Capable Sarasota Probate Litigation Attorneys Represent You in Probate Court
Aggressive representation in probate court for estate-related issues
When people pass away, their estates generally enter probate. If there are estate planning documents in place, the administration of the estate will follow the normal probate process. However, not all wills are valid, and conflicts between heirs in the absence of an estate plan require litigation to sort out all the issues. At Lyons, Beaudry & Harrison, P.A. in Sarasota County, our probate litigation and administration attorneys help you navigate this challenging probate process. We help you file suit in probate court if you believe that the distribution of assets under the current will is unfair and invalid.
Common reasons for probate litigation
If an estate enters into probate, an administrator is appointed to oversee the transition of assets. Depending on the size of the estate, this can be a simple process or a difficult, months-long endeavor. If you've been put in charge of probate administration for an estate, you need a skilled lawyer to guide you on the required paperwork. An attorney also helps ensure that you don't get sued, because of a simple mistake, for failure to perform your duties.
There are a number of reasons why an estate may require probate litigation, including the following:
- Will contest. If the will was not created properly or there is reason to believe that someone exerted undue influence on the testator, it may be necessary to file suit in probate court to have the will invalidated. We can help with will contests in Florida.
- Determining heirs. If the deceased has left no will or estate plan and had little contact with family members, you may need to engage in litigation to identify the rightful heirs. This is especially common when paternity or maternity needs to be proven for unacknowledged children.
- Breach of fiduciary duty. A probate administrator has a number of legal and financial obligations while managing the distribution of the estate. Failing to uphold these responsibilities may result in the administrator being removed.
- Homestead. The Florida constitution both protects homestead property from creditors and restricts the manner in which it can be devised. The creditor protection extends to the heirs of law of the decedent. The constitution prohibits the devise of the homestead if the decedent is survived by a spouse or minor child. Proper estate planning and knowledge of alternatives available upon a decedent's death are essential in devising homestead property. If estate planning is not structured properly, the homestead can be subject to creditor claims and distributed to unintended beneficiaries, and create a life estate or co-tenancy trap in the surviving spouse.
- Elective share and other statutory rights. Florida has established complicated provisions providing a surviving spouse with the right to elect to take under the Estate Plan of the decedent or 30% of the decedent's estate as defined by statute. If done properly, the decedent spouse can avoid the statutory provisions and disinherit the surviving spouse. In all situations, both parties should secure experienced legal representation. The surviving spouse may also assert rights to exempt property, a family allowance and other statutory rights. Most of these rights must be asserted within a specific time frame or will be waived. In almost all situations where the surviving spouse is not the personal representative, the surviving spouse should retain his or her own attorney in the proceeding.
Schedule a meeting with a probate administration and litigation lawyer
Don't go through the complex probate administration or litigation process without skilled legal counsel. Call Lyons, Beaudry & Harrison at 941.444.6407 or contact us online to make an appointment and discuss your issues. Our office is located on Main Street in Sarasota.