If you are involved in legal proceedings regarding an estate and/or going through the probate proceedings on behalf of a deceased loved one, you may need Letters of Administration. As these are essential legal documents, it is important to not only know what they are but also how to obtain Florida Letters of Administration.
What Are Letters of Administration?
When a probate judge appoints a personal representative (or executor/executrix) for a probate estate, he or she will issue legal documents to do so. These legal documents are referred to as “Letters of Administration” or “Letters Testamentary.” Once these documents have been issued, the personal representative’s official duties begin. That said, there are several steps in this formal administration process.
How to Obtain Letters of Administration in Florida
As mentioned, if you are the family member or personal representative of a deceased person’s estate in Florida, you may need letters of administration to initiate the probate process. Not having these important legal documents will prevent you from accessing financial institutions, insurance companies, tax returns, etc. These institutions are key to estate administration processes such as distributing assets to heirs, settling debts, etc. Here are the steps to obtain letters of administration in Florida:
- Florida’s probate law requires an original copy of the decedent’s will to be filed with the local circuit court clerk within 10 days of death.
- Please note, letters of administration cannot be obtained without an attorney, so you will need to hire a probate attorney in the time mentioned above to file the will as well for the steps that follow. (anyone can file the will – doesn’t have to be the attorney; however, we do file them for our clients)
- Once an attorney has been hired, the circuit court should be petitioned to “open the estate.” This involves asking the court to recognize the will as valid, formally appointing the personal representative, and filing and notarizing an oath of office. (it’s called an oath of personal representative, not an oath of office)
- You are now ready to obtain letters of administration. Your attorney will ask the probate judge to issue these necessary legal documents. In general, this process can take anywhere between one to four weeks.
I Have the Letters of Administration, Now What?
After going through the steps to obtain the Letters of Administration, the personal representative now has the power to act on behalf of the estate. It is important to consult with your attorney to ensure that you take the steps necessary to protect the assets of the estate for the beneficiaries and heirs. This is known as your “fiduciary duty” to act on their behalf. Depending on the size and/or complexity of the estate, you may be involved in processes that include property, real estate, bank accounts, vehicles, insurance policies, etc.
Remember, anyone who is a personal representative over an estate must obtain Letters of Administration to have the authority to act on behalf of that estate. While this is a common process in Florida courts, the law does require the involvement of a probate attorney. If you need an attorney to help with Letters of Administration in Florida, contact our knowledgeable staff today.
Regardless of the amount of your wealth, it is important to learn how to legally protect your assets so that after your passing they are used and distributed as you desire. Additionally, if you were to become incapacitated, your estate plan will help dictate your wishes. When it comes to asset protection planning, estate planning protects your valuable assets in some very specific ways. If you are wondering how estate planning protects your assets in Florida, we are here to help!
What is Estate Planning?
Estate planning is a form of asset protection that indicates what happens to your estate when you die or become incapable of managing your own affairs. One very recognizable part of this process is drafting a will or trust that tells others how you want your valuable assets to be handled. These wishes are often spelled out in a specific legal document called a trust.
A trust is more comprehensive than a will. Depending on the type of trust you choose, you can protect personal property, business assets, and retirement accounts. A trust, along with other important estate planning documents, can allow you to establish medical preferences, protect real estate, determine guardianship for minor children, name your trustee and power of attorney, and more.
Due to the variety of individual circumstances, estate planning can be a very delicate and/or complicated process. For this reason, there are a number of different kinds of trusts to choose from, including revocable trusts, irrevocable trusts, charitable trusts, living trusts, special needs trusts, etc. For legal advice about what type of trust would be best for your situation, contact our knowledgeable estate planning attorneys.
Estate Planning Helps Avoid Probate
Estate planning is important because it is one of your best asset protection strategies against probate court. Probate is an expensive, lengthy court process that oversees the distribution of a person’s personal and business assets if they have not legally solidified their desires in certain estate planning documents. Establishing a trust helps avoid the complication and costs of probate (possibly being attorney fees, inheritance taxes, income taxes, estate taxes, etc.), leaving the most benefits/assets possible to your designated beneficiaries.
Estate Planning Protects Against Creditors & Other Claimants
When you take the time to develop a strong trust during your estate planning process, you are not only helping to protect your wishes and your beneficiaries, but also protecting your assets against others who might attempt to claim them. While some federal and state laws protect your assets from potential creditors, lawsuits, and persons such as former spouses, developing a strong estate plan will further limit these possibilities.
Estate Planning is Personal
The process of asset protection for your estate is personal. And, in your individual situation, we want to help you with the most effective asset protection possible. To discuss your estate planning options with a knowledgeable, compassionate attorney in Florida, please contact us. We are committed to hearing about what is important to you!
When organizing your estate, there are many different legal documents to consider. Based on your individual circumstances, you may have a variety of different needs that one of our expert attorneys in Florida can help you understand. However, no matter your circumstances, there are some basic estate planning documents everyone can benefit from. Listed below are the five most important estate planning documents.
The 5 Most Important Estate Planning Documents
1. Revocable Living Trust: A revocable living trust is a legal entity that determines how your assets are distributed after your passing. It operates as its own entity, “owning” your property while you are still alive but still allowing you to use and control that property. This particular document is important for avoiding probate proceedings and allowing your assets to be distributed to your beneficiary designations smoothly. For this process, you will name a successor trustee who will manage the trust after your passing. After establishing this trust, it is important to transfer your assets to the trust, so they are all under the umbrella of the trust for distribution.
2. Last Will & Testament: Similar to the revocable living trust above, a last will and testament also dictates how your property is to be distributed after your passing, and it can include provisions about care and guardianship of minor children. However, one difference between the last will and testament and a revocable living trust is that the last will and testament only goes into effect when you die as opposed to the revocable living trust which allows for someone to manage your affairs while you are alive if you become incapacitated.
3. Living Will & Designation of Health Care Surrogate: A difficult part of many people’s later years is the complicated nature of medical decisions. A living will and designation of health care surrogate specifically informs your family and health care providers about your desires for medical treatment in the event you cannot advocate for yourself. The designated health care surrogate you choose will then make healthcare decisions on your behalf.
4. Declaration Naming Preneed Guardian: Similar to choosing a health care surrogate, a preneed guardian is a person chosen to manage your affairs, financial and/or health-related matters in the event that you become mentally or physically unable to do so yourself. This is a way for you to choose who cares for you and your assets rather than the court stepping in to decide.
5. Durable Power of Attorney: Finally, also similar to several of the above documents, a durable power of attorney specifically designates someone to act on your behalf regarding financial assets and legal matters. This person has the financial power to engage in investment accounts, real estate matters, bank accounts, etc. For many people, adult children or someone else who has a strong understanding of their financial accounts is chosen in this role.
If you would like to discuss your individual or business estate planning process and necessary legal documents, please contact our knowledgeable estate planning attorneys. It is our goal to help you achieve peace of mind by making sure your assets and final years are handled as you wish.
This article was originally published on 6/09/2021, but has been updated for accuracy and freshness.
Why is it important to have my aging plan in writing if my family knows my wishes? Although it is wonderful and incredibly beneficial to discuss your aging plans with your family and loved ones, it is also very important that you put it in writing. There are numerous benefits to having your aging plan in writing; however, quite possibly the most important reason is to prevent disputes and arguments throughout the aging process. You want to make it as simple and straightforward for your loved ones as possible, so your later years are pleasant and peaceful. When your aging plans are in writing, it is evident what your wishes and desires are because you took the time and effort to write them down. When you simply have a conversation about your aging plan, loved ones absent from the conversation can argue that your wishes are something different than what is relayed. Then, it can become a battle over who knows the truth.
Your aging plan can include estate planning documents, caregiver and housing choices, and end-of-life preferences. As estate planning attorneys, it is our hope that every person has estate planning documents executed. These estate planning documents often include a Revocable Trust, Last Will and Testament, Durable Power of Attorney, Living Will and Health Care Surrogate, and Declaration Naming Preneed Guardian. These documents must be in writing. Our office can help you navigate the estate planning process and help to get your aging plan in writing. Please give us a call at 321-345-5945 or visit our website at www.amybvanfossen.com.
As we age, it’s important to start considering the legal process related to your estate. No matter the amount of wealth or assets you have, the most important thing is that they are yours. And, when you pass away, they should be distributed according to your wishes.
One of the most important actions you can take to make sure that your assets are protected and wishes are followed is to have a strong will or trust. Due to legal issues surrounding estates and end-of-life issues, these important legal documents can be complicated or even contested. Our specially-trained attorneys at The Law Office of Amy B. Van Fossen can show you how estate planning lawyers help strengthen your wills and trusts.
What Is Probate?
One of the words you may often hear when constructing a will or trust is “probate.” Probate is a court-monitored process that can happen if a will or trust does not exist, is unclear, or is contested. However, if you have a strong will or trust, you can reduce or even avoid the probate process. This can protect your family from additional time, taxes, and court interference to settle your estate.
What Is the Role of a Probate Lawyer?
As with many areas of the law, it is best to get your legal advice from an attorney who specializes in the area you need. And, when it comes to strengthening your wills and trusts in Florida, our highly trained elder care and probate lawyers know the details in this area of law.
A probate lawyer may need to take on a number of different roles in the probate process. These may include:
- Preparing and providing documents that the probate court process may require
- Appraising personal property
- Figuring out where the deceased person held their estate assets (i.e. banks, stocks, etc.) as well as securing them for distribution to the beneficiaries
- Tacking down and managing any life insurance policy or payout
- Settling any debt, remaining bills, or taxes owed by the deceased person
- Appointing a personal representative
How Can Our Estate Planning Lawyers Help You?
While it is everyone’s hope that the legal documents and beneficiaries are straightforward, that isn’t always what happens. Due to our specialty in elder law, our estate planning attorney can help make your wills and trusts strong and clear from the beginning, strengthen any existing documents that you may have previously drafted, or manage any complications that come up throughout the entire process or after you are incapacitated or deceased.
The court-monitored probate process is something everyone would like to reduce and/or avoid, but you can benefit from having an expert estate planning lawyer in your corner to make that a reality. If you would like to discuss your existing wills or trusts, establish a strong will or trust, or simply have an initial consultation with compassionate, family-oriented attorneys who specialize in elder care, call our attorneys at The Law Office of Amy B. Van Fossen.
As we enter our golden years, it is important to begin thinking about issues related to aging. Whether this is you or someone you care about, you may wonder about concerns such as healthcare, nursing home costs, what happens to your assets once you are gone, and what type of legacy you would like to leave. As the legal procedures around estates can be complicated, it can be helpful to enlist the help of an estate planning attorney. So, what exactly does an estate planning attorney do? That’s what we at the Law Office of Amy B. Van Fossen are here to answer.
What is an Estate Planning Attorney?
An estate planning attorney is a lawyer who has specialized training in issues related to distributing your assets. They are familiar with details regarding beneficiaries, protecting your assets from probate, and avoiding unnecessary taxes.
Here are 5 Things an Estate Planning Lawyer Can Do
- Designate Your Beneficiaries: If you do not legally establish where you want your assets to go, the courts will make a determination. You can avoid this complication by choosing people and/or organizations as beneficiaries.
- Avoid Unnecessary Taxes and Probate: Similar to the above, if you do not have a plan to distribute your legacy, Florida law will take over. This could incur unnecessary taxes as well as decisions that may not match your desires.
- Know What Legal Documents Best Fit Your Situation: Individual estates can vary from simple to complicated. There are different kinds of trusts as well as wills and durable power of attorney. We can help you figure out what you need for your specific situation.
- Protect Your Wishes if Disputes Arise: While we all hope that our wishes are carried out without question, disputes sometimes happen. Should an organization or loved one challenge your estate plan, we can remain above the emotions to protect your interests.
- Adjust Your Will or Trust as Needed: Given that you may draft your first will or trust years before your life ends, it is possible that the details of your estate, your family situation, or your wishes may change. If you wish to adjust the details of your legal documents during that time, an estate planning lawyer can help you update them.
Additional Reasons You May Want to Hire an Estate Planning Lawyer
In addition to the list above, there are many other reasons why you may want to hire an estate planning lawyer. Regardless of the size of your estate, it is your estate, and you should determine your legacy. While many people leave assets to immediate family, estate attorneys can also help with specific situations such as:
- Charitable trusts
- Dis-inheriting specific relatives
- Blended family beneficiaries, such as a stepchild
- Protecting vulnerable family members who need Supplemental Needs Trust, Medicaid or SSI
- Any other unique way you would like your estate distributed
No matter how simple or complicated your estate, situation, or wishes, hiring an estate planning lawyer is a powerful way to help you distribute your assets according to your wishes. If you would like help planning for your estate and legacy in this way, contact the Law Offices of Amy B. Van Fossen to schedule a meeting with an attorney.