What is Probate?
Probate refers to the process of gathering the assets of a deceased individual and distributing them appropriately among heirs and creditors. It is supervised by the courts, in part to ensure that taxes and other fees owed to the government are properly paid. Given the financial interests at play, it is common for legal disputes to arise during probate. For this reason, it is important for executors to work with a knowledgeable lawyer who can help them avoid mistakes and reduce the likelihood of lawsuits.
The attorneys at the Law Offices of Craig Donoff, P.A., can help. We have decades of experience assisting individuals in Boca Raton and throughout southern Florida administer the probate process. We work closely with executors, advising them at every step and making sure they navigate around the most — and least — common legal missteps.
How Probate Works
There are a series of steps that must be followed for probate to be carried out properly. These include:
- Appointing an executor
- Taking inventory and giving notice
- Paying taxes and funeral expenses
- Transferring legal titles
- Legal Support For Probate Administrators
How Personal Representatives Should Prepare For Probate
An experienced lawyer can help an executor through every step of the probate process, from conducting an estate’s inventory to distributing its assets.
Your attorney will need a fair amount of information in order to best assist you. To reduce the costs of probate and facilitate the process more quickly, it is important to be prepared. Drawing on more than 40 years of experience in the field, the attorneys at the Law Offices of Craig Donoff, P.A., can help you prepare for probate.
What Does Your Lawyer Need To Know?
To begin the probate process, your attorney will need to know a number of pieces of information, including:
• The deceased’s name, birth date and Social Security number
• Whether the deceased had a will
• Whether the deceased had established any trusts
• Whether the deceased kept a safe deposit box
• The names of the deceased’s surviving family members and their relationships
• Whether anyone is likely to challenge the executor’s role
• An estimate of the value of the deceased’s estate
• An estimate of the deceased’s liabilities and debts
• Documentation, to the extent possible, of the deceased’s bank accounts, stock holdings, mutual funds, saving bonds and real estate titles
• Documentation, to the extent possible, of any extant retirement funds or pensions
• Documentation, to the extent possible, of the deceased’s life insurance policy
• A listing of the deceased’s personal property
Put simply, the more information you are able to supply your lawyer, the better able he or she will be able to help. Likewise, you should go into your first meeting prepared to ask any questions you may have about the probate process, so that they can be addressed.
Avoiding Probate Can Reduce Estate Taxes
For more than four decades, the lawyers at the Law Offices of Craig Donoff, P.A., have helped their clients prevent their estates from entering probate. We know how to leverage a wide array of estate planning tools to achieve this — chief among them, living trusts. These documents largely exist to ensure you have the power of determining who gets what — and when — after you pass away. They can also help individuals avoid an array of taxes.
The Advantages Of Avoiding Probate
If an individual passes away before he or she can complete the necessary estate planning documents, that individual’s estate will likely go through probate. Probate causes several problems, including:
• It is a time-consuming process.
• The accounts will be frozen until an executor is appointed and the creditors’ period expires.
• The process is expensive and the state can take up to 6 percent of the assets as payment.
• The probate process is public.
Trust administration, in contrast, is a much shorter process. Where probate can last two years or longer, trust administration typically lasts between three and six months.
Probate Is A Complex Process
Administering an estate through probate is a long and involved process governed by Florida statutes. Probate is expensive and time-consuming. The average length of time to administer an estate is one to two years. Administrators are tasked with a wide variety of duties, from balancing the deceased’s checkbook to paying any outstanding taxes and debts. Given the financial complexities involved, it is common for administrators to make costly mistakes.
We can help. For more than 40 years, the attorneys at the Law Offices of Craig Donoff, P.A., have assisted individuals in Boca Raton and throughout southern Florida in their efforts to administer probate. We understand the legal process thoroughly, and work hard to ensure our clients avoid missteps that can derail the process or threaten an estate’s assets.
Offering Legal Counsel At Every Step
Administering probate entails a wide range of responsibilities, including:
• Identifying and paying off creditors
• Collecting outstanding payment from debtors
• Paying outstanding bills to health care providers and credit card companies
• Filing taxes on behalf of the deceased
• Collecting the deceased’s assets
• Distributing assets according to the deceased’s wishes
The process is complex. Moreover, a mistake at any juncture can lead to a legal dispute. For this very reason, we advise our clients to plan their estates carefully to avoid probate. However, we offer top-quality legal counsel to individuals named as administrators, ensuring they carry out probate efficiently and minimize the likelihood of lawsuits.
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For a confidential appointment, contact us online or call our offices
in southern Florida at 561-451-8220. Initial consultations are always free.