The end of a person’s life can create many personal and legal difficulties. The decedent’s family will need to come to emotional terms with the loss but it is also important to have a plan in place for distributing the loved one’s assets. The legal process whereby a court fulfills the person’s last wishes is called probate. A probate court has broad powers to interpret wills and other testamentary documents, oversee the actions of personal representatives, and close an estate. However, there can be conflict when multiple people have a stake in the person’s estate.
A South Miami probate lawyer can make this system easier to understand and protect you in the event that someone challenges your right to an inheritance. This help can come in the form of drafting and filing a petition to appoint a personal representative, addressing any active debts, distributing assets properly, and serving as a mediator during any disputes.
Getting the South Miami Probate Court Involved
A probate court cannot automatically begin the probate process. In fact, a court cannot even recognize the fact that a person has passed away without proper notice. The probate process in South Miami begins when any person files the decedent’s will with the court. Any person has the authority to perform this act according to Florida Statute § 733.202.
This same statute gives any interested party the ability to formally request that the court begin the formal probate process. Any interested person can include beneficiaries, people who would have had rights to the estate in the absence of the will, or the executor of the estate. A South Miami probate attorney can file these petitions on behalf of family members or nominated personal representatives.
Challenging a Will and Other Documents
The probate process is not without potential roadblocks. A last will and testament in Florida must meet minimum standards and courts cannot always assume that a will that comes before them is valid. Any interested party may move for the court to examine the validity of the will further. Common reasons to contest a will include:
- The testator lacked the mental capacity to understand what they were doing;
- There was misrepresentation to the testator that influenced their judgment;
- The will is a forgery;
- The will does not meet the requirements of form under Florida law.
Assuming that the will is valid, the probate court will then appoint a personal representative to this role.
The Role of the Personal Representative
The personal representative of an estate has the legal duty to follow the terms of testamentary documents. That same administrator must also fulfill any obligations of the estate, such as the payment of outstanding debts (if applicable), the closing of any bank accounts, or the sale of property. This representative has a legal duty to carry out the terms of the will for the benefit of the estate according to Fla. Stat. § 733.602.
In short, a personal representative must document every step they take within probate and report those steps to the court. Once the representative believes the estate to be closed, the court will give any additional creditors a chance to come forward or for any other interested party to object to the closing of the estate. If the court formally closes the estate, then probate ends and the personal representative’s role is complete. A South Miami probate attorney can work with a personal representative to confirm that their actions meet the appropriate legal standard. If not, the lawyer can determine the appropriate way to fix the issue.
Reach Out to a South Miami Probate Attorney Today
The outcome of probate court could have a large impact on your family. While the wishes of a last will and testament may seem like they are set in stone, any interested party always has the chance to challenge the validity of that document. A South Miami probate lawyer can provide support every step of the way and keep you on the right track. Contact us today for a free consultation.