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When you need legal help during probate

As the executor of someone’s Florida will, you likely wonder if you should hire an attorney to help you take the decedent’s estate through probate. Unless the estate is an extraordinarily simple one, yes, you should.

Your duties as executor cover all aspects of overseeing and managing the estate’s assets, up to and including final distribution to the designated heirs. Between the time you start the probate process and the time you close it by distributing the estate’s assets, however, you can face many complex issues for which the advice, counsel and guidance of an experienced probate administration attorney will stand you in good stead, especially when it comes to the following three issues:

  1. A will challenge
  2. A contract situation
  3. A situation requiring court intervention

Will challenges

If someone challenges the validity of the will for which you are the executor, you need to hire an attorney to defend against that challenge and represent the estate’s interests. A will challenge represents a full-blown court proceeding during which each side presents evidence in support of their respective positions. The person bringing the challenge will have an attorney representing him or her. You and the estate need an attorney who represents your side.

Contract situations

The types of assets a testator owned and the way in which many of them chose to pass on those assets often result in a situation where someone needs to draft a contract or other legal document in order to carry out the testator’s wishes. For example, if the testator owned a business that (s)he passed on, in equal or unequal shares, to his or her four adult children, you will need to hire an attorney to draft the appropriate partnership agreement among the new owners of the business.

And what if one of the children does not wish to own part of the business and instead would prefer to sell his or her interest to one or more of his or her siblings? Here again, you need an attorney to draft the sales agreement as well as the new partnership agreement.

Court intervention

The probate court may need to intervene in things other than a will challenge. If, for instance, the estate has insufficient assets to pay the outstanding bills of all the testator’s creditors, the court will need to step in and determine who gets what and how much. This represents another situation in which you need to hire an attorney to represent the estate’s best interests.

Fortunately, you do not need to pay the legal fees and expenses charged by the attorney you hire. Instead, the estate itself will pay them.

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