The Probate Process
Often, the person named in a will as a personal representative is a close friend or family member who has little or no experience handling complex probate matters. The beneficiaries may also be unfamiliar with how the process works. Maneuvering through the probate process can be particularly daunting while grieving the death of a loved one.
Boca Raton-based Walser & Herman Law Firm has helped Florida families through the probate process for more than 30 years. Our probate lawyers advise beneficiaries and personal representatives in Boca Raton and in communities across the state. We also regularly assist out-of-state law firms and families with the probate of Florida property. We maintain cutting-edge technology that allows us to handle probate anywhere in Florida and to communicate effectively with out-of-state counselors and heirs. Our on-staff C.P.A.s and tax experts provide essential advice on estate tax, valuation and accounting matters.
Florida Probate Process
Probate is the court-supervised procedure for identifying, collecting and distributing the decedent’s assets and paying debts of the estate. The probate process helps ensure that your loved one’s wishes are honored, creditors are paid and the heirs are treated fairly. Simple probate typically takes about six months, but may take up to a year for more complex estates.
A probate lawyer in Boca Raton can help you with each task in the probate process, including:
- Identifying, inventorying and valuing your loved one’s assets
- Preserving property, such as real estate or stock portfolios
- Employing professionals, such as accountants, securities traders and real estate brokers
- Transferring funds from your loved one’s bank accounts to the estate
- Discontinuing services, including banking, phone and prescriptions
- Clearing title on real estate
- Paying estate taxes and remaining income taxes to the IRS
- Publishing notice to creditors
- Paying valid creditor claims
- Filing wrongful death lawsuits, if appropriate
- Distributing assets to the beneficiaries
- Handling challenges and disputes
- Submitting a final accounting to the probate court
Probate and Non-Probate Assets
Some property may be handled outside of the probate court. These non-probate assets may include:
- Living trusts
- Property owned jointly by spouses
- Real estate titled as tenancy by the entirety
- Real estate titled as joint tenancy with right of survivorship
- Estates with limited assets
If all assets fall outside of probate, the beneficiaries may opt to avoid probate altogether. This usually expedites the process, saves court and attorneys’ fees and keeps information out of the public record. However, disputes about non-probate property with creditors or other beneficiaries are generally brought before the probate court.
Rights of Heirs and Elective Share of Spouse
Florida law permits a decedent to disinherit a child, but not a spouse. However, the probate court will consider the intention of a decedent who fails to include a child in her or his will. For example, if a baby was born after the will was written, the court might determine that the disinheritance of the newborn was unintentional. Conversely, if the decedent leaves a child only $1, the court may interpret the gesture as express disinheritance.
A surviving spouse is entitled to a portion of assets, called an elective share. Currently, Florida generally allots 30 percent of all probate and non-probate property to the spouse. The law also recognizes exempt property and waiver of the elective share through a prenuptial agreement.
Get the Guidance You Need from a Probate Lawyer at Our Boca Raton Firm
Walser & Herman Law Firm assists beneficiaries and personal representatives with probate matters throughout Florida. Contact our probate lawyers in our Boca Raton main office or our Palm Beach Gardens office by calling (561) 750-1040 or sending us an email.