Fort Myers Probate Attorney
Florida Probate Laws & Costs
Probate or Trust Administration can be dismaying after the emotional upheaval surrounding the death of a loved one. If you are facing a legal issue regarding probate, you will want to secure the help of a skilled probate and trust attorney.
With more than 70 years of combined experience, we can:
- Evaluate what probate process is best for the circumstances
- Avoid delays in administration
- Address and any risks to efficient administration
- Communicate an effective plan to complete the process
- Keep clients and beneficiaries informed throughout the process
What Is Probate?
The death of a loved one can present many unique challenges. One of those challenges can be what to do with that person’s Last Will and Testament and how to transfer the assets of the deceased once they are gone.
While many people have heard of “probate,” too many are confused by what that term means and whether it is necessary for their particular situation. Probate is a court process where a deceased person’s assets are transferred to their beneficiaries. Assets can be in the form of land, property, investments, bank accounts, personal property, etc. Beneficiaries are the individuals who are set to receive a deceased person’s assets. A person’s beneficiaries can be dictated by their Last Will and Testament or by Florida statute, depending on whether they died with a valid will.
The court processes are slightly different based on whether a person dies with or without a will. There are several different probate processes, including disposition without administration, summary administration, and formal administration. Which process is required will depend on the nature and value of the assets that need to go through the probate process.
In Florida, except under limited circumstances, a person must hire an attorney to guide them through the probate process. A probate attorney can help you identify which assets require probate and which process is the best to utilize. When presented with probate, hire an attorney who specializes in this area of law. An attorney with general knowledge of the area can lead to a longer and more difficult probate process than necessary.
THE SERVICES OUR FORT MYERS PROBATE ATTORNEYS OFFER
We can help you in areas of probate including and not limited to:
- Formal Estate Administration
- Summary Probate Administration
- Ancillary Probate Administration
- Disposition without Administration
- Beneficiary Rights
- Trust Administration
- Asset Protection
- Estate Planning
- Will Contests
- Trust Contests
- Probate and Trust Litigation
- Surviving Spouse's Right
- Estate Taxes
- Property Transfer
- Wrongful Death
Beginning the process of probate or trust administration after the death of a loved one can feel overwhelming. Let our probate attorneys simplify the process for you and give you peace of mind knowing that everything is in order and progressing
There are several different types of probate administration. Determining which type is necessary depends on several factors including the value of the decedent's estate, time since the decedent's death, and place of decedent's domicile.
Request a free consultation with an experienced probate attorney in Fort Myers to learn more about your legal options.
How Much Does Probate Cost in Florida?
Probate can be a lengthy and time-consuming process. It can also be a costly one. Attorneys representing personal representatives are entitled to "reasonable compensation" for their services. What is considered reasonable is to a great extent the price you and your attorney agree on for administration.
However, a court could also examine fees charged in certain circumstances and make their own determination as to whether the fee is reasonable. Florida Statute §733.6171 provides some guidelines for what courts will consider reasonable for probate attorneys. Fees are based on the value of the estate including income earned during the probate process.
Below are the guidelines provided by statute to give you an idea of what probate administration could cost depending on the estate size:
- $40k or less: $1,500
- $40k–$70k: $2,250
- $70k–$100k: $3,000
- $100k–$1M: $3,000 plus 3% on excess of $100k
- $1M–$3M: 2.5%
- $3M–$5M: 2.0%
- $5M–$10M: 1.5%
- More than $10M: 1.0%
These fees are just base amounts for ordinary services provided by a probate attorney. There can be additional fees for any "extraordinary services." Fla. Statute §733.6171 provides a complete list of what can be considered extraordinary services including the sale or disposition of real property, tax advice, and preparation of estate tax returns. A more complete list can be found by examining the statute.
Who Pays for a Probate Bond?
If you are the personal representative or fiduciary of an estate and you file a petition to open probate, then you will be required to purchase a probate bond. A probate bond is a type of fiduciary bond or executor's bond and in Florida, it is required that every fiduciary before the court must be bonded unless the court or the will waives it. A representative of the estate must purchase a probate bond before they may be officially appointed as an Executor or Administrator of the estate.
Are There Any Alternatives to Probate in Florida?
Yes, there are alternatives to probate in Florida. Some of these alternatives include:
- Ancillary Administration: This alternative may or may not require formal administration and is used when the deceased person owned property in multiple states.
- Disposition Without Administration: In certain cases, if the value of the estate is below a certain threshold, it may be possible to transfer assets without going through the formal probate process.
- Living Trusts: Creating a living trust allows individuals to transfer their assets into the trust during their lifetime, thereby avoiding the need for probate upon their death.
- Joint Tenancy with Rights of Survivorship: Holding property as joint tenants with right of survivorship allows the property to pass directly to the surviving joint tenant(s) upon the death of one owner, bypassing probate.
- Payable-on-Death (POD) Designations for Bank Accounts: By designating a beneficiary on a bank account, the funds can be transferred directly to the beneficiary upon the account holder's death.
- Simplified Probate (Summary Administration): Summary administration is a simplified and expedited probate process available for estates that meet certain criteria, such as having a value below a specific threshold or passing to a surviving spouse.
It is important to consult with an experienced attorney to determine the most appropriate alternative to probate based on individual circumstances.
Contact a Probate Lawyer in Fort Myers for Guidance
As you can begin to see, in certain circumstances, the probate process can be extremely costly. Careful planning to avoid or minimize these fees can provide an immediate return while giving you more control over their assets. If you find yourself in a situation where probate is necessary, consult with an attorney to minimize costs and eliminate potential surprise fees. Don't overpay.
At Powell, Jackman, Stevens & Ricciardi, P.A., our Fort Myers probate lawyers are dedicated to quality legal service that exceeds our clients' expectations, and we are proud of our many successes representing clients in probate and trust administration.
Contact Your Advocates today for a free consultation! - Se habla Español.
How Long Does Probate Take?
The most important factor contributing to the length of the process is the probate procedure that you choose.
In Florida, there are three processes:
- Disposition without administration
- Summary administration
- Formal administration
Disposition without administration and summary administration are the shortest and can take several weeks to a month. You have the option of sending a notice to creditors in a summary administration, so if you choose to do so, complete administration will have to wait the three months that publication requires, and you will need to add that time to your calculation.
If you do not qualify for disposition without administration or summary administrations, you are required to proceed with formal administration. It is extremely difficult to estimate the amount of time formal administration could take. In the best of circumstances, it can take as little as 4.5 to 5 months. On average, it can take up to a year. If you have beneficiaries that cannot get along, any challenges to the will or other litigation issues, the process can be much longer than that. These factors make an accurate estimation difficult.
Due to the length and the complexity of the formal probate process, the one aspect which you can control and which will have a direct effect on the length of time is your level of involvement and the attorney you choose. You must be confident that you can communicate with your attorney and that the information exchange is open and continuous. Choose wisely and you can limit the amount of time a probate case remains open to a minimum.
We Can Simplify a Complex Probate Situation And Trust Issues for You
When you need legal representation to assist you with any matter surrounding probate or trust administration, our Fort Myers probate lawyers have the training and experience to handle your unique circumstances and know how to best approach your case. We pride ourselves on our ability to avoid unnecessary probate administration delays. Our success is your satisfaction.
Ms. Jackman just wanted to say what a GREAT JOB you did. Thanks for making a nervous process easier to handle!! Take care!- Mark Z.
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