When someone passes away without a will in the State of Florida, assets are distributed through the probate court system. It’s important to note that Florida Law requires that a lawyer be present throughout this process in order to ensure fair distribution of the assets of the decedent.
Di Pietro Partners is a premier law firm for probate and estate cases in Florida. If you have issues involving probate in West Palm Beach, talk to one of our experienced probate lawyers today.
Our West Palm Beach Probate Lawyers on TV
Attorney David Di Pietro appeared on national TV to provide his legal insight for the infamous Brittany Spears probate litigation dispute involving conservatorship. David is the managing partner at Di Pietro Partners and is experienced in probate cases all across Florida including the City of West Palm Beach.
+ Probate Definitions (Click to Expand)
To help readers better understand the context of the page, here are some of the most common terms found within this content and/or used throughout the probate process.
Administration – This refers to the legal distribution of someone’s assets in Probate Court after they pass away.
County Clerk of Court – In Florida, most probate hearings are done through the County Clerk of Court in the County in which the decedent resides at the time of their death. This is not to be confused with an actual clerk in the courtroom.
Decedent – A deceased individual.
Intestate – When someone dies without a valid will, the State of Florida declares the property of the deceased “intestate.” This will be discussed further in the page.
Probate Court – This is commonly used to describe the court at which the probate hearing takes place even though most hearings are done at the County Clerk of Court.
Personal Representative – Someone who’s legally appointed to oversee the distribution of assets from a deceased person’s estate.
Beneficiary/Beneficiaries – An individual, or group of individuals who are named in a will/estate plan to receive a certain amount of someone’s assets after this person passes away or becomes unable to manage their assets.
Executor – Someone written in a will or delegated by the court to take care of a deceased individual’s financial obligations.
Notice of Administration – Formal notice given to beneficiaries and other interested parties by the personal representative. The notice is legally required in Florida and serves the purpose of providing specific details on the probate proceedings.
Probate Litigation – Basically, this is used to describe a legal dispute during the probate process. The most common types of probate disputes include: challenges to wills/trusts, legal disputes over guardianship, etc.
West Palm Beach Probate Lawyer Legal Services
The Florida probate lawyers at Di Pietro Partners offer a multitude of legal services related to probate in West Palm Beach. These legal services include but are not limited to:
Probate Administration: This involves managing the probate process, including filing paperwork with the court, notifying creditors and heirs, and distributing assets to beneficiaries. An attorney can help guide the executor of the estate through this process and ensure everything is done according to Florida law.
Trust Administration: Trustees have a legal responsibility to distribute assets within the trust to the named beneficiaries in accordance with the wishes of the deceased. It’s vital to work with an attorney that’s experienced with probate and trusts to ensure the correct process is followed.
Trust Litigation: Trust litigation lawsuits involve legal disputes over the administration of trusts. For example, if someone believes they aren’t receiving a proper share of assets within the trust, or have legal objections regarding the actions of a trustee, they may file a legal dispute and the estate may enter litigation. Our probate and trust litigation lawyers have decades of experience representing trustees, beneficiaries, and other parties involved in trust litigation lawsuits.
Will Contests: Sometimes, disputes arise over the validity of a will or the intentions of the deceased. An attorney can help represent interested parties in these disputes and advocate for their rights.
Estate & Probate Litigation: In some cases, disputes may arise over the distribution of assets or the actions of an executor or trustee. An attorney can help represent clients in these disputes and work to resolve them through negotiation or litigation.
Intestate Succession (Dying Without a Will): Intestate succession refers to the State process of distributing a person’s assets when they die without a will, or trust. When a person passes away without a written document detailing how to distribute their estate, the matter goes to probate court. The State of Florida requires that an attorney is present throughout this process. Since the process involved with intestate succession is very in-depth, it’s vital to work with an attorney who’s experienced with probate cases.
Guardianship: If a person becomes incapacitated and unable to make decisions for themselves, a court may appoint a guardian to make decisions on their behalf. An attorney can help clients navigate the guardianship process and ensure the best interests of the incapacitated person are represented.
Overall, probate legal services in West Palm Beach are focused on helping clients navigate the legal complexities of the probate process and ensuring that the wishes of the deceased are carried out in a timely and appropriate manner.
Probating A Will
When it comes to probating a will in Florida, the process is fairly straightforward. Depending on the value of the decedent’s estate, there are three primary types of administration. This value is calculated by quantifying the total amount of property owned by the deceased individual that’s going through the probate process.
Formal Administration – This is typically the most common type of administration used in probating a will. This administration applies to estates valued over $75,000.
Summary Administration – This form of probate administration is used when the total estate value is $75,000 or less. It’s essentially an expedited version of the probate process.
Disposition Without Administration – This version of probate can only be used when the decedent did not leave behind any real estate property and the assets that can be probated are valued below the costs of probate proceedings themselves.
Our West Palm Beach Probate Attorneys Answer Your Questions
Whether you’re a beneficiary in a decedent’s estate, or a loved one passed away without a will, you most likely will have questions about Florida’s probate process.
The probate attorneys at Di Pietro Partners understand that this is most likely a confusing and overwhelming time for you; thus, for the benefit of the reader, we’ve done our best to provide answers to some of the most frequently asked probate questions.
West Palm Beach Probate FAQs
+ What Does Probate Mean?
Probate refers to the legal procedure for handling a deceased individual’s estate. It includes the confirmation of the will’s legitimacy, listing the decedent’s assets, determining their value, settling outstanding debts and taxes, and distributing the leftover property as specified by the will or according to state laws. Certain smaller estates can bypass the probate process via methods like joint ownership or living trusts.
+ What is the Role of a Probate Lawyer?
A probate or estate lawyer is a professional who aids executors, administrators, or beneficiaries as they traverse the probate process following a person’s death. Their responsibilities encompass estate planning, acquiring life insurance benefits, evaluating and securing the deceased’s property, repaying debts, drafting legal documents, and distributing assets in compliance with the will or state regulations. The intricacy of the estate and the applicable local laws may affect the extent of their involvement.
+ What Are the Probate Laws in West Palm Beach?
Probate laws in West Palm Beach, Florida, are governed by the Florida Probate Code. Key aspects include formal administration for larger estates, summary administration for smaller or older estates, restricted instances of disposition without administration, specific regulations for primary residences, and state rules for distribution if there’s no will. Probate issues are managed by the Palm Beach County court. It’s recommended to seek advice from a West Palm Beach probate lawyer for precise guidance.
+ How Much Time Does Probate Take in West Palm Beach?
In West Palm Beach, Florida, the probate process might last from several months to over a year, contingent upon elements like the estate’s complexity, any conflicts regarding the will, the settlement of debts and taxes, and the court’s caseload. For a more precise estimate, it’s advisable to consult a local probate lawyer.
+ What Occurs if You Pass Away Without a Will in West Palm Beach?
If a person passes away intestate (without a will) in West Palm Beach, Florida, their estate is distributed following Florida’s intestate succession regulations. If there are surviving spouses and descendants, they share the estate. If only a spouse survives, they receive everything. The same applies if only descendants, parents, or siblings survive. More complicated scenarios involving half-siblings, grandparents, or remote relatives necessitate consultation with a probate attorney.
+ Which Court Manages West Palm Beach Probate Cases?
Probate cases in West Palm Beach, Florida, are overseen by the Probate Division of the Fifteenth Judicial Circuit Court of Florida in Palm Beach County. This court supervises the administration of estates, including asset distribution per a will or the state’s intestacy laws if there is no will. It is strongly recommended to seek legal representation during the probate process.
+ What is the Average Expense of a West Palm Beach Probate Lawyer?
The average fee for a probate lawyer in West Palm Beach fluctuates significantly based on various aspects, including case complexity, the lawyer’s expertise, and the law firm’s fee arrangement. Some lawyers may bill an hourly rate, others may levy a flat fee or a percentage of the estate’s worth.
Probate lawyers in West Palm Beach typically charge between $200 to $400 per hour, but rates can be higher for more experienced lawyers or those with specializations. Flat fees can range from $2,500 to $10,000 or more, depending on the case details.
For straightforward, uncontested probate cases, fees may range between $2,500 and $5,000. However, for more complicated cases or those involving disputes, the cost could escalate significantly, potentially exceeding $10,000 or more.
Overall, the cost of hiring a probate lawyer in West Palm Beach can range from a few thousand dollars to tens of thousands of dollars, depending on the circumstances. At Di Pietro Partners, our West Palm Beach probate attorneys offer a free 30 minute consultation where we can discuss your individual case including fees and payment arrangements with full transparency.
Dying Without a Will in West Palm Beach
When someone dies without a valid will, their assets are declared intestate. It’s important to note that “intestate” does not mean that the property now belongs to the State. In fact, Florida has a specific process in determining who receives the decedent’s assets in the absence of a valid will. Here’s a simplified flowchart showing who receives assets when someone passes away without a will in Florida.
- When the decedent has a surviving spouse and has no living children, grandchildren, parents, etc, then the spouse shall receive the entire estate.
- If the decedent has a spouse and also has one or more living family members who are family members of the spouse (i.e children), the spouse shall receive the entire estate.
- If the spouse has additional living immediate family members that are not immediate family of the deceased individual, the spouse shall receive one-half of the estate with the other half going to the spouse’s descendants.
- In cases where the decedent was not married at the time of their passing, the immediate family members will receive the entire estate. The assets will then be divided in accordance with Florida law.
- If the deceased person was not married and also has no living immediate family members, the inheritance will pass to surviving parents of the decedent.
- In cases where someone dies without any surviving close family members, spouses, or relatives, the State of Florida will search for more remote heirs in accordance with intestate law.
The full process can be found in Chapter 732 of The Florida Statutes. This process is very in-depth and often causes confusion/disagreements among beneficiaries. As a result, it’s vital to work with a Florida probate attorney that’s experienced with issues involving intestate succession.
West Palm Beach Probate Litigation Attorney
A West Palm Beach probate litigation attorney is a legal professional who specializes in handling disputes and contested matters that arise during the probate process in West Palm Beach, Florida. Probate is the legal process by which a deceased person’s estate is administered, their debts are settled, and their assets are distributed to the heirs or beneficiaries. While many probate matters are resolved without any issues, disputes can sometimes arise, and that’s when a probate litigation attorney steps in.
Some of the key responsibilities and tasks performed by a West Palm Beach probate litigation attorney include:
- Representing clients: The attorney represents parties involved in the probate litigation, which could include beneficiaries, heirs, personal representatives, executors, administrators, or creditors of the deceased person’s estate.
- Assessing the validity of a will: If there’s a dispute over the validity of the deceased person’s will, the attorney may investigate whether the will was executed properly, if the deceased was mentally competent, or if undue influence or fraud was involved.
- Handling will contests: In cases where a will is contested, the attorney represents their client’s interests and argues their case in court.
- Resolving disputes among beneficiaries and heirs: The attorney may assist in resolving conflicts among beneficiaries or heirs, which may include disagreements over the distribution of assets or the interpretation of the will’s provisions.
- Addressing creditor claims: The attorney helps resolve disputes between the estate and its creditors, ensuring that valid claims are paid, and disputing those that are not.
- Advising on fiduciary duties: The attorney may advise personal representatives, executors, or administrators on their duties and responsibilities, as well as defend them if they are accused of breaching their fiduciary duties.
- Negotiating and mediating settlements: In many cases, the attorney may work to negotiate and mediate settlements between disputing parties, aiming to resolve conflicts without the need for a trial.
- Litigating in court: If a settlement cannot be reached, the attorney will represent their client’s interests in court, presenting evidence, examining witnesses, and making legal arguments to support their case.
In summary, a West Palm Beach probate litigation attorney helps navigate the complexities of probate disputes and represents the interests of their clients in court or during settlement negotiations. They provide legal advice, guidance, and advocacy to ensure that the probate process is carried out fairly and in accordance with Florida law.
Filing West Palm Beach Probate Cases
The court that’s responsible for probate in West Palm Beach as well as the rest of Palm Beach County is the Fifteenth Judicial Circuit Court. Our law firm is highly experienced with probate cases within this court system.
Trust administration involves the oversight of assets contained within a trust. The main objective of a trust is to safeguard assets while effectively managing and distributing them to the individuals designated in the trust document, who are known as trustees. Trusts also aim to offer sustained benefits to beneficiaries throughout their lifetimes.
Typically, trusts are divided into two categories – revocable and irrevocable. In Florida, three primary types of trusts are utilized.
Living Trust – This is the most prevalent kind of trust, which can be established as either revocable or irrevocable. This type stipulates the handling of specific assets during a person’s lifetime and the distribution of those assets upon the person’s demise.
Testamentary Trust – Also referred to as a “will trust,” this kind of trust is formed within a will. As it is embedded in a will, it comes into effect only after the person’s death.
Domestic Asset Protection Trust – Frequently abbreviated as DAPT, this kind of trust offers protection from creditors. It also serves to shield assets from a spouse in the case of a failed marriage.
Talk With A West Palm Beach Probate Lawyer
Di Pietro Partners is an AV Preeminent® rated law firm that specializes in issues involving Florida probate. This includes simple estate administration as well as complex litigation.
We are dedicated to serving Palm Beach County as well as many other locations throughout the State of Florida. Contact one of our experienced attorneys today.
Please note that our West Palm Beach office location is available via appointment only.
West Palm Beach Probate Office
777 South Flagler Drive
Suite 800 – West Tower
West Palm Beach, 33401