Trusted Legal Guidance From Miami Probate Litigation Lawyers
Basic Overview of the Probate Process
Probate is the process in which the State of Florida oversees the distribution of a decedent's estate. This means that the state is involved in seeing that the estate pays its debts and distributes assets to beneficiaries. As part of this process, the state will recognize a representative who has the official responsibility to manage the decedent's estate. If there is a will, then the probate court will recognize the “executor” identified within the will. If no will exists, then the court will appoint an administrator who has the same responsibilities which an executor would normally have.
The process of appointing an administrator is quite serious, as the administrator is entrusted with a heavy responsibility. Consequently, the court will make certain that the administrator is well-qualified.
Potential Sources of Dispute
Probate litigation can arise whenever there is a dispute regarding some aspect of the probate process. At Miami Family Law Group, PLLC, we have the experience, knowledge and talent to address a wide range of disputes and provide litigation assistance. Within the area of probate, there are several common disputes which tend to arise more frequently than others. The most common disputes are the contents of a will, a certain provision within the will, and the choice of an administrator.
In some cases, a person will challenge the validity of a will because of alleged offenses. For instance, the person challenging the will may allege that someone exerted an undue influence over the decedent during the creation of the will. Undue influence can mean different things, but typically it refers to unacceptable pressure exerted against someone. Another reason might be that the decedent allegedly lacked the capacity to create an enforceable will because of physical or mental incapacity. These same reasons may be used to challenge the validity of a particular section of the will.
Another common dispute relates to the selection of an administrator. Often the surviving family of a decedent cannot agree on the choice of an administrator. This may lead to a dispute regarding the most desirable appointment. In these cases, a dispute may arise which requires litigation to resolve. There can be legitimate concerns regarding the appointment of an administrator. Perhaps some family members may feel that a particular person will not carry out the management of the estate effectively or reasonably. Litigation can allow family members to air out their legitimate concerns.
At Miami Family Law Group, PLLC, we understand that probate litigation is a very serious matter. Often, litigation involves family members who claim to have been wrongfully removed from a will, or allege undue influence against a decedent. These situations can be quite intense. During these difficult times, you should only partner with a firm which is fully aware of how poignant these cases can be.
Miami Probate Litigation Lawyer
It goes without saying that the death of a loved one is an extremely emotional experience. As well as processing the grief that follows when losing a family member, you will face the daunting task of managing their estate and assets.
If the person who died left a will, then the personal representative is responsible for ensuring that all heirs receive the assets to which they are entitled. However, if there is no will, or the will is contested, then things become far more complex.
The probate process is difficult to understand and is not something you should attempt to navigate alone, especially if the estate is in dispute. Probate lawyers will be able to assist you in making sure the will is legally valid and that the will is executed fairly with clear probate assets given to the rightful heirs. If there is no will, then they will help ensure that fair and just decisions are made.
Probate Litigation Attorneys at Miami Family Law Group, PLLC
Miami Family Law Group, PLLC is committed to helping families navigate every phase of probate administration. Our knowledgeable team of lawyers has been practicing law for over 20 years and has a wealth of experience in probate litigation in Miami.
Our team understands how difficult the probate process is following the death of a family member, especially in cases where the family is in conflict. Respect is what is important to us, and we will show compassion and the greatest standard of legal care as we work with you on your case.
One of our probate litigation lawyers will help you to pay taxes and debts of the deceased, sell real estate, collect assets, resolve disputes with beneficiaries, the overall distribution of assets, and do anything else you might need guidance on.
Contact our law firm today at 305-520-7874 to discuss your case with a Miami probate litigation lawyer.
Probate Litigation in Miami, FL
Litigation is the process of taking legal action with the court. Probate litigation occurs when there are contested issues surrounding asset entitlements or the validity of a will. The most common types of probate litigation are will construct, will contests, breach of fiduciary duty, and complicated probate processes such as when non-marital children seek inheritance of assets.
The need for probate litigation usually comes up when someone receives a “Notice of Administration,” a formal legal document that alerts all interested parties of the death and the filing of a Will for probate. This also sets out a time period to allow any interested party to contest the will.
If you are the personal representative of a contested will, or you have suspicions that you are being denied assets from the will, it is crucial that you seek assistance from a Miami probate litigation attorney as soon as possible.
Complicated probate procedures that involve litigation include:
Will Contest Grounds
A will contest is a legal proceeding in which the validity of the last will and testament is challenged. The person who is bringing the challenge is known as the "contestant", while the person defending the challenge is known as the "proponent."
Will contests are brought up by people who believe the will in question does not reflect the true interest of the person who wrote it. The contestant may believe that the will was the result of fraud, undue influence, or a lack of testamentary capacity. Will contests complicate probate procedures and often need to be resolved in a probate court with the help of legal representation.
Listed below are some of the grounds for invalidity:
- The will does not meet legal requirements
- The testator was coerced into signing the will (undue influence)
- The testator was incapacitated when signing the will
- Existence of a will prior to the one put forward for probate
When the probate procedure begins, the other interested parties are given a certain period of time to file a petition to contest the will, usually 90 days.
Arguments Between Family Members
The most common issue that our probate litigation attorneys deal with is disagreements between family members regarding the estate planning documents and estate assets after the death of a loved one. Handling the death of a loved one is never easy, and family members also have to divide up the deceased's estate. This process becomes a lot more difficult when it is found that there was no proper estate planning carried out before the death occurred.
Without proper estate planning, beneficiaries must decide amongst themselves who the personal representative should be. Next, they must divide the assets in accordance with Florida law, and do a formal probate administration with an attorney if the assets left behind are more than $75,000. Probate litigation processes often cause tension between family members, making it even more difficult to fairly divide the estate.
Hiring a Miami probate attorney to guide you through the process will help alleviate tension between the family, ensuring that the estate litigation is in accordance with Florida law. One of our firm's attorneys can assist you in handling all communication on your behalf, handling legal matters on behalf of your family and allocating each entitlement of the will to the right beneficiaries.
Assets in Multiple States
There are many cases where the deceased has assets spread across multiple states, and it is not surprising that this complicates the probate process further. The main reason for this is that each state has different laws regarding estate administration. For example, if the deceased person lived in Miami but owned property in California, the property will follow the laws of California.
If this is the case, the personal representative will have to carry out multiple probate administrations across the different states depending on where the deceased owned property. It is also the case that some states, by law, require probate attorneys to handle the case. An attorney from our firm will be able to offer you advice on whether or not you will need to hire lawyers in other states.
Personal Representative Refuses The Role
In estate planning and probate procedures, one person must be assigned the role of executor or personal representative of the will. This can be set out in the will or decided later by a Miami court. Once this person has been appointed, they must accept the role. If they do not accept, the court will then dedicate a new personal representative to take on the probate process. This does make the overall process a lot longer than originally intended.
In order to avoid these long delays, it is important that communication happens with the personal representative during estate planning. It is through this that you will be able to ensure that they will accept the role and execute the will.
Breach of Fiduciary Duty
In the probate process, the personal representatives of the estate have what is known as "fiduciary duties" to execute the will to a high standard. A fiduciary duty is a legal obligation to act in the best interest of another party. Fiduciary duties are typically given to individuals who are in a position of authority or trust, one who will have respect for someone else's assets.
Each situation is unique, and the duties of a fiduciary will depend on the circumstances of the case. They usually include duties to act with loyalty, care, and good faith when handling personal information and to strive to avoid any conflicts of interest.
Violating a fiduciary duty comes with serious legal consequences and can involve civil or criminal penalties. Therefore if you are involved in a dispute over probate proceedings, it is vital you seek legal assistance from a trusted legal counsel.
Sometimes, people leave assets to loved ones in trust rather than leaving everything in a will. This helps to avoid probate, which can be time-consuming and expensive. However, there can also be disputes regarding trust assets, in a similar way to how a will can be contested. If you are dealing with a dispute over a trust, you should speak to one of our trust litigation attorneys as soon as possible.
Contact Miami Family Law Group, PLLC, Miami FL Today
Allocating the decedent's assets, dealing with outstanding debts, and executing the will are all stressful tasks, especially when disputes arise. When this happens, it is essential that you have the help of a Miami probate lawyer who can help to ensure that your rights are protected and that a fair outcome is achieved.
At Miami Family Law Group, PLLC, we have over a decade of experience in helping families in Miami navigate probate litigation matters. If you have recently lost a loved one and are dealing with probate complications, you should contact an attorney from Miami Family Law Group, PLLC as soon as possible.
Our goal is to protect families and fight for their best interests. Our team is full of experienced probate litigation lawyers, who will be able to help you with a variety of probate services in Miami, including the execution of a will, litigation issues, and more. Our goal is to guide you through this process with trust and ease.
Miami Family Law Group, PLLC understands how difficult probate litigation is, and when emotions are running high, you need an attorney who cares about you and your family's interests. We are here to help.
Contact our Miami, FL office today at 305-520-7874 to schedule a consultation with one of our Miami probate lawyers.