Estate Settlement Lawyer in Orlando

Handling an estate after a loved one passes away can be a daunting task. Even when an estate does not need to go through the formal probate process, the law still requires certain steps to be taken, and mistakes can be costly and frustrating. All this comes at a time emotions may be overwhelming and the last thing you want to do is try to research legal obligations.

That’s where we come in. At Sawyer & Sawyer, P.A., we understand the challenges you are facing and are ready to help, whether you just want answers to a few simple questions or need representation and assistance throughout complex probate proceedings.

Understanding Probate

Probate is a court-managed process that involves assessing and managing the property and debts of the deceased person’s estate. To protect creditors and heirs, the probate process requires the personal representative of the estate to take specific steps in the proper order before all assets are finally distributed and a final accounting is made to the court.

Some of the deceased person’s assets may not be part of the estate, including assets held in trusts, assets with designated beneficiaries, and many assets owned jointly with others. When an estate contains few assets, then the full probate process is not required. Many people set up revocable living trusts so that their property can bypass probate and go directly to beneficiaries. However, the successor trustee in charge of the process still needs to comply with requirements of Florida law in distributing those assets.

Steps in the Probate Process

Typically, the probate process includes the following steps:

  • Filing a petition in probate court
  • Presenting the will to court for review and validation (if a will exists)
  • Petitioning to appoint a Personal Representative (also known as an executor)
  • Providing legal notice to heirs and/or presumptive heirs
  • Inventory and appraisal of all estate assets
  • Providing legal notice to creditors and potential creditors
  • Paying valid debts
  • Selling estate assets
  • Paying taxes and filing tax returns
  • Distributing remaining assets in accordance with the will or the laws of intestate succession
  • Preparing a final accounting

An estate settlement attorney can assist with any step in the process, and often handle many tasks directly with the court. We can also review assets to determine whether probate is necessary and assist with management of testamentary trusts created in the will as well as trusts established previously.

Answers to Common Questions

Clients often have many questions about probate and estate settlement. Some of the most common include:

How long does probate take?

Most estates are settled in approximately 9-18 months, assuming there is no litigation involved.

What happens if someone objects to the will?

An objection to a will, also known as a “will contest” is a common occurrence and can be incredibly costly to litigate. For someone to contest a will, they must have legal “standing” to raise objections and a valid reason to object. An estate settlement attorney could work to negotiate a resolution without litigation.

Do I get paid for serving as a Personal Representative?

Personal Representatives are reimbursed for all legitimate out-of-pocket expenses incurred in the process of management and distribution of the individual’s estate. In addition, they are entitled to statutory fees, depending on the size of the probate estate and other factors.

How much does probate cost?

Probate costs depend on the complexity of the estate. For instance, if the deceased owned real estate in different states or if someone objects to the validity of the will, those factors will substantially increase costs. In many situations, probate expenses include fees paid for appraisals, court costs, personal representatives, legal expenses, and surety bonds. Costs vary but often fall between 2% and 7% of the estate’s total value.

Sawyer & Sawyer, P.A. Helps with the Challenges of Estate Administration

The process of settling an estate is never easy, even under the best of circumstances. At Sawyer & Sawyer, P.A., we treat each client with compassion, striving to resolve outstanding issues with discretion and efficiency to keep costs and delays to a minimum. For a confidential consultation to discuss how we could assist in your situation, contact us now.