Probate & Probate Litigation

When Must an Estate Go through Probate in Florida?

A significant aspect of our firm’s practice is in the area of trust and estate administration.   Steven J. Wood, a Board Certified Wills, Trusts & Estates Lawyer by The Florida Bar Board of Legal Specialization and Education, specializes in this practice area.

Many Florida residents and Florida property owners are concerned about probate, which involves the legal process of paying debts and distributing assets after a person's death.  Probate is required in those estates in which the deceased owned property in his or her name alone without a beneficiary designation (e.g., a deed, bank account or brokerage account in the deceased’s individual name).

The role of the Personal Representative a/k/a “Executor” or “Administrator”

If probate is required, in most instances a Personal Representative will be appointed.  The duties of the Personal Representative include but are not limited to the following:

  • Collect, inventory, and appraise all assets subject to probate
  • Pay taxes
  • Pay creditors
  • Pay funeral expenses
  • Pay the costs of administration, such as accountants or appraisers
  • Formerly transfer the estate property according to the will
  • If there is no will, transfer the estate property according to Florida laws

Our firm serves as legal counsel and educates and assists the Personal Representative in completing his or her duties.

Alternatives to Probate

There are a number of ways you can avoid probate so that your money and property pass directly to your heirs.  A McCarthy, Summers, Wood, Norman, Melby & Schultz, P.A. attorney can advise you on the advantages and disadvantages of these methods, including:

  • POD (Payable on death) accounts
  • TOD (Transfer on death) accounts
  • Tenants by the entirety ownership
  • Joint with right of survivorship
  • Gifts
  • Revocable living trusts
  • Life insurance, annuities and retirement accounts

These alternatives require advance planning.   It is best to work with a McCarthy, Summers, Wood, Norman, Melby & Schultz, P.A. attorney now to formulate the asset distribution you want and to minimize the hardship to your family at the time of your death.

Probate & Trust Litigation

Unfortunately, when emotional and financial stakes are high—as they so often are in these cases—disputes can arise during the probate and trust administration process.  Although our firm seeks to handle these matters in an amicable manner, our litigators are fully prepared to address trust administration issues and take probate matters to court when necessary.  These issues can include:

  • Undue influence
  • Overreaching
  • Incapacity
  • Trust Termination
  • Estate and Trust problems resulting from second marriages
  • Exploitation
  • Fraud

Contact the firm online or call (772) 286-1700 to discuss your important business and personal legal needs.