The word “probate” describes the legal process by which a person’s debts are paid and assets owned by the deceased person are distributed after death. Often times, there are disputes regarding which heirs or claimed heirs are supposed to receive certain assets. When such controversies result in lawsuits being filed, they involve what is referred to as estate litigation or probate litigation.
When a deceased person’s Last Will and Testament is placed into probate, Florida law provides certain requirements and rules to be followed. Both heirs and creditors have certain rights and limitations that must be followed. One of the most common types of probate litigation involves a will contest. Probate litigation is common among surviving family members to deal with what may be a lack of clarity in the estate planning process or otherwise.
The need for Probate Litigation usually first comes up when an individual received a document called “Notice of Administration,” a formal legal document that alerts all interested parties of the death of the decedent and the filing of a Will for probate. The Notice of Administration provides also that an objection to the probate proceedings must be commenced within a certain period of time or be forever barred.
The recipient of a Notice of Administration may have a dispute with the probate proceedings that may have a variety of legal claims like the decedent’s lack of mental capacity, undue influence, intentional interference with an expectancy, duress, or some type of defects in the execution of the will.
Probate Litigation can be a complicated legal process and should always be handled by an experienced probate litigation attorney. Probate proceedings and litigation are governed by Chapters 7.31-7.35 of the Florida Statutes. During probate, the court will determine the value of the decedent’s assets as well as their outstanding debts. The court will also decide how to distribute the assets to a decedent’s beneficiaries.
Many people ask whether probate is necessary if the decedent had a will. Even if there is a valid will that meets the requirements of Florida law, it must be admitted to probate court to be effective. In some cases, a valid will may be contested by family members or other interested parties. Florida law protects certain family members such as a surviving spouse or children from being entirely left out of the will. It is imperative that no matter the circumstances of the probate litigation, you seek the advice of an experienced Probate Litigation Attorney.
There are circumstances where a party may want to contest a decedent’s will. Florida law has specific requirements for executing a will. Failure to properly execute a will may render it invalid. Furthermore, under Chapter 732.5165 of the Probate Code, “a will is void if the execution is procured by fraud, duress, mistake or undue influence.”
Unfortunately, it is not unusual for disputes to arise during probate. The loss of a loved one is a difficult time for most people. Conflict stemming from a decedent’s will may put family member against family member. Probate litigation involves intricate legal matters that are best handled by an attorney with specific knowledge of Florida probate law. A knowledgeable probate lawyer can help determine how to protect your interests and fight for your rights as a beneficiary or as the personal representative named in a will.
Legal Assistance for a Personal Representative
Under Florida law, the executor of a decedent’s estate is called a “personal representative.” A personal representative can be appointed by a judge if a person dies intestate or may be named by the decedent in their will. In probate litigation, many legal issues may become apparent. It is always in the best interest of a personal representative to secure a skilled probate attorney. An attorney can provide legal representation during court proceedings and can give counsel on the rights and interests of the estate under Florida law.
When someone dies “intestate.”
The legal term for when someone dies without a valid will is “intestate.” Chapter 732 discusses intestate succession under Florida law in detail and defines who is entitled to the decedent’s assets. For instance, a surviving spouse will receive “the entire intestate estate” if a person dies without a descendant.
We understand that this may be a challenging time for you and your family. The loss of a loved one is never easy, let alone dealing with complex legal matters arising out of probate litigation. Let our leading Probate Lawyers help you during this difficult time. We will work with you one-on-one to determine your rights and protect your interests guaranteed under Florida law. Whether you are a surviving spouse, a named or unnamed beneficiary or the personal representative of the estate, we can help. Contact our offices today for a free initial case evaluation.