Probate is an often misunderstood process. To help clear some of the confusion, we are going to take a look at 5 Surprising Myths About Probate in Florida.
Perhaps you recently lost your parent, and he or she named you as the estate’s personal representative. Or you and your brothers and sisters want to restrict the actions of an executor who’s been behaving unethically.
In either case, you might be operating under some misguided assumptions about how the Florida probate process works. Because of this you may not know what your rights and obligations are in Probate.
Let’s correct the record.
Myth #1: The personal representative has free reign to do what he or she wants to do with the estate.
The Truth: The personal representative has a fiduciary duty both to the estate and to its beneficiaries and creditors.
Lets give an example. A personal representative cannot, on a whim, decide to take and distribute assets to favorite family members first before paying debtors. Nor can the personal representative mislead beneficiaries or creditors. He also cannot deliberately hide information from them.
If you believe that a representative has violated this responsibility you need to contact an experienced Florida probate attorney. They can help get relief in these situations.
Myth #2: The estate’s creditors are first in line to collect money from the estate; they must be able to collect money before heirs do.
The Truth: This is not necessarily true.
The rules for how and when the estate’s assets and debts are distributed can be quite complicated. In some cases, there may be a dispute with a creditors’ claim. Other cases may have beneficiaries paid out first.
You may recieve harassing phone calls and scary notices from debt collectors. This could lead the personal representative to believe that the creditors must be paid at once.
Before paying such creditors, seek insight from a qualified probate lawyer. They will help you determine a strategic response.
Myth #3: If you believe a will has been illegally altered or falsified, there is nothing you can really do, once the person who made the will has passed away.
The Truth: You may be able to contest the will.
For instance, perhaps a cousin or a “family friend” convinced the deceased to change his will three weeks before he passed. You and your relatives could argue that he had not been of sound mind when he made the changes. Or you may be able to produce another version of the will that should supersede the one submitted to the court.
A Florida probate lawyer can help you rectify the situation. That could include bringing an action against the person responsible for fraud.
Myth #4: If the will nominates you as a personal representative, you can immediately start making decisions and taking action on behalf of the estate.
The Truth: The probate court must first confirm the nomination.
Just because you are the named representative in a will it does not give you the right to immediately start making decisions.
You must first file Letters of Testamentary or Letters of Administration, depending on whether the deceased wrote a will or not.
Myth #5: “Heirs” and “beneficiaries” are the same thing.
The Truth: These terms refer to different groups of people.
Beneficiaries are people or institutions named in a will. Those who can receive the assets from an estate.
In the event that there is no will, the laws of Florida will determine the heirs of the estate – who may be different from the beneficiaries.
5 Surprising Myths About Probate in Florida
Probate can be confusing, especially with an emotionally charged time after the passing of a family member or loved one. These 5 Surprising Myths About Probate in Florida are not the only myths out there. For help understanding your rights and obligations about Florida probate law, we can help. Let our experienced Jacksonville Probate Lawyers will help guide you through the process and clear up the myths.