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Lakeland Estate Planning Attorney

Over Two Decades of Legal Experience on Your Side

Estate planning is an essential part of managing your affairs and planning for the future.

I am Melissa A. Wilson, founder of Advocate Law Firm, P.A., and I have helped clients secure financial peace of mind for over 20 years. I believe in providing high-caliber legal counsel to those who need it most, and I am dedicated to providing personalized case strategies to fit your needs.

Contact me at (863) 644-5566 for more information.

Florida Probate Law

Probate is the legal process that takes place after a loved one dies. This process is complicated and can include appraisals, wills and trusts, inheritance, and more. Every state has its own regulations regarding probate, and Florida is no different.

Florida requires anyone with possession of a will to file it within ten days of the death of their loved one. The court will determine whether the will is valid during the probate process. Some assets do not need court approval as long as they are designated to a beneficiary or held in a living trust. Furthermore, property in joint tenancy does not require court oversight. Joint tenancy refers to property owned by more than one person, like a joint bank account or a house owned by a couple.

Formal probate proceedings in Florida start when the executor of the will asks the court to be appointed as a representative of the estate. These cases take place in the county where the deceased was living at the time of death. After the court receives the request, beneficiaries and family members are given notice.

The court will then issue Letters of Administration, which give the representative the power to settle the estate. Wills must always have the court's validation before they can be executed, unless they are self-proving, which means there were witnesses and a signed statement in front of a notary public.

At this point, the representative gathers assets, pays debts and taxes, and distributes property to the intended beneficiaries. After distribution is complete, the representative will file a receipt with the court, and the estate will be closed. The entire probate process can take six months to a year to complete.

Probate is a tedious process that involves the court beneficiaries and a host of other parties to settle an estate. Never approach the probate process without the help of a skilled attorney.

Wills and Trusts

Wills and trusts are a crucial part of the estate planning process. A will is a legal document that explains how you want your affairs to be settled and how your assets will be divided after death. For example, a grandparent passes away, but they have a notarized document that elects a personal representative to handle their affairs. This document also divides all remaining property after debts and taxes to the children and grandchildren. Wills can also include guardianship for minor children. This means that a grandparent, aunt, uncle, or godparent may have guardianship of minor children if the will explicitly designates them as a possible caretaker. Another critical difference between wills and trusts is that a will is available to the public.

Trusts are a fiduciary or monetary relationship with a trustor who gives a trustee the right to hold title to property or assets on behalf of another party. Sometimes trusts can provide benefits to a spouse or children or stipulate that an estate amount goes to charity. There are two main types of trusts: revocable vs. irrevocable.

  • A revocable trust protects assets from probate and allows the grantor to retain control of these assets during their lifetime. Revocable or living trusts can be dissolved at any time. These trusts can also become irrevocable upon the grantor's death.
  • An irrevocable trust includes assets outside the reach of estate taxes and probate that the grantor cannot change. This means that once an irrevocable trust is enacted, it cannot be changed even by the grantor.

Some people may use trusts to avoid probate and to keep their affairs private. Whether you intend to draft a will or set up a trust, always consult with an experienced estate planning attorney.

Why You Need an Experienced Estate Planning Attorney 

Estate planning is a complex area of law that requires knowledge and experience to navigate successfully. A skilled estate planning attorney can help you protect your assets, minimize taxes, and ensure your wishes are carried out after your passing.

At Advocate Law Firm, P.A. in Lakeland, FL, our estate planning attorneys have over two decades of experience helping clients create comprehensive estate plans that provide for their loved ones and preserve their legacies. We understand the intricacies of Florida probate law and can guide you through the process from start to finish.

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Commonly Asked Questions

Do I need a will or a trust?

Both wills and trusts are important parts of estate planning, but they serve different purposes. A will outlines how you want your affairs to be settled and how your assets will be divided after death. A trust is a fiduciary relationship in which a trustee holds title to property or assets on behalf of another party. Whether you need a will, a trust, or both will depend on your individual circumstances.

What is the difference between a revocable trust and an irrevocable trust?

A revocable trust allows the grantor to retain control of assets during their lifetime, while still protecting them from probate. A revocable trust can be dissolved at any time. An irrevocable trust cannot be changed once it is enacted, but it provides protection from estate taxes and probate.

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