Probate and Trust Administration

Monday, November 18, 2019

Why Would You Want to Estate Plan to Avoid Probate?

Probate, the court-overseen process of settling the estate of a deceased individual, has become something people are always talking about avoiding. Probate, among many other things, involves the gathering of assets and the distribution of property from a decedent’s estate to his or her heirs. It is also the time when any creditors of the estate are paid. Unfortunately, like many things involving the legal system, there are drawbacks to probate. So many drawbacks, in fact, that more and more people are looking for ways to avoid the process either partially or altogether.
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Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Common Causes of Probate Delays

There is a reason so many seek to avoid or limit probate proceedings when they are estate planning. For starters, probate can be expensive. Also, probate can drag on for quite some time.
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Friday, September 13, 2019

Contesting a Will

There are many reasons why the validity of a will may be challenged. In most cases, however, a family member may feel that he or she has been wrongfully cut out of a will or that the contents of the will do not appear to accurately reflect what they thought would be in there. Whatever the reason, there are several grounds upon which a person may bring a challenge to a will.
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Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Funding Your Trust

What does it mean to fund your trust?

Revocable living trusts have become a preferred estate planning tool for Americans across the country. Trusts offer many advantages over wills, allowing the trust creator’s assets to pass to their named beneficiaries without the need for probate. Trusts can save your loved ones in tax implications, time, and stress. For a trust to function correctly upon your death, however, you will need to do more than just sign the trust document. A trust should be properly funded so that your assets will correctly transfer upon death.
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Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Who Should I Name As Trustee?

What factors should I look for when naming a trustee?

Selecting a trustee for your trust is one of the most important decisions you will make when you embark on your estate planning journey. Your named trustee will be responsible for transferring assets within the trust to the beneficiaries or continuing to manage your trust after your death. A trustee’s role can be complicated and may last for several years. Our

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Monday, February 12, 2018

The Costs of Probate in Florida

How can I reduce the expense of probate?

If you pass away in the state of Florida, your assets will likely need to go through probate.  Probate is the court-administered process through which the validity of a will is established, assets are located, expenses settled, and the remaining proceeds distributed to the heirs.  The value of the estate will determine, in part, the costs of probate in Florida.

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Monday, October 30, 2017

The Advantages of a Trust vs. a Will

How can I avoid probate in Florida?

Wills and trusts both allow you to name beneficiaries who will receive your assets in the event of your death.  While wills and trusts share some of the same functions, there are several advantages of a trust as opposed to a will.  If you are setting out creating your estate plan, it is important that you carefully consider the potential estate planning tools available to you.
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Sunday, October 15, 2017

Advanced Class: Navigating Florida's Intestacy Laws

Intestate means having died without a will. If there is no will, each state has laws that specify who will inherit the property of the deceased (referred to as the "decedent" in probate proceedings), which are usually based on the closeness of familial relationships. In complex situations, intestacy can lead to unwieldy results, and even in the simplest cases can unnecessarily complicate the probate of the estate while the family relationships are proven to the probate court.

An example of the chaos intestacy can cause is the $300 million estate of the rock performer known as Prince (real name: Prince Rogers Nelson), who died intestate in 2016. Prince had never been married, had no children, and was predeceased by his parents, whose marriage produced only two children. Under Minnesota's intestacy laws, his sole heir and next of kin should have been his sister. However, within weeks of his death, over 700 people claimed to be Prince's half-siblings (out-of-wedlock children of Prince's late father) while others claimed to be Prince's own out-of-wedlock children.

Intestacy statutes usually come into play when the deceased leaves no will. However, intestacy statutes also apply to property not properly disposed of in a valid will or to the extent that the law prohibits a disposition of property by will, such as under Florida's restrictions on descent of homestead.

Here's how intestacy works in Florida:

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Monday, December 19, 2016

Simple Tips for Personal Representatives

How can I prepare for being a personal representative?

While being named as the personal representative (another way of saying executor) of a friend or loved one's estate may be an honor, it is also a serious responsibility. In fact, managing deceased person's assets can be complicated and stressful, but there are steps you can take to make getting the job done easier.

The first thing to recognize is that coping with the loss of a family member or friend is emotionally challenging. Dealing with grief can not only make you sad, but also irritable and anxious, all of which can affect your ability to think clearly and to make reasonable decisions. While there may be things that need to be done quickly, such as arranging for the funeral, everyone should take time to mourn the loss of a loved one before assuming the duties of an executor.

Once you're ready to begin the legal process of administering the deceased's estate, here are some simple tips to keep in mind:

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Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Tips for Avoiding a Will Contest

How can I prevent my will from being contested?

Will challenges and probate litigation are much more common than many people realize, and they often drag on for months and years and can even deplete the estate. While entire treatises have been written about this topic, there are just a few basic reasons a will can be contested and some simple steps you can take to prevent such a will contest after your death.

Reasons for a Will Contest

There are a number of bases on which a will (or, with much greater difficulty, a trust) can be challenged. The first is that the will itself was not properly executed. Generally, the document must be signed by the person making it (the "testator") along with two witnesses. While it is not technically necessary to notarize the will, Florida probate law has a provision for "self-proven wills" which can simplify the probate process. This requires the testator and the witnesses to execute a Self-Proving Affidavit before a notary. The need to have a properly prepared and executed last will and testament is one of many reasons that do-it-yourself wills are problematic.

The best way to avoid a will contest is to engage the services of an experienced estate planning attorney who takes the time to fully understand your life situation and your wishes before drafting your will. If the will is later challenged, the attorney who met with you privately, who assessed your capacity. who prepared the document, who explained it to you, and who supervised its execution will be a very important witness in defense of that will.

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Thursday, July 21, 2016

Probate and Estate Planning In the Cloud: Florida Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act

What is the Florida Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act, and why is it important?

On July 1, 2016, the Florida Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act took effect. "Digital assets" include electronic records like emails, texts, online photographs, and social media accounts. Before the passage of the Digital Assets Act, Florida, like most other states, lacked any legal authority addressing the disposition of such assets in the event that an individual becomes incapacitated or dies. As a result, fiduciaries - including agents acting under Durable Power of Attorney, court-appointed guardians, trustees, and Personal Representatives of estates - were frequently denied access to digital assets by custodians of the incapacitated or deceased person's accounts. Every experienced probate attorney can attest to the growing problem posed by lack of legal access to digital assets.

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