Judy-Ann Smith Law Firm, P.A

Probate Attorneys
Our probate attorneys help survivors when a loved one passes away. His or her estate most often goes through a court-managed process called probate where the assets of the deceased are managed and distributed. Probate also serves as a forum to resolve disputes, a place where final claims of creditors can be satisfied. The length of time needed to probate depends on the size and complexity of the estate.

Our probate attorneys guide people through the probate process. Each estate is unique, but usually involves the following steps:

• Filing a petition with the proper probate court.
• Notice to heirs, under a will, and to statutory heirs.
• Probate court petition to appoint an executor, under a will, or an estate administrator, if no will exists.
• Inventory and appraisal of estate assets by the executor or estate administrator.
• Payment of estate debts to rightful creditors.
• Sale of estate assets.
• Payment of estate tax, if applicable.
• Final distribution of remaining assets to beneficiaries.

Avoiding Probate
If assets were owned through a well-drafted, properly funded living trust, it is likely that no probate court-managed administration is necessary. The successor trustee of the trust distributes the deceased’s assets. If no trust or will exists, the probate court decides who gets what, typically relatives of the deceased get the property of the estate.

What assets are excluded from probate?
Our probate attorneys can help you during probate when title is transferred from the name of the deceased to the names of the beneficiaries. Certain assets are non-probate assets and do not go through probate. These include:

• Property in which you own title as joint tenants with right of survivorship. Such property passes to the co-owners by operation of law instead of through probate.
• IRAs and pension assets, including 401k accounts with designated beneficiaries.
• Life insurance policies with designated beneficiaries.
• Bank accounts with pay on death or in trust for designations.

When property is owned by a living trust, legal title to such property passes to successor trustees without going through probate.

How much does probate cost and how long does it take?
Our probate attorneys will help you get through the probate process. The cost and duration of probate varies depending on the value and complexity of the estate, the existence of a will and the location of real property owned by the estate. Will contests and disputes with alleged creditors over the debts of the estate can add to the cost of probate and delay the proceedings. Common expenses of an estate include fees for the executor, probate attorney, accountant and probate court as well as appraisal costs and surety bonds. Such costs typically add five to nine percent of the total estate value.

Does an executor get paid?
Executors are reimbursed for out-of-pocket expenses incurred in the process of management and distribution of the estate. You may also be entitled to statutory fees, which vary depending upon the location of the probate and the size of the estate. An executor is expected to fulfill his or her fiduciary duties on behalf of the estate with a high degree of integrity and can be held liable for mismanagement. The executor should retain a probate attorney and accountant to advise and assist.

Reach Out to Us
As your probate attorneys, Judy-Ann Smith Law Firm, P.A will listen carefully to your wishes and goals. We understand how stressed and anxious people become because of grieving for the deceased, while handling the details of settling the loved one’s estate. We take the time to analyze your particular situation and offer solutions that are tailored to your unique situation. Call us today for a free consultation. We treat you like family.

Probate Attorney Jacksonville Beach