What happens if someone objects to the Will?

An objection to a Will, also known as a “Will contest” is a fairly common occurrence during the probate proceedings and can be incredibly costly to litigate.In order to contest a Will, one has to have legal “standing” to raise objections.  This usually occurs when, for example children are to receive disproportionate shares under the Will, or when distribution schemes change from a prior Will to a later Will.  In addition to disputes over the tangible distributions, Will contests can be a quarrel over the person designated to serve as Executor.

Does probate administer all property of the deceased?

Probate is primarily a process through which title is transferred from the name of the deceased to the names of the beneficiaries.

Certain types of assets are what is called “non-probate assets” do not go through probate.  These include:

  • Property in which you own title as “joint tenants with right of survivorship”.  Such property passes to the co-owners by operation of law and do not go through probate.
  • Retirement accounts such as IRA and 401(k) accounts where there are designated beneficiaries.
  • Life insurance policies.
  • Bank accounts with “pay on death” (POD) designations or “in trust for” designations.
  • Property owned by a living trust.  Legal title to such property passes to successor trustees without having to go through probate.

Do I get paid for serving as an Executor?

Executors, referred to as Personal Representatives in Florida, are reimbursed for all legitimate out-of-pocket expenses incurred in the process of management and distribution of the deceased estate.  In addition, Personal Representative may be entitled to statutory fees, which vary from location to location and on the size of the probate estate.  In Florida, reasonable compensation of Personal Representatives is governed by a statute that varies compensation for ordinary services based on the compensable value of the estate.

How much does probate cost? How long does it take?

The cost and duration of probate can vary substantially depending on a number of factors such as the value and complexity of the estate, the existence of a Will, tax liabilities owed by the deceased or the estate, and the location of real property owned by the estate.  Will contests, disputes with alleged creditors over the debts of the estate, or other forms of probate litigation can also add significant cost and delay.  Most estates are settled through probate in about 9 to 18 months, assuming there is no litigation involved.

Common expenses of an estate include executor or personal representative’s fees, probate attorney’s fees, accounting fees, court costs and filing fees, costs of publication of notice to creditors, and appraisal costs, and surety bonds. Florida statutes provide schedules of reasonable compensation for personal representatives and for probate attorneys that are based on the value of the estate. These fee schedules include the ordinary services associated with estate administration, and do not include “extraordinary services” such as those associated with probate litigation, tax matters, real estate transactions, determination of homestead, and ancillary probate proceedings outside the State of Florida.