Whether you need probate litigation or estate administration in Marion County, Citrus County, or Sumter County, Courtney Durham has the experience to help you. Probate is the legal process governing the distribution of the estate of a deceased individual. This can include the appointment of a personal representative to administer the estate.
What Is Probate Litigation?
When someone passes away, their assets are distributed to their heir or beneficiary. If there is no will, they have a trust but didn’t fund all their assets into the trust, or they have a will but certain aspects are unclear, they become subject to probate.
Probate litigation involves the legal proceedings related to making a claim or raising a dispute during the probate process. The probate litigation attorney is a trial lawyer who has in-depth knowledge and experience with wills, trusts, estate planning issues, and court processes.
Probate litigation can include:
- Will contests and construction
- Lack of testamentary capacity, influence, fraud, and duress
- Forgery and alteration of instruments
- Appointment, removal, and fiduciary breaches of personal representatives
- Abuse of power of attorney
- Beneficiary rights
- Identification of interested persons
- Joint and survivorship accounts, assets, and property
- Elective shares and other entitlements
- Shares of pretermitted spouses and children
- Accounting and inventory
Courtney Durham understands the heartache that comes with the recent loss of a loved one and will work closely with you to guide you and help you understand the probate process. She has extensive knowledge of probate law as well as experience in trial procedures techniques.
What is Estate Administration?
Estate administration is the process of winding up an individual’s lifetime financial affairs after they pass away. Their property and assets are distributed, taxes are paid, and legal documents are put in order. It’s an overwhelming process that is uncomfortable to manage when a person is grieving for their loved one. That is why an estate administration lawyer is helpful.
Courtney Durham can help support you through the legal process and provide information on how to administer an estate.
Answers to Your Probate and Estate Administration Questions:
Do I need to file a probate?
Probate is the process by which a deceased person’s assets are distributed to others. There are three different levels of probate: disposition of personal property; summary administration; and formal administration.
Sometimes, a deceased person has made plans that avoid having their assets go through probate. They may have real property titled in both their name and the surviving spouse/other individual or in a trust that may not require having the Court transfer title. Real property titled with another person as joint tenants with rights of survivorship may pass without going through probate. Payable on death bank, investment, or retirement accounts will usually go to the named beneficiary directly. Life insurance made payable to a surviving beneficiary will go directly to that beneficiary without going through probate.
In a disposition of personal property case, one is looking to transfer exempt, personal property owned by the decedent to another person. Examples of exempt, personal property are family vehicles, household furnishings, or tuition plans. It does not include accessing a bank account or transferring real property.
Summary administration is the next level and can be filed by an individual without going through an attorney or requiring appointment of a personal representative. You are asking the Court to transfer title or ownership from the deceased person to others. Examples of property transfers for summary administration would be motor vehicle or homestead real property.
Formal administration is the full process in which appointment of a personal representative to gather the deceased person’s assets together is being sought and requires representation by an attorney for the personal representative.
How long does probate take?
Generally, summary administration takes four to six months.
Formal administration can take as little as eight months to longer than a year.
Probate cases can also be longer if an adversary proceeding is filed. An adversary proceeding is one in which a party may be contesting the will, challenging the right of someone to be appointed Personal Representative, force the sale of property for distribution, determine beneficiaries, determine spouse’s elective share, and other issues.
What if there is no Will?
If a person dies without leaving a valid will, the proceeding proceeds under the statutory laws for an intestate estate. This means that property will pass according to a statute and depends on whether the deceased person left behind a spouse, minor children, or descendants. It is important for you to be able to provide the attorney with information on family members along with their addresses and emails, if available.
What does it cost?
Summary administration and formal administration proceedings attorney’s fees vary depending on the circumstances. The fee will be higher if there are many relatives or beneficiaries are unknown as these situations will require more of the attorney’s time to resolve. You will need to meet with the attorney to determine what level of proceeding is needed and specific obstacles to be addressed.
There are statutory fee limitations that apply to probate estates, but the attorney may contract with you for higher fees depending on the services needed and complexity of the case. See Fla. Stat. Sec. 733.6171.
Do I have to pay the deceased person’s bills?
Unless you have agreed to be liable for a deceased person’s debts, you personally, from your own assets, are not obligated to pay the deceased’s debts.
If you are taking title to a motor vehicle, mobile home, or real property that has a lien in favor of a creditor, you will be taking the asset subject to that lien. For example, title to your mother’s house is given to you according to her will, but the mortgage still outstanding will need to be paid or refinancing obtained.