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estate planning

The Executor’s Role During Probate

The executor serves a critical role in the probate process. An executor acts as the main point of contact between the grieving family and the probate court and manages the estate during the probate process. Whether you are determining who should be your estate’s executor, or you were appointed as the executor of someone else’s Will, it is essential to understand the key roles and responsibilities an executor holds during the probate process. 

Naming an executor 

The executor has many responsibilities and serves a significant role within the probate process. The executor must be responsible and ensure the deceased’s last wishes are carried out in ordinance with the will and the law. They must also be able to solve problems when issues regarding the estate come up. Due to the immense duties the executor performs, it is essential to discuss your intentions with the person you choose when creating your will.

Executor’s responsibilities 

Once a death certificate, will, and other documents are presented to the probate court, the executor will be given legal authority to execute the will. Below are the primary responsibilities an executor will be in charge of during the probate process.

Liaison between family and probate court 

After the will is validated, the executor will become the primary contact between the probate court and the family, asking questions, attending meetings, and resolving issues. Therefore, it is crucial to choose an executor who is a close family member or friend who can communicate with the probate court and family members.  

Notify beneficiaries and creditors 

Beneficiaries have the right to know that they were included in someone’s will and it is the executor’s responsibility to inform them. After beneficiaries are notified, the executor will also tell creditors and agencies about the person’s passing. This may include credit card companies, lenders, government agencies, and financial institutions. Creditors will submit claims on the estate if they are owed funds from the deceased. During this time, the executor should also establish an estate bank account.

Manage and protect the estate 

The executor is in charge of assessing the estate’s value, including personal assets, real estate property, and bank accounts. They must provide the probate court with an inventory of assets to determine the entire estate’s value. The executor will also keep the deceased’s property safe before distribution to beneficiaries. All debts and credits must be paid before assets are distributed, and the executor will ensure they are not distributed prematurely. Executors are also in charge of the care and maintenance of the deceased’s property, including maintaining landscaping and paying bills. 

Disperse funds to beneficiaries 

Once the estate’s value is assessed, the executor manages the distribution of funds to creditors, then to the beneficiaries. Executors may be held personally liable for fund mismanagement during probate, so executors must be able to follow all instructions. The executor uses the funds in the estate account to pay expenses like funeral and burial costs, credit card debts, and owed taxes. The executor is also in charge of filing the deceased’s final tax return. 

The Boutty Law Firm: experienced probate attorneys 

In the state of Florida, executors should seek counsel from a probate attorney when handling a deceased’s estate. The Boutty Law Firm and its experienced probate attorneys provide thoughtful guidance for executors during the probate process. Call our office at 407-622-1395 to speak with a probate lawyer today. 

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zoning laws business expansion

How Do Community Zoning Laws Affect Your Business Expansion?

Zoning laws exist to help communities expand and grow effectively. Community zoning laws help create thriving economies with space for different types of businesses and residential properties. Zoning is usually part of a town’s “master plan,” a comprehensive strategy of how the city would like to grow in the future. Zoning is an important legal matter because it determines where you may build a commercial structure, open a new business, or construct a home or subdivision. Therefore, it is essential to understand how a local municipality’s zoning laws will affect your plans to build a new home or business. 

What are zoning laws? 

Zoning laws are legal ordinances that divide the land in a city or town into distinct sections, called districts. Zoning regulations specify what kinds of structures can be put in specific community areas, restricting the type of buildings allowed within the particular district. They also regulate the building size and location, such as how tall the building can be, lot size, density of the surrounding area, and square footage. 

Why are zoning laws necessary? 

Restricting the types of businesses and structures within a district allows for different enterprises to flourish. Zoning laws can influence the overall community structure and tone. For instance, by separating commercial zones from residential ones, homeowners can live in an area with limited traffic and less noise than if a commercial building was allowed in the same place. Zoning laws can also help restore and maintain the historic integrity of a particular area, as seen in the historic downtowns of many of the cities located in Central Florida. 

Local zoning districts 

Zoning districts may vary between individual cities, but generally, they fall into categories and subcategories of commercial and residential properties. For example, in Orange County, there are five zoning districts: 

Commercial 

This zoning district may include office spaces, wholesale commercial structures, retail shopping complexes, and stores. 

Industrial 

Industrial zones are for factories, manufacturing plants, and storage facilities. In Orange County, there are three subcategories of industrial zones: light, medium, and heavy. 

Residential 

Just like industrial districts, there are several subcategories within this zoning district as well. Residential communities may include specified rural areas, mobile home parks, University residential districts, urban villages, and residential subdivisions.  

Agricultural 

Agricultural zones include farmland. In Orange County, there is even a special denotation for citrus farming.

Rezoning

 If you are looking to open a business in an area that is not currently zoned for it, you can apply to amend the current zoning code. To apply to amend the zoning district, you will need to contact the county’s Planning Division. Suppose there is a disagreement about what type of district your business belongs to. In that case, there may need to be a public hearing where people can voice their opinions on the new construction. 

Central Florida zoning and land use attorneys 

The Boutty Law Firm offers experienced real estate attorneys who guide you through various real estate-related issues such as applying for the correct permits, negotiating, and litigating real estate issues. Contact our Winter Park office at 407-622-1395 to get started. 

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business contract

What Makes a Contract Legally Binding in Florida?

A contract is an agreement between people or entities where one party agrees to perform a service or deliver goods for something of value. Contracts help define the terms of partnerships and make sure everyone is on the same page when providing goods and services. However, is every piece of paper signed by two parties legally binding? Whether you are offering freelance services or merging corporations, all contracts need the following elements to be legally binding. 

Offer 

In a contract, there must be a specified action offered in exchange for something of value. The action could be the delivery of a product or the performance of a service. The contract should specify the details of that product or service, including the scope of work, timeframe for delivery, and compensation. A contract must have the capacity to be fulfilled to be legally binding, meaning the person entering the contract must be able to perform the duties specified and be of legal age to do so.  

Consideration 

The offer must be in exchange for something of value, which is called the consideration. The consideration solidifies the transaction between the promise of one party and the payment from another. The consideration is often money for the product or service; however, the only stipulation is that the consideration is something of value to be legally binding. Whatever the consideration is, make sure it is clearly stated in the contract. 

Acceptance 

The third crucial element of a legally binding contract is acceptance. Signing a written contract is one of the most straightforward ways to specify acceptance, but that is not the only way. The other party can also administer acceptance orally or through a video, email, or text. Florida law requires specific contracts to be in written form to be enforceable, such as real estate ventures, when the contract terms cannot be completed in one year. There may be some instances when requiring a single signature at the bottom of a contract is not enough to make it legally binding. In these cases, both parties may need to initial specific clauses.

Mutuality

The last element of a legally binding contract is to ensure both parties mutually understand and agree to its terms. Referred to as a “meeting of the minds,” there must be evidence that both parties understood all aspects of the contract and are entering it willfully. Signing a legally binding contract is one way to show mutuality. Even if a contract is not signed, specific actions such as distributing payment or agreeing to terms in an email may also prove to a court that both parties understand and agree to the offer, consideration, and terms. 

Central Florida business Attorney 

Our experienced commercial lawyers at The Boutty Law Firm can help draft legally binding contracts that protect you and your business from legal issues down the road. If you need to sign a contract and are unsure what it means, do not sign it without speaking with a business attorney. Call our office at 407-622-1395 and schedule a consultation today. 

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Probate House

Understanding the Probate Process

Probate plays a big part in the estate planning process for many families. If your loved one’s estate is going through probate, it is important to understand what to expect. If you are the executor of a will or are in the estate planning process yourself, here is what to expect from probate proceedings:

The probate process

Probate is a legal proceeding that has a formal beginning and conclusion in the court system. Below are the steps a typical estate will go through. 

Presentation

The probate process begins when a family representative or a will’s executor meets with a probate lawyer and provides relevant documents, including the will, the death certificate, financial statements, and property deeds. The lawyer will present these documents to the probate court, which marks the beginning of the probate process. 

Will validation 

During this step, the probate court will make a legal determination whether the presented will is valid and can be executed. If there is no will, the court will use Florida law to determine beneficiaries. The will’s executor will be given legal authority to handle the estate as well. The will’s executor will be the primary point of contact for questions and issues that may arise during the probate process.

Inform beneficiaries

It is the executor’s responsibility to inform beneficiaries stated in the will. Beneficiaries have the right to know that they were included in someone’s will so they can be involved with the process, ask questions, and contest any parts of the will’s execution. 

Notify creditors 

Next, the executor will inform any creditors that the estate is in the probate process. Creditors can then make claims on the estate if they are owed any debts from the person who passed away.

Estate inventoried and valued

After creditors and beneficiaries are notified, it is time to inventory and value the current estate. The executor will gather documents and assets such as real estate property, bank accounts funds, cars, and other personal assets to value the estate as a whole. 

Estate bank account

Any funds from bank accounts and sold assets should be placed in an estate holding account. Funds from this account will be used to pay creditors while the estate is in the probate process. 

Debts paid

After the bank account is established, funds are used to pay off debts and necessary bills. 

Division of assets

Once debts are paid, the remaining assets are divided among the beneficiaries according to the will.

Petition of discharge

Once the creditor claim period has ended and the assets are divided, the probate process is complete. A probate attorney will present documentation to the probate court that the estate was handled correctly. If the court agrees, it will sign an order of discharge, officially concluding probate. 

Probate attorneys in Central Florida

When you work with a team of experienced probate lawyers, like The Boutty Law Firm, we will help guide you through the estate planning and probate process. We serve residents in Orlando, Winter Park, and throughout Central Florida. Call our office at 407-710-0774 to speak with a probate attorney today. 

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breach of contract

How to Deal with a Breach of Contract

What happens if a partnership is not working between two parties? A breach of contract occurs when a member of one party does not fulfill the terms of a prior agreement. Breach of contract cases aim to make each party whole, a process called rescission. An experienced business lawyer can help if you suspect a breach of contract has taken place in your business partnership.  

Determining whether a breach of contract occurred 

Before deciding whether you need to seek legal action due to a breach of contract, it is crucial to determine if a violation occurred. Three elements must be in place for there to have been a breach of contract. First, there must be a valid and legally binding contract between both parties. Second, one party must have suffered material damages due to the breach, whether it was time or money. Common types of breaches include: 

● Missed deadlines

● Incomplete or unfinished jobs

● Non-payment for services 

● Failure to deliver a product or service 

● Disagreement over contract terms 

● Disputes between business partners or employees 

● Failure to meet the terms of an agreement such as a lease, mortgage, or loan document

The legal process for a breach of contract

Both parties should work together to find a solution to fulfill the terms of the contract adequately. Before any legal action is taken, the complainant should send a demand letter to the offending party to get that person to fulfill the arrangement independently. If this happens, there is no need to seek further action. However, if the issue is not resolved, it is time to get an attorney involved. During a breach of contract case, a lawyer’s primary purpose is to step in and help both parties fulfill the contract as initially agreed. Lawyers then attempt to collect damages due to the breach and restore what was lost during that timeframe. 

Material versus non-material breaches 

Breaches of contract range in severity, and so do the consequences. The damages received depend on the type of breach that took place. Breaches of contract fall into two main categories: material and non-material cases. 

Material breaches 

Material breaches significantly impact the contract’s validity and may make the entire contract void. One example of a material breach would be if someone paid for an item to be delivered to a business but only received part of what was ordered. This type of breach puts the entire contract in jeopardy, and the complainant may sue for the total contract price.  

Non-material breaches

Non-material breaches are less severe and are not as serious as material breaches. You may only sue for damages incurred by this breach of contract with this type of case. The point of a non-material breach is to fulfill the means of the original contract and compensate for damages incurred. 

Breach of contract legal assistance in Winter Park, FL 

The Boutty Law Firm, P.A. has experience negotiating business law and breach of contract cases. If you entered a partnership with another business owner who isn’t meeting their terms of the agreement, it might be time to obtain legal assistance from our experienced attorneys. Call our office at 407-622-1395 to schedule a consultation. 

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