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Help Through Probate

Pembroke Pines Probate Lawyer

When someone passes away, probate is the first step in the legal process of administering the estate of the deceased. Probate is meant to resolve all claims against the estate and distribute the deceased person's property under their will. The probate court (surrogate court) will decide on the legal validity of the decedent's (testator) will and the court will officially appoint the executor or personal representative. This person is usually named in the will, and the executor or personal representative will have the legal authority to dispose of the testator's assets according to the directions in the will.

Providing the testator left a will behind that directed how they wanted their property distributed upon their death, the probate court must determine if the will is valid and if it should be admitted to probate court and put into effect. If someone dies without a will, it is called dying intestate, in which case the court will appoint a personal representative to distribute the decedent's property under the laws of descent and distribution, which directs the distribution of assets on the basis of hereditary succession.

Functions of Probate

The purpose of probate is to tie up any lose ends after someone dies. This typically includes collecting the decedent's assets, paying off their debts, paying any relevant taxes, liquidating liabilities, and distributing their property to their heirs.

Probate proceedings are generally held in the state where the decedent lived just prior to their time of death; however, if they owned real estate property in another state, then the disposing of those assets must be probated in that state. The technical aspects of probate administration include but are not limited to:

  • Notifying creditors
  • Real estate may need to be sold to pay debts or to correct the distribution of assets
  • Prior to distribution of assets, the costs of administration including income tax on interest and property tax will be deducted
  • Providing the estate exceeds a certain threshold, estate taxes, gift taxes or inheritance tax will need to be considered where applicable
  • Assets may need to be transferred from the diseased to his or her beneficiaries

Challenges With Probate

The probate process can be a sensitive issue for many people, and this goes for executors, personal representatives and beneficiaries alike. One of the parties may challenge one or more aspects of the probate administration, such as challenging the validity of the will, otherwise known as a will contest, or someone may challenge the status of the personal representative. There can be a challenge as to the identity of the heirs, or a challenge about how the personal representative is administering the estate. There can even be paternity issues with intestate estates, and even biological heirs can be denied their inheritance rights while non-biological heirs are granted inheritance rights.

Being a personal representative is a huge responsibility, and the personal representative must abide by their fiduciary duties, such as their duty to treat all beneficiaries equally and to keep the money in an interest bearing account. If one does not abide by their fiduciary duties, then the heirs may petition for that person's removal and hold them legally liable for any financial harm imposed upon the estate.

As the founder of the Law Office of Steven Friedman, I am a Pembroke Pines probate attorney with over 30 years of experience handling probate and probate litigation. Probate is not always easy and in many cases the process becomes stalled when there is a conflict between the personal representative and the beneficiaries or between the beneficiaries themselves. When you are headed towards troubled waters, whether in the capacity as an executor or a beneficiary, it's vital that you enlist the services of a qualified probate attorney who can protect your best interests. I am well-versed in all aspects of Florida State laws as they pertain to probate and probate court, and I can guide you every step of the way.

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The information on this website is for general information purposes only. Nothing on this site should be taken as legal advice for any individual case or situation. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship.

Law Office of Steven Friedman - Pembroke Pines Estate Planning Attorney
Located at 1806 North Flamingo Road, Suite 348, Pembroke Pines, FL 33028.
Phone: (954) 228-6126.
Local: (954) 385-7282.
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