Dedicated to Quality Representation in Probate and Probate Litigation
Probate is the judicial process in which a deceased person’s estate is administered by the court. Probate is governed by the State of Florida legal system and is necessary to pass ownership of a descendent’s assets to their beneficiaries and heirs, except under certain circumstances. The assets of an estate are used to pay the debts of the descendent, the court costs, and the attorney’s fees for probate. If the descendent, or testator, has a will and the court determines its validity, the remaining assets are distributed according to the descendent’s wishes. For descendents without a will, the State of Florida declares the property of the deceased as intestate. With no written instructions regarding the wishes of the deceased, the estate is distributed according to the guidelines of the law. The assets of an estate that are subject to probate are any personal property, real estate property, bank accounts, life insurance, pension monies, or anything else with monetary value. An estate in a living trust avoids the probate process and can be distributed directly to the beneficiaries, as well as bank or brokerage accounts held in joint tenancy, or with payable on death beneficiaries.
Probate proceedings begin when an heir or an interested party files an application with the probate court, asking to serve as a personal representative of the estate. A personal representative is the fiduciary appointed by the court to administer the estate. Once given legal authority, the court issues Letters of Administration, allowing the personal representative to proceed with a diligent search of potential heirs, assets and debts of the estate. Some of the duties of the personal representative are to identify the deceased person’s property and pay valid debts, file tax returns, hire professional assistance as needed, and finally, to distribute assets to beneficiaries in order to close the case. A personal representative should always have a qualified attorney to counsel and assist in the probate proceeding, throughout the process. The Law Office of Taylor and Nordman, P.A. has extensive experience in all aspects of estate planning, probate, and probate litigation.
There are three types of probate administration in the State of Florida; formal administration, summary administration, and disposition without administration. The probate format that is utilized depends on the unique circumstances of each case.
We Can Represent you in Probate Litigation
Probate litigation occurs when an individual, usually a potential beneficiary, challenges the distribution of the estate by a will contest. It is a formal objection based on the belief that the will does not reflect the intentions of the deceased, or is somehow invalid. Legal grounds for contesting a descendent’s will includes, but is not limited to:
- Lack of testamentary capacity: the claim that the testator did not have the mental capacity to understand the document that was signed.
- An undue influence claim: the claims that coercion was used in executing the will, usually by a person of trust or control
- Mistake in execution occurs when the testator signs a will based on someone’s false statements or when the signing and witnessing were done improperly.
- The will construction may be vague or ambiguous, requiring the court to determine the distribution of the assets.
- Determination of heirs can be the discovery of an heir that was not acknowledged.
- Breach of fiduciary duty by the personal representative.
- Evidence that the will was revoked.
- Probate fraud, such as a forgery or alteration of a will.
Contact an Estate Planning Attorney in DeLand, Florida
Many legal issues can arise in a probate administration or litigation and legal counsel is essential to navigate the court system. Richard W. Taylor and Michael P. Nordman are prominent Central Florida attorneys with knowledge and experience in estate planning, probate administration, and probate litigation. They are prepared to guide their clients through the legal challenges of probate and probate litigation with confidence. Call us at (386) 734-2558 for a consultation to discuss the unique aspects of your case.