Estate Planning Help: Do I Need an Attorney to Handle an Estate?
By: Barry E. Haimo, Esq.
May 19, 2015
BARRY HAIMO: In Florida, an attorney is required to administer an estate through probate proceedings.
Planning for the future in the event of your death or your incapacitation due to an illness or injury is necessary if you want to transfer your assets to your family and loved ones. All too often people don’t think of estate planning before it’s too late. Estate planning relates to critical issues and solving serious problems both during life and after death. They do not just relate to the disposition of assets. If you want to determine where your assets will go, appoint fiduciaries and guardians of minor children, deal with burial arrangements, contact an attorney today for estate planning help.
Whether or not you have a valid will, your estate will go through probate unless you plan ahead. Probate is the legal process that takes place after someone dies. The first step in probate is to retain an attorney to open up an estate with the court. A Personal Representative or Executor is then appointed to administer the estate. The attorney and Personal Representative work together and are responsible for overseeing the entire probate proceedings, beginning with locating and proving an executed will’s validity.
Next, the Personal Representative will identify and file an inventory of the deceased’s property with the court. After that, the Personal Representative needs to notify the deceased’s beneficiaries and creditors of the pending estate and subsequently pay off all of the deceased’s taxes and debt, before the balance of assets can finally be distributed to the deceased beneficiaries, which are determined according to the will or the law of the state of Florida.
Attorney fees and court costs from probate are paid from the estate, which would otherwise go to the beneficiaries. In addition to money, nearly every stage of proceedings requires judicial oversight. Therefore, probate can also take considerable time to ensure all aspects of probate have been handled to completion.
In short, the answer is yes, an attorney is required to administer an estate through probate proceedings.
While having a validly executed will is an important step in estate planning, it does not avoid probate. This is a common misconception and misunderstanding. If your goal is to avoid probate, there are many strategies that include setting up a trust, having joint ownership and declaring death beneficiaries, making lifetime gifts, and also acquiring life insurance and other financial vehicles.
A properly drafted and executed estate plan will remove all assets from your name and provide for a smooth transition for your family and loved ones. With estate planning, not only can you eliminate the uncertainties involved during life and in probate, you can also maximize the value of your estate by reducing expenses and taxes you may incur along with less financial and emotional stress for everyone.
Working with an attorney for estate planning help can assist you with planning for and protecting your family and your business’s interests for the immediate and long-term future. An attorney will advise you appropriately depending on the goals or needs of your individual estate plan, no matter how complex or simple. Your experienced attorney will guide you through the process of estate planning while also protecting you, your assets, and your beneficiaries in the event of your death or incapacitation.
Barry E. Haimo, Esq.
Strategic Planning With Purpose
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