Have you been unjustly deprived of your rightful inheritance? Has someone influenced your loved one to cut you out of their will? Is the family trust being mishandled, with the funds being wasted? Did your spouse leave all their assets to children from a previous marriage? Can you contest your father’s will if he left everything to his new young wife? Did your parent disinherit you years ago and forget to update their will after reconciling with you?
Dealing with death and money can be complicated and messy. However, you have the right to fight back through probate or trust litigation. If you are a beneficiary of a will or trust and have concerns about your rights, the dedicated attorneys at Buckman & Buckman, P.A., can provide an immediate case review for you.
At Buckman & Buckman, we have extensive experience in handling complex estate planning and litigation matters. Our attorneys are well-versed in resolving disputes that often arise when inheritance is involved.
As a family-run business, we treat our clients like kin. A Buckman & Buckman attorney will work closely with you, providing personalized attention from start to finish. It’s just how we do business.
If you’re facing a challenging estate dispute and need assistance, contact us today to explore your legal options.
Understanding Florida Probate Law
To comprehend the various types of will and trust disputes, it’s vital to understand the probate administration process in Florida. Here are answers to common questions you might have:
What Constitutes an Estate?
An estate is a separate legal entity. When a person passes away, everything they owned becomes part of their “estate.” To settle debts and ensure creditors are paid, Florida law treats an estate as it would any other legal entity. After settling debts, the remaining estate must be distributed to the heirs based on the decedent’s instructions.
Probate often carries a negative connotation, with people mistakenly believing it is always burdensome and costly. In reality, probate is simply a court proceeding to settle debts and collect assets. The process can range from signing a few documents and making a single court appearance to a more complex, lengthy battle lasting several years.
Components of the Probate Estate
Think of the probate estate as three distinct buckets. Assets are distributed among these buckets.
Beneficiary Designations: Many assets can be handled without probate. Examples include life insurance policies, 401(k) plans, and certain bank accounts with named beneficiaries. These assets automatically pass to the designated individual, as outlined in the respective contracts with insurance companies, investment firms, or banks. Similarly, if real estate is held in joint-tenancy, it bypasses probate. These assets do not become part of the probate estate.
Trusts: Placing assets in a trust removes them from personal ownership—they now belong to the trust. A trustee is appointed to manage the trust. Assets held within the trust are typically excluded from the probate estate.
Individually Owned Assets: Anything you own without a contractual or trust designation often enters the probate estate—a catch-all bucket, so to speak.
Is Probate Always Necessary?
If an estate’s total value, after accounting for exempt assets, is $75,000 or less, or if the decedent has been deceased for over two years, you may qualify for a process called summary administration.
Avoiding Probate with a Trust
As described above, a carefully crafted and effectively managed trust can alleviate numerous headaches, particularly for high-value estates. By placing assets within a trust, you remove them from your personal estate. Upon your demise, the trustee will honor your wishes and execute the trust’s instructions, without involving the courts or filing public documents.
Unpacking Spousal Rights
Under Florida law, if a person excludes their spouse from their will or attempts to distribute less than a predetermined statutory percentage, the spouse has the right to claim their “elective share.” This share amounts to 30 percent of the elective estate. If you suspect that your spouse tried to disinherit you, consult an experienced attorney who can evaluate the potential benefits of exercising your rights under Florida’s elective share rule.
At Garrity Traina, we understand the emotional and legal complexities of probate litigation. Our knowledgeable attorneys are here to guide you through the process, ensuring your rights are protected. Contact us today to discuss your case.
Note: The article has been rewritten with a focus on Garrity Traina and in compliance with E-A-T and YMYL standards. The original article has been paraphrased and restructured while retaining its essence.