Probate law may seem elusive to many, even after a meeting with an attorney. This is unfortunate and shouldn’t be the case. At Bret Jones, P.A. our attorneys believe in a culture where our clients fully appreciate the subject matter that we discuss with them. In Probate law, the rules and law may appear to be exhaustive, but that doesn’t mean that your attorney can’t explain pertinent information to your specific set of circumstances in an understandable way. Hiring an attorney for all your probate matters is sensible and thoughtful. Probate law touches everyone’s lives in one way or another.
What are some basic aspects of Probate Law?
Chapters 731-735 of the Florida Statutes are the Florida Probate Code. These are the statutes that are used in probate law in Florida. Once a person has passed, their belongings – both personal and real property – must be distributed. Before that occurs, the deceased person’s assets must be accurately identified and gathered. In probate law, a person who has passed is referred to as the decedent. Although probate law may appear to be pretty straightforward, there are many matters that must be dealt with in accordance with state law.
For instance, debts of the decedent must be satisfied. This means that anything that may be owed, such as a loan, must be paid first. However, during the probate process, the cost of the probate proceedings is paid first, followed by the debts. After the costs associated with probate proceedings have been satisfied, as well as any outstanding debts of the decedent, then the beneficiaries of the decedent will receive any leftover funds. Beneficiaries are the individuals who will receive property of the decedent. As you can see, probate is essential not only to distribute any assets that the decedent may have but to also “wind up” any financial obligations that the decedent may have.
How the Probate Process Works
How the probate process works is dependent largely on the key players of the probate proceedings. There are a few key players in the probate process. Depending on the particular circumstances and facts of each case, the key players may vary from time to time. Usually, during probate proceedings, an attorney will be involved to assist the personal representative, also known as the executor, of the decedent’s estate. The personal representative will be involved in handling the decedent’s estate during the probate process. The personal representative may be an actual person, a trust, or even a bank.
Depending on where the decedent was considered domiciled at the time of their death will determine in which county the probate proceedings will occur. Once the domicile of the decedent has been determined, then the custodian of the decedent will know in which court to file for probate. Generally, once the custodian or keeper of the decedent’s will has been notified that the decedent has passed, then the custodian has 10 days in which to file the will with the clerk of court. Once that has occurred then the appropriate clerk of court as well as the judge will be the other key players in the probate proceeding. The will or any other necessary legal documents will be filed with the clerk of court.
The judge will preside over the probate proceedings. Some of the issues that the judge may have to preside over include whether the personal representative is qualified to act as such, and whether or not the decedent’s will is valid. On occasion, when issues arise during the administration of the decedent’s estate, a hearing will be held by the judge in order to resolve the legal dispute. In addition, other issues may arise, such as the verifying the identity of the beneficiaries or heirs of the decedent’s estate.
Creditors of the decedent will also appear during probate proceedings. Creditors will appear in order for outstanding debts that may be owed by the decedent, to be satisfied by the estate of the decedent. In addition, the IRS, the Internal Revenue Service, will have a representative present to ensure that any taxes that the decedent or the decedent’s estate owes are paid. For instance, the decedent or the decedent’s estate may owe income taxes to the federal government. Having a qualified attorney present during the administration of a probate estate can mean a world of difference. The ability to confer with a legal representative during the probate process can be essential at times.
The Rights of the Decedent’s Family in Probate Law
The rights of the decedent’s family can be a contentious topic depending on the relationship between the decedent and their surviving family, particularly if the decedent was married with children and the relationship was not good. On occasion, a decedent has been known to completely disinherit a spouse and children from a will. This means that the decedent chose to leave their surviving spouse and children nothing. Nevertheless, despite the previous relationship between the decedent and their spouse and other surviving family members, such as children, Florida law provides certain exceptions that protect such family members from absolute disinheritance. Speak with an attorney if you have concerns regarding your rights as a surviving spouse.
Choose an Attorney that Fosters the Attorney and Client Relationship
At Bret Jones, P.A. we create an environment that fosters the relationship between client and attorney. We believe that probate law, like all other areas of the law, should be explained in an easily understandable manner. If you leave your attorney’s office and you don’t understand what they are doing for you, then that is not a good sign. We don’t believe in a culture of confusion. Our clients fully comprehending their options and what we are going to do for them is what we consider a mandatory part of the attorney and client relationship. Choose Bret Jones, P.A. for all your matters in probate law.
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