Probate Court in Florida – Do I Need an Attorney?
After a person dies, the question of what to do with their property, assets, and personal belongings eventually arises. Many people, however, don’t know where, to begin with this task. We have all heard the term probate court at one time or another, but many have no real understanding of the probate process. What is Probate? What is involved? Do I need an attorney? These are all important questions, and important to understand before you lose a loved one.
The process for administering someone’s estate after their death is called probate. Florida has extensive statutes covering estates and the probate process.
This process varies in complexity depending on several things. Included among them:
- How prepared the individual was before their death?
- How large was the estate?
- Is there a legal Last Will and Testament available?
- Whether there are any complications with the will.
Here we will describe the different forms of probate proceedings in Florida. We will also discuss the questions of if should consider hiring an attorney to help with the process.
Probate Court in Florida
There are several points that the probate process tries to determine.
- Does the decedent have a will?
- Is the will complete and legally valid?
- Notify relevant individuals.
- Pay any creditors and file taxes.
- Distribute the decedent’s remaining estate in accordance with their wishes.
From these points typical probate cases will generally fall into one of two categories.
Informal probate is allowed when the case meets several guidelines.
- The decedent has a valid will.
- No one is expected to contest the will.
- A competent representative is available to handle all the probate tasks outlined above.
Again, the court plays a limited role in this process but does ensure the appointed representative adheres to the will.
Formal probate is necessary under conditions when:
- There is no will (i.e., dying intestate).
- When a decedent’s will is contested.
- The will is invalid for any reason or is unclear.
- There is some other significant problem preventing efficient administration.
In these cases, a judge oversees the decedent’s estate. There are court hearings to determine how to distribute the property and belongings.
In rare situations, formal supervised probate is necessary. In this process, a case judge must approve every action the representative takes.
Do I Need an Attorney for Probate Court in Florida?
For small estates and informal probate, most individuals can handle the entire process themselves. You would not need much help from an attorney. As long as you feel comfortable taking on the many tasks associated with distributing an estate.
However, even in these situations, you should consult an attorney when:
- You have questions about the contents of a will
- Questions about the probate process itself, or
- Any other issue that could affect efficient distribution.
Due to the increased complexity and higher risks, if you are going through the formal probate process, you should hire an attorney.
An experienced probate attorney can help navigate court proceedings. They will ensure their rights as a representative or heir are upheld.
This is especially important when a decedent’s will is being contested or when the process seems like it will get messy (e.g., because of family conflicts).
Probate and estate distribution can be time-consuming and emotionally draining. This is especially true when someone has just lost a loved one. Sometimes, the process can be too difficult to bear. Having an attorney is advisable.
At the very least, an attorney can provide helpful guidance to ease some of the burdens. They can also take on more responsibilities—even taking over the whole process—when necessary.
If you are facing the probate process, you can sit down with an experienced Jacksonville Probate Attorney at Harris Guidi Rosner for a free consultation anytime. Give us a call at 904-777-7777 or use our simple online contact form to setup an appointment.
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