When it comes to estate probate, we here at Weidner Law have plenty of experience both in helping clients through the process and in answering questions about probate. So today we’re going to take a look at some of your most frequently asked questions when it comes to probate.

Estate Probate: Answering Your FAQ’s About Probate

Q: What If An Heir to the Estate is Missing?

A: If you are going through the probate process and one of the heirs to the estate is missing, this doesn’t mean that they do not receive their share of the estate. The state of Florida has a provision for formal probate that allows the representative of the estate to deposit the share of the estate left to the missing heir into the registry of the court once the property has been sold.

Q: Is It Better To Go Through Summary Administration When Possible?

A: We have talked before about the use of summary probate administration as a simplified probate process for smaller estates. Many people believe that because this is a simplified process, it’s the easiest probate option, but this isn’t necessarily the case. There are some situations where summary administration just isn’t practical, some of these include:

  • When there is a considerable number of beneficiaries named in the will. In this case, summary probate is just not practical because each of the beneficiaries would have to sign multiple pieces of paperwork which would draw out the process considerably.
  • When an heir is missing or unable to be located, summary administration is not a great solution because it makes no accommodation for that missing heir. Formal probate, however, does allow the estate administrator to make necessary arrangements for the missing heir to allow them to claim their share when they are located.
  • In situations when there is disagreement among multiple heirs of an estate, it’s not a good idea to go through summary probate. In this situation, formal probate is best because it allows for property to be sold.

The best way to determine what type of probate is best for you is to speak with an experienced probate attorney.

Q: Do I Have to Appear in Court to Probate an Estate?

A: In the state of Florida, you will not have to personally appear in court to probate an estate and nor will the estate attorney. In most cases, everything can be done via mail, phone, e-mail, and online. If there is a dispute involving the estate, however, and a hearing is required, you may have to appear in court.

Q: What Do I Need to Know About Estate Taxes?

A: In the state of Florida, we don’t have an estate tax at the moment. That said, however, if a federal estate tax return must be filed, you must also file a state tax return with Florida despite the fact that no state tax is owed.

Q: Is There a Deadline to Probate an Estate in Florida?

A: There is no deadline to open probate in Florida if property taxes have been paid by family so that no tax deeds are granted. With that said, however, probate can become more complicated over time because heirs may die or executors may die and beneficiaries can become much more difficult to find. Additionally, as more time passes, the individuals who do open probate may know much less about the deceased than if probate had been opened at the time of death. This can cause probate to drag out for a longer period and this can be expensive.

Q: Do I Have to Get a Probate Attorney?

A: This is a question that we’ve answered multiple times in the past but it comes up every time questions are asked, so we’re covering it again. Technically no, you don’t have to get a probate attorney to probate an estate in Florida. That said, because probate can be pretty complicated and has multiple steps that need to be completed, it’s always best to get an experienced attorney to walk you through it. Just be sure to interview attorneys before hiring so that you can be sure that you hire an attorney who has experience with probate.

Q: Do I Have to Pay For An Attorney Out Of My Own Pocket?

A: If you are the executor of the estate and you do choose to hire a probate attorney to help you with the probate process, you do not have to pay that attorney out of your own pocket. The estate pays the attorney fees before assets are distributed to beneficiaries. If you do pay out of pocket for the attorney, you can request for those fees to be reimbursed by the estate. It’s important to know, though, that there are state guidelines for what is considered reasonable when it comes to attorney fees. If you hire an attorney whose fees greatly exceed those recommendations it’s possible that beneficiaries of the estate may challenge the cost you are asking to be paid. This challenge will require a court review and the judge will determine whether you are being careless with the estate’s funds. Depending on the outcome, the judge may award all of the money needed to pay the fees, part of the money required to pay the fees, or none of the money.

Are You In Need Of An Estate Probate Attorney in Or Around St. Petes?

If you live in or around St. Petes, Florida and you are in need of an estate probate attorney, we here at Weidner Law can help. To make an appointment for a consultation to see how we can help you, just give us a call today at 727-954-8752!

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