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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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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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Dog and cat: estate planning

Estate Planning for Your Pet

What will happen to your pets if you passed away tomorrow?

In this age of uncertainty and turmoil, one thing you can count on is that your pet is there for you. But what if the unthinkable happens? Who will be there for your pet if you die? If there is nothing in writing, your beloved pet could end up in a rescue, shelter, or homeless on the streets. The thought of that is heartbreaking to most pet owners. That’s why your pets’ future care should be in writing as part of your estate plan.

Whom do you want to care for your fur baby?

  Who in your family or circle of friends would be the ideal person to care for your pet? Is that person comfortable with the arrangement? You should speak with your pet’s potential caretaker about special dietary or medical needs, life span, exercise and space requirements, and other needs your pet has. You will also want to gauge their interest. If they look disturbed, uncomfortable, or disinterested, it may be in your pet’s best interest if you move on to the next person. Your duty is to find the ideal situation so your pet will be able to adjust after the trauma of losing you.

How will your pet’s guardian pay for your pet’s needs for the remainder of their lifetime?

After your choice on who will care for your pet has been made, it’s time to consider how much money you should set aside to pay for their future care. Quality pet food, bedding, vet care, grooming, etc., can add up fast. It wouldn’t be fair to expect a friend or family member to foot your pet’s caretaking bills after you die. To determine approximate costs, calculate the annual costs to care for your pet and then multiply that number by the pet’s remaining life expectancy and add extra for medical emergencies. These funds will be willed TO your pet’s guardian and NOT your pet, as pets are legally personal property and property cannot receive money. 

If you are considering leaving a large amount of money to pay for your pet’s future needs, you may want to consider creating a trust and assigning a trustee to manage the money for your pet.

Pet Trust option

A more secure option would be to set up a trust for your pet. With a pet trust, you can put money in a trust and assign a trustee to oversee funds. The trust will assign a trustee and caretaker who will have a legal obligation to care for your pet. If your chosen and dually agreed upon caretaker fails your pet, they may be sued. Your trust will include:

• The name and description of the pets to be cared for.

• The name of the person (trustee) who may be responsible for overseeing the process.

• The amount of money to be used for pet care.

• The name of the person that agreed with you to care for your pet.

• Detailed instructions on the care of your pet.

• Details on what should be done with any money left over after your pet dies

What happens if I cannot find a suitable caretaker for my pet?

  If you are not able to find the ideal situation for your pet, contacting the SPCA of Florida, your vet, or a sanctuary is an excellent way to help you find a program that can help you make arrangements. A stipend may be required to ensure your pet gets the care they need while living their life out in a sanctuary or are adopted out to the perfect family.

Contact your Winter Park estate planning attorney today to modify your will and ensure that your pet is taken care of

The Boutty Law Firm, P.A., is passionate about helping families prepare for life after a loved one dies. With a secure estate plan, you can feel confident that your pet will be cared for in their next home. We serve clients in Winter Park and Orlando and in communities throughout Orange County, Seminole County, Osceola County, and Volusia County, FL. We are committed to building strong relationships with our clients and the community.

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Man reviewing estate plan

Estate Planning, Estate Administration, and Probate

Estate planning is often avoided as it confronts end-of-life issues, incapacity, and tough decisions about protecting and providing for the future of your loved ones. However, it is an opportunity to ease the burdens on your family when experiencing the emotional aspects of loss and grief. There are many options for estate planning that affects estate administration and probate. These should be explored with an experienced estate planning attorney. The Boutty Law Firm P.A. can assist with all estate issues for your peace of mind regarding the future.

Options for Estate Planning

   There are many advantages to executing a will. It allows you to name a trusted person to manage your estate after death, and if deemed as valid by the court system, it guides the process of probate. A will can serve as a legal document to determine the future caregivers of your children. While many believe that a Last Will and Testament avoids probate, this is not the case. State of Florida law mandates that the court intervene to validate the will, before the distribution of assets and debts. If your assets are located in multiple states, a probate proceeding must take place in each state.

   Creating a living trust is an option that avoids the probate process. It allows a successor trustee to manage your estate if you become mentally incapacitated and after death. Without court intervention, a successor trustee can pay off debts and transfer assets to beneficiaries immediately. When executing a living trust, a person’s assets are protected from probate only if transferred into the trust. A living trust affords privacy for the family, as it is not a public document. Other benefits include the saving of time and the costs of probate. There are many types of trusts, and an estate-planning attorney can guide you through choosing the best option based on your personal and business needs.

Probate to Settle Descendant’s’ Estates

   Probate is the process of identifying and distributing the assets and debts of a descendent, governed by Florida Statutes, and supervised in a court of law. Probate proceedings are Formal Administration, Summary Administration, or Disposition of Personal Property without Administration. 

There are specific criteria for each type of probate proceedings, as follows:

  • Formal Administration is a traditional form of probate that can be used for any estate. It is required when non-exempt assets exceed $75,000 or less than two years have passed since the descendants’ death.  
  • Summary Administration is a shortened version of probate, which applies if the descendant’s estate does not exceed $75,000, not counting the value of a homesteaded property.
  • Disposition of Personal Property without Administration is available for small estates with no real estate ownership, and the descendant’s assets do not exceed their debts, such as a funeral, medical and hospital expenses. It allows an heir that has paid these expenses to be reimbursed by the estate.

    Probate is designed to protect beneficiaries and creditors; however, there are disadvantages to the probate process.  

Probate is time-consuming, leaving the beneficiaries to maintain expenses. These expenses can be real estate taxes, insurance, utilities, funeral expenses, business expenses, and other debts while waiting for the court to process the estate. Probate is costly, which limits the inheritance of your heirs. Also, probate records are public information so that anyone can access and view the estate’s details.

The Boutty Law Firm P.A. is an Experienced Estate Planning and Estate Administration Law Firm

   At The Boutty Law Firm P.A., we can help you secure your legacy, with a comprehensive estate plan to manage your financial future. We can assist with the execution of medical Advanced Directives, such as a Living Will or Health Care Surrogate. These will authorize a person of your choosing to be your voice for medical decisions as a result of mental incapacity from a physical or cognitive disability.

    The loss of a loved one is an emotional and confusing time. 

Our law firm represents executors in a will and successor trustees in a living trust. Without estate pre-planning, your assets and debts are intestate. The Boutty Law Firm P.A. will assist a court-appointed personal representative, in the settling of an estate. In all of these roles, there are many complex responsibilities, such as the valuation of an estate, locating assets, creditors and claims against the estate, notifying beneficiaries, paying current and delinquent taxes, minimizing estate taxes, and the filing of necessary legal documents. To expedite the closing of an estate, our experienced attorneys provide sound, legal advice, and assistance in every scenario, including disputes that may arise, such as will and trust contests.

 Call The Boutty Law Firm P.A. at our Winter Park, Florida office at 407-622-1395, for an appointment to secure the future of your estate. 

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Will and Testament

Do I need a Will, a Living Trust or Both?

Estate planning is an emotionally charged issue, regardless of your family dynamics.  Broaching the subject of financial matters and death can make everyone feel uncomfortable.  Yet, it is one of the most important conversations to be had, as the future financial security of your family depends on the planning that you do now.  If you have a spouse, children or financial assets, it is important that you engage in estate planning.  Both a Will and a Living Trust are useful planning tools and they are often used together. If there is no estate planning done before death, there are laws called intestate succession that controls how your assets are distributed. 

What is a Will?

   A Will is a document that outlines your wishes for your assets after your death.  Without a Will, the court will decide how to distribute your money and property.  This can be a costly and lengthy process for your descendents.  Creating a Will can give you peace of mind for the parents of young children, as it allows for the naming of a future Guardian, which otherwise would be the decision of the court. It allows for the naming of an Executor, someone that you trust, that can distribute your money and assets to beneficiaries.  However, a Will becomes a public record when submitted to the court and anyone is able to read about your property and assets.   

What is a Living Trust?

   There are two types of Living Trusts; there is a Revocable Trust and an Irrevocable Trust.  The Revocable Trust is most commonly used, as it allows for the Grantor (or trust maker) to make changes to the Trust, throughout the remainder of their life.  For example, you can transfer additional assets into the Trust or you can change the terms of the Trust at any time. Another advantage of the Revocable Trust is that the successor Trustee can take control of your property and assets if the Grantor is deemed mentally incompetent.  In that case, the successor Trustee can manage your property and finances while you are alive.

     When you set up an Irrevocable Trust, you are fully surrendering ownership of your assets.  This can be useful in some instances, such as Medicaid planning for long term care.  When applying for Medicaid for long term care, there is a five year look back of your finances, however this look back excludes any assets in an Irrevocable Trust.  The Irrevocable Trust also offers you safety from creditors.

    Both types of Living Trusts are private documents and not for public viewing.  This can be a desirable option.  But the primary purpose of creating a Trust is to avoid probate court.  Probate is not required to transfer ownership of your assets.  The successor Trustee has legal authority to make all decisions without court involvement.

Should I have both a Will and a Living Trust?

   There are advantages to having both of these legal documents.  A Will enables you to name a Guardian for your underage children.  A Will is also useful if you gain assets and your death occurs without having transferred these assets into the Living Trust.  These assets will need to be probated, however your Will can state that forgotten assets after you die, can be transferred into your Trust. 

Do I need an Attorney to complete a Will or a Living Trust?

   Don’t risk a costly mistake with your loved ones future. There are many complex issues that can arise when completing legal documents, in order for them to be valid.  Always have a qualified Attorney looking out for your best interest.  Call the Boutty Law Firm P.A. today!

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