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Probate is one of the primary areas of elder law. Many people have heard the term thrown around but do not really know its definition. However, if you have been exposed to the death of a loved one, you are likely already familiar with the complications associated with probate matters.

Probate is the process by which a court oversees the payment of a deceased person’s (the decedent) debts and the distribution of their belongings. The assets of the estate are used to pay the decedent’s debts and the remaining assets and belongings are distributed according to the decedent’s will or, if there is no will, by the state laws of intestacy. Intestacy laws tell probate attorneys where a decedent’s assets will go upon death. So either you choose with a will (or trust outside of probate) or the State of Florida chooses for you.

Any asset titled in the name of an individual at death requires probate of that asset. If you think about it, it makes sense; the only person who had the authority to deal with that particular asset (think bank account, home, investment account, etc.) is deceased. And no, a durable power of attorney will not work. Its authority ceased to exist at the instant of the decedent’s death. One lawyer described it as, “death turns a POA into a DOA.”

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Understanding Probate

Contrary to popular belief, probate is not always terribly expensive, time-consuming, and stressful. But there are many ways to avoid probate that in most cases will save time and money (see estate planning).

Because most people are not experienced personal representatives, you likely have many questions. If you are the proposed personal representative of an estate and need clear, common-sense explanation of the issues surrounding your responsibilities, attorney Lee R Carr II and his qualified staff at Carr Law Group can help clarify your responsibilities with a brief and complimentary consultation. Call today.

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