Probate is a court-supervised process to administer the estate of a deceased person. Each state has distinct probate laws, and Florida is no different, providing an entire legal code exclusively dedicated to probate-related subjects. Is Florida probate difficult to handle? Read on to find out.
Is Florida Probate Difficult? – The Fundamentals
At first sight, Florida’s probate rules may seem complex and not designed for non-lawyers. Depending on the particularities involved in a certain case, you will be required to hire an attorney.
The key reason behind the high level of complexity involved in Florida’s probate system is the overwhelming protection granted to creditors and beneficiaries. Creditors are entitled to a statutory period to lay claims against the decedent’s estate and must be paid following a specific order of preference.
Florida law also shields the rights of beneficiaries, protecting their right to contest a will, object to an executor’s decision and seek court intervention if something does not look right.
While this approach is fundamental to protect the rights of the parties involved in probate, it may result in more formalities, more rules, and lengthier procedures.
Handling a Deceased Person’s Estate – Recurrent Issues in Florida Probate
Inadequate Estate Plans
If an estate plan is incomplete or ambiguous, it may result in a complicated situation for the decedent’s loved ones. Common examples include vague language in a will or incongruous provisions in different documents.
Working with an expert attorney to find a unique distribution strategy and develop an estate plan tailored to your case is crucial to avoiding this chaotic scenario.
Invalid or Unenforceable Wills
In most cases, the provisions in a will are only revealed after the testator’s death. Depending on how the document was written and executed, the deceased’s family may be surprised by an invalid or unenforceable will.
Several legal grounds may void a will in whole or part, such as:
- The testator’s failure to meet the statutory execution requirements
- Lack of testamentary capacity
- Undue influence (e.g., will executed under duress)
- Fraudulent inducement
If a will is deemed invalid in court, the deceased’s estate must be distributed following the state laws of intestacy. Florida intestate law provides a fixed order of preference for the distribution of assets, which may not fulfill the deceased’s wishes and expectations.
One of the parties interested in the will may contest the document’s validity in court, which creates time-consuming disputes and lengthy delays in the distribution process.
An Executor’s Inability to Administer the Decedent’s Estate
Also referred to as “executor,” the personal representative is responsible for administering the decedent’s estate and overseeing the distribution of the assets to their rightful heirs. If an executor fails to fulfill his or her duties, the interested parties may file for removal in court.
Similar to will contests, and other issues, filing a lawsuit to remove executor results in delays in the distribution of the assets. Common grounds to remove an executor in Florida probate include:
- Conflict of interests
- Failure to follow court orders or statutory rules
- Failure to provide proper accounting for the estate’s assets
- Mismanagement of the estate’s resources
- Failure to adhere to the rules of the decedent’s estate plan
- Failure to meet the provisions in the decedent’s will