Pompano Beach No Will Lawyer
Probate is the court-supervised process for giving effect to the terms of a valid will and distributing the property and assets of a deceased person in accordance with his or her wishes and Florida law. Sometimes, however, the will presented for probate is determined to be invalid. Other times, the will cannot be found. In many cases, a will was never made at all. Florida law has a process in place to administer an estate when there is no will, but this does not keep disputes from arising. Pompano Beach no will lawyer Mark R. Manceri is an experienced Broward County probate lawyer ready to help resolve disputes and answer questions in estate administration where there is no will.
What happens when there is no will
A person who dies without a will is said to have died “intestate,” and the destiny of an estate when there is no will is governed by the Florida laws on intestate succession. These laws strive to distribute the estate to any surviving family members of the deceased. The intestacy laws start out by looking for a surviving spouse and any living descendants (children, grandchildren, etc.). If there is a surviving spouse but no living descendants, the spouse will inherit the entire estate. If there are living descendants, the estate will be shared among the surviving spouse and those descendants. If there is no surviving spouse or living descendants, the probate court will expand its reach to surviving parents, siblings and then more remote family members such as nieces, nephews, aunts, uncles and cousins. If no living relatives can be found, the estate will go to the state of Florida in a process which is known as escheat. The state liquidates the estate and deposits the proceeds in the State School Fund.
Heir hunters can muddy the waters and create probate disputes
Sometimes an estate administrator will employ a forensic genealogist to help track down relatives and map out the family tree of the deceased. Also, heir hunters acting on their own may try to find relatives with a claim to the estate. Unlike professional forensic genealogists retained by the estate administrator, heir hunters will typically attempt to tie up the relatives’ interests before giving them details about their potential inheritance. Heir hunters are not always professional and above-board, and the relatives they find sometimes have spurious claims to the estate. This creates a problem for estate administrators who may face liability from true heirs for making improper distributions to spurious heirs. Estate administrators have fiduciary obligations to the estate’s heirs and can be liable for a breach of fiduciary duties.
A will isn’t required for non-probate property
Some property may pass outside of probate depending on how it was titled. For instance, property held in joint title with right of survivorship will transfer to the co-tenant, and bank accounts with “transfer on death” or “pay on death” designations will be transferred accordingly. Likewise, insurance policies, pensions and retirement plans with designated beneficiaries will pass to those beneficiaries without having to go through probate. There are also different types of probate and estate administration which may be used in Florida depending on the nature and extent of the estate. These include formal administration, summary administration, and disposition of personal property without administration.
A well-drafted, valid will gives clear instructions regarding the distribution of an estate. Without a will, heirs and beneficiaries may have disputes over who gets what, and litigation may be necessary to resolve the matter. The personal representative of the estate, meanwhile, is busy figuring out creditor claims against the estate and trying to distribute the estate in accordance with Florida law. These matters can be confusing, complex and difficult to resolve without the help of an experienced Florida estates and probate lawyer. Attorney Mark R. Manceri has been handling will contests and probate disputes in Broward County for more than 30 years, including cases of intestacy where a valid will is not present. With board certification as a wills and estates specialist and an AV rating from Martindale Hubbell, you can trust your probate dispute to Mark Manceri and know it will be handled competently and professionally.
Help is Available when there is No Will in Your Broward County Probate or Estate Administration
For help with an intestate probate dispute or will contest in Broward County, contact Mark R. Manceri, P.A. in Pompano Beach at 954-491-7099.