Flagler and Volusia Counties Probate and Trust Attorneys
Going through the Florida Probate Courts can be a complicated and frustrating process for many families, especially if your loved one did not have a will or the will is being contested.
However, the skilled Flagler and Volusia Counties probate and trust attorneys at Chiumento Dwyer Hertel Grant have more than 40 years of experience helping families navigate this complex process.
Our compassionate and detail-oriented attorneys can help your family:
- Initiate the probate process and work efficiently to settle matters related to the estate
- Contest wills if you believe there is evidence of fraud, mistakes, duress, or undue influence
- Deal with accusations regarding breach of fiduciary duty by personal representatives or trustees
- Manage any other probate litigation matters your family is facing
With deep roots in Palm Coast and DeLand, our dedicated Florida probate lawyers have extensive experience working in the Flagler and Volusia Counties Probate Court and the Volusia County Probate Court. We have in-depth knowledge of how the courts operate, and we put that knowledge to work for each and every client we serve.
To schedule a consultation to discuss your probate matter, call or fill out our online form today.
What Is Probate?
In Florida, the Probate Court supervises the process of ensuring a person’s financial affairs are handled after death. The probate process includes:
- Proving validity of the will (if there is one)
- Identifying and collecting the assets of a deceased person (also known as a decedent)
- Paying the decedent’s debts
- Distributing assets to the decedent’s beneficiariesor heirs
How long the probate process takes will depend on the specific circumstances in your case. The Florida Bar advises that simple probate estates can take five or six months to handle. That process can take longer if, for example, you have real estate that must be sold, a creditor files a disputed claim, or a family member files a lawsuit to contest the will.
When Is Probate Necessary in Florida?
Proper estate planning can save many families the headache and heartache of going through a long, drawn-out probate process. However, there are certain circumstances that make probate necessary. Your loved one’s estate must pass through Florida Probate Court if:
- There is no will (or the will is lost).
- There is a will that contains probate assets that must be accounted for and distributed.
If your loved one’s estate must go through probate administration, there are two options:
- Formal administration is the traditional probate process. This may be necessary whether or not your loved one had a valid will.
- Summary administration may be an option if the value of your loved one’s estate that is subject to probate is less than $75,000 and debts are paid (or there are no objections from creditors). Summary administration could also be an option if your loved one has been dead for more than two years and there was no prior probate administration.
When you schedule a consultation with our qualified Florida probate attorneys, we will review all of your options to determine how you should proceed. Depending on the circumstances in your case, we may suggest you pursue a “disposition of personal property without administration.”
What Assets Are Included in Probate?
A large portion of the probate process is accounting for all of the person’s assets. Some of the assets that may be subject to probate include:
- Checking, savings, or investment accounts that are solely in your loved one’s name
- Life insurance policies or retirement accounts that are payable to your loved one’s estate
- Real estate (other than homestead property) that is in your loved one’s name without joint ownership
If is important to note that not all assets are subject to probate. Assets left in trusts, accounts that have designated beneficiaries, and property that is jointly owned can avoid the probate process.
To learn more about protecting assets from probate, contact our skilled estate planning attorneys today.
How Are Assets Distributed if There Is No Will?
If your loved one died without a valid will, Florida’s “intestate” laws will dictate how assets should be distributed. The law outlines heirs in a certain order:
- If your loved one is survived a spouse but no descendants (children, grandchildren, etc.), the spouse is entitled to the probate estate.
- If your loved one is survived a spouse and the couple’s descendants ─ and the spouse has no additional descendants who aren’t related to your loved one ─ the spouse is entitled to the probate estate.
- If your loved one is survived by a spouse and the couple’s descendants ─ but the spouse has other descendants who aren’t related to your loved one ─ the spouse is entitled to half the probate estate, and the couple’s descendants are entitled to the other half.
- If your loved one was not married but has descendants, the probate estate will go to the descendants as outlined by Florida law (generally based on generational level).
- If your loved one was not married and had no descendants, the probate estate may go to surviving parents or siblings.
- If no immediate relates can be identified, the court will try to identify remote heirs.
Florida’s “intestate” rules can be extremely complicated, but our skilled Flagler and Volusia Counties probate and trust attorneys will review every aspect of inheritance laws with you to ensure you understand the process and your rights.
Who Can Be a Personal Representative in Probate Proceedings?
In Florida, the court will appoint a personal representative (referred to in other states as an executor) to manage the probate estate.
What Are the Duties of a Personal Representative in Probate Proceedings?
The personal representative shoulders a lot of responsibility in probate proceedings. He or she is legally responsible for administering the probate estate. The Florida Bar describes some of the main duties of a personal representative as:
- Identifying, gathering, determining the value of, and protecting probate assets
- Publishing a “Notice to Creditors” in a local newspaper so claims can be filed against the estate
- Serving a “Notice of Administration” and notice of the procedures that must be followed if there are objections to the administration of the estate
- Conducting a search to identify and notify “known or reasonably ascertainable” creditors
- Paying valid claims and defending the estate against improper claims
- Filing tax returns and paying taxes
- Distributing assets to beneficiaries
- Closing the probate estate
Managing a probate estate is a big job, and personal representatives are entitled to be paid fees from the estate and hire qualified probate attorneys to assist with the administration of the estate. Having experienced legal help is essential because a personal representative who mismanages an estate can be held liable.
Schedule a consultation with our experienced Florida probate attorneys today to learn how we can help.
What Can Be Done if a Personal Representative Is Mismanaging the Estate?
If you are concerned that the personal representative of your loved one’s estate is abusing that power or making bad decisions, you need to speak with one of our experienced Florida probate lawyers immediately. We will evaluate whether the personal representative’s actions constitute a breach of fiduciary duty and there is a cause for removal.
Contact us today to discuss your concerns.
How Can You Contest a Will in Florida?
If you are concerned that your loved one’s will is invalid, you may have a right to contest it in court. Florida law indicates that a will can be proven void, either in part or in full, if your loved one made decisions:
- Based on fraud
- While under duress
- By mistake
- While under undue influence
Our compassionate Flagler and Volusia Counties probate lawyers have extensive experience representing family members who are worried that their loved one’s true intentions were not represented in the will. Let us help you fight for your loved one’s true final wishes.
Don’t Try to Navigate Florida Probate Courts on Your Own
At Chiumento Dwyer Hertel Grant, we understand that this is an extremely stressful time for you and your family. But you don’t have to bear this burden alone. Let our experienced Florida probate and trust attorneys help you manage your loved one’s estate efficiently to ensure his or her final wishes are carried out and assets are properly divided.
For more than four decades, our firm has managed probate estates and helped families with probate litigation throughout Flagler and Volusia counties. Call or fill out our online form to schedule a case consultation today.