Do I Need a Probate Attorney In Florida?

Jul 27, 2022

When a person passes away in Florida, their family typically has to undergo a legal process known as probate. Unfortunately, when people lose a close family member, they suddenly have a million things on their minds and that they have to deal with practically; navigating complex court proceedings isn’t even close to something they want to add to that list. 

If you have recently lost a loved one, you have our deepest sympathy, and you also have our offer of help. Going through probate without legal guidance can be confusing and tedious. Working with a probate attorney in Florida can help you move past the legal phase of loss quickly and spend more time focusing on the parts of your bereavement that truly matter, such as comforting family members and processing your own grief. Osenton Law, P.A., can make this difficult time easier and lead you to the fastest, most efficient resolution possible. 

What Is Probate?

Probate is a Florida court process by which a recently deceased person’s assets are officially transferred to their heirs via a series of legal steps. Unfortunately, this process typically needs to begin shortly after their passing, so it’s natural for emotions to be at a high point for those who are mourning, examining and distributing their loved one’s belongings, and trying to comply with legal procedures at the same time. 

People who aren’t familiar with probate may see it as a cruel burden that the state places on grieving families, but probate is actually designed to protect the deceased’s wishes, assets, and family members. Without an official court process, anyone could claim your loved one’s assets as their own; probate ensures that either only those who the deceased individual wanted to benefit from their assets receive them, or if no wishes were known, that their assets are distributed in the manner that makes the most sense. 

A Lawyer Can Explain Florida’s Probate Laws

One reason to hire a probate attorney in Florida is because probate laws differ in every state, and unfortunately, Florida’s are notoriously complex and rigid. For example…

  • Florida state law requires relatives to submit their loved one’s will (if applicable) ten days after learning of their passing. 
  • The legal process must include a personal representative to oversee the probate administration. A Florida judge will appoint a representative to assist with the estate distribution. In Florida, representatives must be either legal residents of the state or related to the deceased.
  • If the deceased does not have a valid will, the state will reallocate their assets according to the hierarchy listed in Florida Statutes Part I, Chapter 732
    • If the deceased was married when they passed, their estate transfers to their spouse.
    • If the deceased was unmarried but has living descendants (children, grandchildren, etc.), their estate goes to them. If they have more than one descendant, the state will decide who receives what.
    • If the deceased was unmarried and has no living descendants, their estate goes to their parents or immediate siblings if the parents have passed away.
    • If the deceased was unmarried and has no living descendants, parents, or siblings, the state will allocate their estate to the next closest living relatives.

Additionally, there are two main types of probate in Florida: formal administration (traditional probate) and summary administration (an expedited form of probate where the value of the estate is less than $75,000). 

Without a probate lawyer’s help, you may be at a loss for what you are supposed to do next, what is required of you, and what your options are. Osenton Law, P.A., can help you understand Florida’s probate laws and how they apply to your specific situation so you can navigate the probate process with more confidence. 

A Lawyer Can Explain Your Responsibilities In Probate & Protect You As You Fulfill Them

The formal administration process involves an estate executor (the person who was named in the will to carry out its contents) completing the following actions:

  • Submitting the will (if necessary) to the Florida court system to determine its validity
  • Gathering a deceased relative’s assets and professionally appraising their value
  • Contacting heirs about a loved one’s passing and their share of the inheritances
  • Contacting creditors about the loved one’s passing
  • Negotiating with debt collectors to settle outstanding payments
  • Filing final taxes and overdue paperwork
  • Distributing assets according to the deceased’s will or Florida law
  • And more. 

If you were named as the estate executor, you are wholly responsible for performing those legal duties and others. You have to meet deadlines and oversee the process, and any mistakes made along the way can prolong the process (which can already last months or even years) or even result in you incurring liability. You could be sued by creditors or other disgruntled family members for any errors. 

This is another one of the reasons why enlisting the help of a probate attorney in Florida is a good idea; with such a sensitive legal matter, that you could be liable for, you need to make sure that you do everything correctly and have representation if a dispute does arise. 

A Lawyer Can Set Proper Expectations & Expedite The Process. 

Probate can take as long as a year in Florida. However, several factors can impact its duration, including:

Will vs. No Will

An official will is proof for the courts of exactly who receives what after the passing. The probate process can persist without an official will, but it often goes much more smoothly and more quickly if a will is involved. This mitigates potential arguments and avoids potentially unsatisfactory estate division required by Florida law when a person doesn’t have a will.

Asset Quantity & Number Of Beneficiaries

The more assets and beneficiaries a person has, the more time it takes to communicate with all the recipients and divide up the assets; more people inheriting means more opportunities for conflict and more legal tape to sort through. For example, small estates often take three months to conclude, while large ones can take multiple years.

Independent Probate vs. Working With A Skilled Probate Attorney In Florida

Hiring a probate attorney in Florida with decades of probate experience can often trim the process because probate lawyers know exactly what they are doing and have been through the process countless times with people going through similar situations as you are. People who try to avoid the costs of an attorney and take care of probate on their own usually end up spending more time and more fees overall because of all of the research they need to do and all of the duties they need to attend to (that could otherwise be handled by a  lawyer). 

Call Our Compassionate Probate Attorney In Florida Attorney O. Reginald “Reggie” Osenton has been assisting clients with probate and probate litigation for over 33 years. He cares about what you’re going through, and his goal is to lift the heavy burden of probate off of you. He will take the time to listen to you, answer your questions, and do everything he can to simplify the way forward. Starting probate is time-sensitive in Florida; call Osenton Law, P.A., today to schedule a free consultation and learn more.