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When You Need A Miami Estate Planning Attorney As An Executor

By Expert Author: Stam Bett

If you've been named in a will or appointed by a court as an executor, you're probably aware that conventional advice states you should hire a probate attorney. Miami executors don't necessarily need a lawyer, however, although you may want legal advice in some cases from someone familiar with state laws and the local probate court. If you're handling an estate that's not very large and has no unusual assets, you can probably get by without a Miami estate planning attorney.

Here's a quick walkthrough to help you decide if it's time to turn to a probate attorney in Miami, or if you can get through it alone. If you answer yes to any of these questions, or you don't know the answer, you'll probably need a lawyer at your side to wrap up the estate.

1. Can the assets be transferred outside of probate?
This usually depends on how much planning to avoid probate the person did before they died. In an ideal scenario, all assets may be transferred quickly to the new owner without the need for probate court. This includes assets held jointly, survivorship community property, tenancy by the entirety and assets held in a living trust. If the deceased person named an individual as a beneficiary, such as a life insurance policy or retirement account, this may be transferred outside of probate court.

The best way to avoid probate court is for an individual to consult with a Miami estate planning attorney prior to death to get the estate in order, although this doesn't always happen.

2. Will the estate qualify for small estate procedures?
If you can't avoid probate, try to determine if the estate can use the small estate procedures in Florida. Most of the time, this includes a quick summary probate with a process completed outside of court, requiring little more than an affidavit.

3. Do family members get along well?
While will contests are not uncommon, it can be problematic if a family member is complaining about suing over the estate. If this happens, consult with a probate lawyer in Miami right away. These lawsuits can easily tear families apart and be financially draining, as well, but an attorney may help you avoid a drawn out battle in court.

4. Is Florida a UPC state?
The answer to this is yes, Florida has adopted Uniform Probate Code (UPC) laws, which makes probate straightforward if it is required. UPC laws make probate simpler and give you more flexibility as the executor. Under UPC, there are three types of probate: unsupervised formal, supervised formal and informal, which is the most common and easiest. This form is used when inheritors are not having disagreements and there are no problems expected with creditors.

5. Are there only common assets in the estate?
Common assets include bank and brokerage accounts, a home, vehicles and household goods. If the estate includes a business, commercial real estate or other unusual assets, more special handling is required and you will probably do well to hire an estate planning attorney in Miami. You'll need to talk to experts to manage, appraise and sell any business in the estate.

6. Is there money to pay debts?
If there is enough money in the estate to pay legitimate debts, such as funeral costs and final income taxes, with a bit left over for beneficiaries under the will and laws in Florida, there's no need to determine which debts to pay. If you find that there isn't enough money to pay debts and taxes, don't pay anything until you speak with a probate attorney in Miami for legal advice.

7. Is the estate too small for federal and state estate taxes?
The vast majority of estates in the United States do not owe federal estate tax, and there's only 20 states which impose their own estate tax. Florida is not one of them. You'll need to determine if the estate will owe federal estate taxes and file a tax return with the IRS.

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