What Is Probate?

Probate is a court-supervised process for identifying and gathering the assets of a deceased person (decedent), paying the decedent's debts and distributing the decedent's assets to his or her beneficiaries. The decedent's assets are used first to pay the cost of the probate proceeding, then are used to pay the decedent's outstanding debts, and the remainder is distributed to the decedent's beneficiaries. There are two types of probate administration under Florida law: formal administration and summary administration.

When Is Probate Required?

Probate administration is required when the decedent had property that remained titled in his or her name alone at the time of death and that lacked a provision for automatic succession of ownership at death.

Probate is necessary to pass ownership of the decedent's probate assets to the decedent's beneficiaries. If the decedent left a valid will, unless the will is admitted to probate in the court, it will be ineffective to pass ownership of probate assets to the decedent's beneficiaries. If the decedent had no will, probate is necessary to pass ownership of the decedent's probate assets to those who are to receive them under Florida law.

Steps In The Probate Process

The first step in probate in Brandon, Lakeland and the surrounding area is determining whether the deceased had a valid will. Because most people keep their wills with their other important documents, this step is potentially the easiest of the entire process.

The next step is to determine who will be responsible for filing the will with the probate court. This person will later become known as the executor of the estate. In a properly prepared will, the executor will be identified and, in many cases, may have spoken with the deceased person about this responsibility. At this stage, it is important to seek out a lawyer who is familiar with probating a will in Florida.

The Florida probate courts have exacting standards for what documents and records should be included with a will being filed for probate. Because every filing adds a cost of time, money or both, it pays to have an experienced attorney probating a will in Brandon, Lakeland or the surrounding area.

The probate attorneys at Pilka & Associates, P.A., in Brandon and Lakeland can help the executor collect the necessary documents and records. While probating a will in Brandon, Lakeland or the surrounding area, your attorney will be able to properly account for all of the assets of the estate and, if required, provide a formal accounting to the probate court.

After all of the required filings have been made and the assets have been accounted for, the final step of the probate process can begin. The assets of the estate can be distributed among to beneficiaries.

What Occurs During Will Litigation?

The Brandon and Lakeland, Florida, firm of Pilka & Associates, P.A., is equipped to advise family members about steps to take to avoid often costly will litigation in Florida. During the probate process, families are often exposed to previously unknown regrets and family struggles. It is during these mournful times that a beloved family member can begin to show unexpected feelings as he or she engages in a will contest.

When it comes to Florida probate litigation, there are only a few barriers to contesting a will. A person who brings a will contest must be able to show that he or she would have been a beneficiary if the will did not exist. This first threshold question can often only be answered by members of the deceased's family or by a surviving spouse. Someone contesting a will must also be able to prove one of the following claims to win a will dispute in Brandon, Lakeland and surrounding areas in Florida:

  • The deceased person was coerced into making the will.
  • The deceased person was mentally incapacitated at the time the will was executed.
  • The will does not conform to the minimum standards of Florida law.
  • The will is not the most recent will and a second will has been found.

These are some of the more common Brandon and Lakeland will contest arguments, but they are not the only ones. Court is often required to find the truth in a will dispute.

A Legal Adviser You Can Trust

Our Lakeland probate law firm is dedicated to providing effective and efficient representation. Call Pilka & Associates, P.A., in Brandon and Lakeland, Florida, at 863-236-9321 or contact us through this website.