Hiring a Probate Lawyer in Pinellas County is highly advised if you’re the executor of an estate and would like reassurance over the probate process. This is especially true for complex estates or absent wills.
Probate is the legal process overseen by a court to identify, gather and distribute a deceased person’s estate.
The executor named in the deceased person’s will performs these tasks (known as administration). If there isn’t one, the probate court will appoint one. The follow tasks must then be completed:
- Filing a petition to open the estate.
- Proving the will with the local probate court.
- Appointing a personal representative.
- Giving notice to heirs and beneficiaries.
- Completing an inventory of the estate and debts.
- Giving notice to creditors.
- Paying debts and distributing the estate.
- Closing the estate.
Read Related: Complete Guide to Navigating Florida Probate
What Does a Probate Lawyer Do?
By using a Probate Lawyer in Pinellas County, you gain the legal assistance of a specialist in probate law. Their expertise will cover everything from administering the estate to dealing with the probate court, including:
- Oversee the probate court’s verification of a will.
- Assist with the distribution of assets.
- Assist with the payment of debts.
- Respond to legal challenges against the estate or will.
- Manage issues arising with the probate court if there is no will.
- File the relevant paperwork for probate.
- Manage the deceased’s final tax filings and returns.
- Assist with life insurance collection.
- Remove the burden and stress placed on the personal representative.
- Provide reassurance for heirs and beneficiaries that the process is fair and unbiased.
Read Related: 10 Reasons to Hire a Probate Lawyer in Florida
When Do You Need a Probate Lawyer in Pinellas County?
Although it is not legally required, it is highly advised to hire a probate lawyer in Pinellas County if you are dealing with:
- A complex estate (such as those with debts, high-value assets, multiple real estate properties and blended families).
- Estates where there are claims or disputes made by beneficiaries or interested persons.
- Estates where there was no will left behind.
- Estates where a will has problems or unclear language.
- You are unable to meet the requirements of being an executor.
- You would like to be 100% sure you are meeting all legal requirements and avoid any tension in the family.
How Much Do Probate Lawyers in Pinellas County Cost?
The fees and costs associated with a probate lawyer in Pinellas County will vary depending on their expertise and the specifics of the case. Florida is subject to Uniform Probate Code (UPC) regulations (Florida Statute Section 733.6171(3)), that require attorneys to charge “reasonable fees” for their probate services.
Please contact our Pinellas County probate lawyers today for a free assessment, to get a quote.
Factors That Affect Probate Costs
Every probate process in Florida comes with costs. The costs and expenses vary depending on each estate, including:
- Attorney fees
- Accountant fees
- Court filing fees
- Executor bond fees
- Any necessary out-of-state probate costs (if assets are held in another state)
- Publication and notice fees
- Translations of wills or documents, if necessary
If there is a family dispute or contest of the will, you can sadly expect the total cost to increase significantly. This can occur when someone feels left out or unfairly treated by the executor or decedent. These battles can last months or even years. For example, Prince’s probate took six years to conclude as his death without a will resulted in family chaos.
Formal vs. Summary Probate
There are two types of probate administration in Pinellas County, ‘formal’ and ‘summary’:
Formal Administration Is Required When:
- The death was less than two years ago.
- The estate’s total value was more than $75,000.
- There are creditors of the estate.
Summary Administration Is Available If:
- The estate’s total value is less than $75,000 and outstanding debts have been paid, or;
- The death was more than two years ago, or;
- The will doesn’t specify how the estate should be administered.
Do All Estates Go Through Probate?
Probate only applies to ‘probate assets’. Probate assets are assets that were owned by the decedent that had no automatic succession planning in place.
- Bank accounts
- Investment accounts
- Life insurance policies
- Annuity Contracts
- Retirement accounts
- Real estate (unless a homestead property)
- Personal items
However, some assets can avoid probate entirely if they include automatic succession planning or were:
- Jointly owned real estate.
- Bank accounts with assigned beneficiaries or ‘Payable on Death’ accounts.
- Investment accounts with rights of survivorship.
- Retirement accounts including IRAs and 401(k)s – if a beneficiary is named.
Can You Shorten the Probate Duration with a Lawyer?
Using a Probate lawyer in Pinellas County can help you minimize the delays caused by the probate process. For example, they can efficiently file and send documentation to the probate court, avoiding errors that could set the process back by months. They can also try to quickly resolve contests or disputes that may arise.
If you’re currently estate planning for your own estate, you can minimize the number of assets that will pass through probate by taking advantage of estate planning options such as Trusts. With a trust, the trust itself owns the assets but you can still name your loved ones as beneficiaries. As always, the best thing to do is to contact a Probate lawyer in Pinellas County for advice.
Contact a Pinellas County Probate Lawyers
Please feel free to contact our Probate Lawyers in Pinellas County if you need any assistance with the probate process, a will contest or estate administration. We regularly help Pinellas residents from all levels of wealth to have a smooth and fair estate administration.
Battaglia, Ross, Dicus & McQuaid, P.A. is U.S. News and World Reports Tier 1 law firm in Florida, specializing in Estate Planning & Probate since 1958. With award-winning experienced attorneys, they can help you start and complete the probate process or tackle any probate litigation issues.
Schedule a free assessment today to get started or to get any questions answered.