Today we’re taking a look at some more of your probate court frequently asked questions and giving you a few answers to help to clear up any confusion.
Probate Court FAQs: Answering More Of Your Probate Questions
Q: Do You Mean Interstate?
A: One of the most common questions, when we talk about someone who died intestate, is “do you mean interstate?” Although these two words sound similar, we do, in fact, mean to say intestate.
The word intestate refers to dying without a valid last will and testament in place. When someone dies intestate it can create unique problems for family members and heirs who are left behind because there is no specific direction for who inherits what from the estate. When this happens, the state distributes the estate assets among heirs of the estate according to Florida Law. This method of distribution likely isn’t what your deceased loved one had in mind for their possessions when they passed, so this is a good reminder to get your estate in order while you are able.
Q: Who Serves as the Executor of the Estate if someone dies intestate?
A: If someone passes away without a valid will in place, the executor of the estate is appointed by the court. Traditionally, if someone was married at the time of their death, their spouse will be named as the executor. The spouse of the deceased person does not have to perform this duty and they have every right to refuse the role. If the spouse refuses to serve as the executor of the estate the surviving heirs play a role in electing the executor of the estate. The individual who is nominated by the majority (in interest) of the deceased person’s heirs will serve as the executor of the estate.
In the event that the heirs cannot come to an agreement over who should serve as the executor of the estate, the probate court will hold a hearing and the judge will then appoint an executor of the estate.
Q: Is it Legal to Disinherit Someone?
A: According to Florida law, a Florida resident has the right to completely disinherit someone so long as that disinheritance does not fall under the protection of Florida laws protecting the family of the deceased.
It should also be noted that it is not necessary within Florida state to give the disinherited individual even a “nominal gift“.
Q: What is a Conservator?
A: Probate court matters are not always matters that concern someone who has passed away. The probate court also deals with issues like appointing conservators.
A probate conservator is someone who is appointed by the court to care for the estate of another adult who is unable to care for their own finances. A conservator must be someone who is responsible and who takes their role seriously because it does involve work.
There are actually two types of conservators that can be appointed by the court –
- Someone can be the conservator of an individual if a judge deems that the conservatee is unable to care for themselves or their own affairs.
- Someone can also be the conservator of an estate where they take care of financial matters for a conservatee who is unable to take care of these matters themselves. For example, a conservator may collect income and pay household bills for the conservatee.
It’s important to know that just because you are appointed as the conservator of someone, this does not automatically mean that you are the conservator of their estate. If you want to be the conservator of the person and their estate, you must petition the court for the role.
It’s also important to know that as the conservator of someone, you do control their finances, however, you do not necessarily have the right to draw up a last will and testament or perform estate planning duties in a similar vein. The conservatee still has the right to plan their own estate through a will, if they are able. If the conservatee is deemed unable to make their own will, the conservator may present the probate court with a petition for substitute judgment. If approved, the conservator can make a will and trust for the conservatee so that they have an estate plan set up.
Substitute judgment may also allow for the conservatee to revoke a trust, sign contracts for the conservatee, make gifts and change insurance policies or annuities.
Q: How Do I Find a Good and Reputable Probate Attorney to Help Me Serve As an Executor?
A: Being the executor of an estate can be hard work and for anyone unfamiliar with the probate process, it can be confusing too. That’s why you should always consider hiring a probate attorney to help to guide you through each step of the way. That said, it can be just as overwhelming trying to find a probate attorney. We put together a few tips to help you to find a reputable probate attorney in your area:
- Always meet with attorneys (and meet with more than one!) before hiring one. This gives you the chance to get a “feel” for who they are as a person and to determine whether you would be comfortable working with them.
- Ask friends or family for recommendations. Someone who has previous experience with an attorney can give you a personal opinion of how they felt working with that attorney and this can be helpful in making your decision.
- Ask questions! Make a list of questions that you would like an attorney to answer when you meet with them. These questions should help you to determine whether that attorney will offer you all you need from them. For example, will they be working on your case themselves or will they be passing it off to others in the firm?
Do You Have More Probate Court FAQs?
Do you have more probate court FAQs? Why not take a look around our blog and find the answers that you’re looking for? Just looking for a reputable and experienced probate attorney in or around the St. Pete, Florida area? Call us here at Weidner Law at 727-954-8752 and let us help you to navigate the probate process!