disruptions are always at the core of probate litigation. Unfortunately, many events may transpire within a family that may result in distrust, bitterness, guilt and resentment. When a family member dies and money (and other assets) become distributable, many of these feelings may resurface, resulting in often ugly battles. From sibling rivalries to the presence of multiple spouses, probate litigation is necessary to resolve the issues of dysfunctional families.
The Florida Probate Litigation Process
Florida probate is an administrative process that is required for large assets to be assigned and distributed properly. While not an exhaustive and all-inclusive list, the probate administration process typically involves:
- Locating and identifying assets of the deceased member
- Paying off any and all debt of the deceased member
- Informing heirs and other beneficiaries of the assets that they will be receiving based upon what the will of the decadent establishes
- Distributing the funds, property, and assets accordingly
An experienced probate litigation attorney can assist with identification, notification, and disbursement of any and all of a deceased member’s assets.
Types of Assets in Florida
- Trusts (including marital trusts)
- Guardianship/parental guidance rights
- Rights and privileges of heirs, beneficiaries, children and living spouses
- Bank accounts (including checking and savings accounts)
- Homestead rights
- Life insurance
How to Avoid Probate Litigation
It is best to avoid probate litigation altogether. Here are a few tips to prevent your family from having to go through the Florida probate litigation process:
- The decadent should appoint a fiduciary that is trustworthy, responsible, capable, and able to communicate effectively
- Discuss the will and other legal matters with advisors regularly
- Create a series of wills over a period of time to assist the family with contests
- Anticipate and plan accordingly for foreseeable familial conflicts
Estate Litigation Attorneys in Gainesville, FL
We understand the probate administration process can be confusing and stressful for many involved. You want to ensure that your loved one’s assets are placed into the appropriate hands. At the Law Office of Silverman, Mack & Associates, we have experienced probate lawyers who are happy to serve your family during this important time. We offer free initial consultations and affordable legal representation to people throughout the entire state of Florida.
Contact us today.