West Palm Beach Probate Attorney
After the death of a loved one, the last thing you want to think about is the administration of his estate, but this is an unavoidable aspect of a relative’s passing. The probate process can quickly become complicated, especially if there is discord in your family or several heirs involved.
Successful probate often entails legal intervention to keep the peace and properly handle an estate — Todd A. Zuckerbrod P.A. has more than 30 years of legal experience doing just that. Let Todd and his skilled team of attorneys take the weight of probate, trust, and estate litigation off your shoulders.
Avoiding probate isn’t always possible. In certain instances, you may have to contend with the probate process in order to execute a loved one’s estate. Knowing how the process works can ease your mind and better prepare you for the steps that will come next.
What Is Probate?
Probate is a complex legal process that helps validate a deceased’s estate and divides assets and property among designated beneficiaries. It’s a court-supervised procedure in which an executor identifies a decedent’s assets, pays his or her debts, and resolves outstanding issues before final distribution among the heirs. All probate is subject to the Florida Probate Code and the Florida Probate Rules, both matters of state law.
Under Florida law, there are two types of probate: summary administration and formal administration. Summary administration only applies when a decedent’s assets total less than $75,000, or when a decedent has been dead for over two years. For this reason, formal administration is much more common.
Assets Subject to Probate
It’s important to note that only certain assets are subject to probate. These include those assets that were in sole ownership by the decedent at death, or assets that had a co-owner but did not have a provision for automatic succession after death. For example, an investment account with the decedent as sole owner is a probate asset; a jointly owned account with a succession provision is not.
Generally, IRAs and life insurance policies that are payable to a beneficiary are not probate assets. If, on the other hand, they’re payable to a decedent’s estate, they are subject to probate. Similarly, jointly owned property between spouses in their entirety are not probate assets, but transfer to the surviving spouse upon death.
Why Is Probate Necessary?
Probate is required in order to pass ownership of a decedents property and assets to beneficiaries. If the decedent has a valid will, it alone is not enough to pass assets to beneficiaries. Probate is essential to identifying potential debts and liabilities and paying off creditors so the beneficiaries can receive the remainder of the estate.
Probate begins with the circuit court of the county in which the decedent resided. Typically, an estate plan names an executor or administrator of an estate. An attorney can provide valuable assistance through the process by providing legal advice, complying with filing deadlines, and identifying any potential liabilities from the IRS, healthcare providers, and credit card issuers.
Probate requires a filing fee with the circuit court, which comes out of the estate and is payable to the clerk. Once you officially file for probate, the clerk will assign the estate a file number and will keep an ongoing record of papers filed and required actions for the administration of a decedent’s estate.
The process of probate can be confusing and is an added source of stress at a time when you are already grieving for a loved one. A probate attorney can help ease the process and provide guidance throughout probate. For more information, or to schedule a free initial consultation with our estate planning attorney, please contact us.
When to Hire a Probate Attorney in West Palm Beach
If a loved one recently passed away and you are acting as the executor, you have a daunting task ahead of you. The thought of saving money and doing everything yourself may tempt you, but do not underestimate the importance of seeking professional advice. Retaining probate lawyers to assist or take over the process can prove extremely valuable in terms of peace of mind, stress relief, and tackling the mountain of paperwork that comes with probate. We recommend contacting the probate attorneys at Todd A. Zuckerbrod P.A. in these situations:
- The estate contains a business. Estates containing businesses are even more complex than typical estates. Administration for these estates entails management of common assets as well as the valuation or sale of a business. Protect your loved one’s legacy by leaving these intricate tasks to the professionals.
- The decedent owes debts. After a loved one passes, many minor and major debts may still exist against the estate. In some cases, the estate may not be able to pay these outstanding debts. If this occurs, you will need to make decisions about which debts to pay and what to do about the remaining amount. An attorney can give you solid professional advice regarding debts, and take over communications with creditors.
- There is discord in the family. If family members of the deceased cannot agree on the administration of an estate, it’s time to bring in a probate attorney. Otherwise you could face a will contest from a family member who is unhappy with how you are managing the estate. Will contests can be expensive, time-consuming, and lead to increased discord in the family.
When in doubt, seek help from an attorney. Our firm offers free consultations. Discuss your case at no cost and no obligation right in our West Palm Beach office or over the phone. During your consultation, we will help you weigh the pros and cons of retaining a probate attorney in your family’s particular situation. Our team handles probate cases with professionalism, delicacy, and competence.
Why Partner with Todd A. Zuckerbrod P.A?
At Todd A. Zuckerbrod P.A, we have the ability to handle all legal aspects of your probate process. This includes both administrative tasks and actions regarding probate lawsuits. We have decades of collective experience in trusts and estate planning cases throughout Florida. Our team can confidently answer any questions you may have about the decedent’s estate and probate, and will take over any aspects you don’t feel comfortable handling on your own.
We are experienced probate attorneys in West Palm Beach, and we have a long history of satisfied clients. View our testimonials to read a few real-life examples of how we’ve changed our clients’ lives. We believe in tough, no-nonsense litigation, as well as the utmost professional integrity. Our firm strives to be a comforting and helpful resource to anyone undergoing the probate process. With hundreds of successful cases under our belts, you will feel confident in our ability to expertly handle your individual case. To schedule your free probate attorney consultation, call (561) 544-8144.