When a person dies resident in Florida, there are four basic categories into which each of their assets or properties fall. Experienced estate and probate attorneys know that where an asset falls among these categories will determine what action must be taken to administer or dispose of that asset. The action which must be taken will in turn impact the time, expense and stress caused in administering and transferring each asset. If you do not mind significant time delays, paying lawyers and being stressed, then this blog entry is not for you.
As estate attorneys, we often encounter a situation where a person is deceased and the original of their Last Will and Testament cannot be found. Often, the family suspects that the original has been lost or misplaced--not that it was intentionally destroyed by the decedent before death. Is the fact that the orignal of the Will cannot be found fatal to being able to probate the Will? The answer is often "no."
When a Florida resident dies and owes creditors (such a credit card balances or medical bills), Florida probate procedures establish a mechanism to resolve those creditor claims. The process starts by having the Personal Representative of the estate sign a document called a "Notice to Creditors." The Notice informs creditors of the pendency of the probate estate and of the deadline for filing a creditor claim in the probate.
A "caveat" is a notice which can be filed with a Florida probate court which gives notice that certain actions may not be taken without informing the person who gave the notice.
In Florida, probate is a court proceeding which administers a deceased person's estate. It may be done either testate--with a Will--or intestate--without a Will. The probate process is usually referred to as "administration" of the estate.
A "Will contest" is an action to challenge the valuidity of a Last Will and Testament. In Florida, perhaps the most common basis for challenging a Will is grounded on allegations of "undue Influence." Undue influence, such as would void a Will, has been defined to include over persuasion, coercion, or force that destroys or hampers the free agency and will power of the person making the Will.