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Does the State of Florida get my estate if I die without a will?

No.  However, Florida law will determine who receives your estate.  This may not be how you want your estate to be distributed. Consider these examples:
    1. Bob and Mary are married.  They have two children together.  Bob dies. Florida law states Mary receives 100% of Bob’s estate.
    2. Bob and Mary are married.  They have two children together.  Bob has two children from a prior marriage/relationship.  Bob dies. Florida           law states Mary receives only 50% of Bob’s estate.  
    3. Bob and Mary are married.  They have two children together.  Mary has one child from a prior marriage/relationship.  Bob. dies. Florida              law states Mary only receives 50% of Bob’s estate.  



Do I have to leave my children $1.00 if I don’t want them to receive any of my estate?

No, Florida law allows you to disinherit your children.  If you make no mention of your children in your will, they will not receive anything. However, it is usually better if you put a sentence in the will to prove this was your intention; for example, “I hereby leave nothing to my children.”

Should I prepare a revocable living trust to avoid probate?

There is a common misconception that the only way to avoid probate is to have a revocable living trust.  This is not true. Trusts are usually very expensive and complicated. By following the few suggestions of Attorney Nichols, you can avoid probate without the expense of preparing a trust.  However, each case is different.  Some cases will benefit from a trust; however, the majority of families do not need a trust to avoid probate.


When does the “reading of the will occur?

There is no requirement that the will be read to the family.  This only occurs in the movies. However, if a person is in possession of the will of a deceased person; he or she is required to file it with the clerk of court within ten days after the individual’s death.  If the person fails to file the will, the court can enter an order making them file the will and forcing them to pay any attorney fees that were paid by another individual to have the order entered.


How much does probate cost?

Attorneys vary widely in what they charge to probate an estate, so it is wise to call several attorneys before choosing one. Fees can range from $1,500 to $5,000.  Many attorneys have free consultations where they explain the probate process to you. They explain what will happen and what to expect.


How long does probate take?

There are two types of estates – summary administration and formal administration.  Summary administration is for estate are valued at less than $75,000 (not counting the homestead) or the person has been dead longer than two years.  All other estates require formal administration. Of course, some estates are simple and other estates are complex. This will determine how long the probate process takes.  A simple formal administration can be completed in four to six months after the case is filed. A simple summary administration can be completed within fourteen days after the case is filed.


Can I prepare my own will and sign it in front of a notary?

You can prepare your own will and sign it in front of a notary; however, it will not be a valid will under Florida law and the judge will not accept it.  Florida has very specific laws regarding how a will must be signed, so it is always best to consult with an attorney.  This is also a time to call several attorneys to obtain the price of a will. The price may run from $250 to $1,000. Once again, many attorneys offer a free consultation, so it is worth it to speak with an attorney before preparing any legal document. 


What is probate?

Probate is where the court supervises the collecting and the distributing of estate assets.  If a person has a will, it is called a testate

estate. If a person does not have a will, it is called an intestate estate.  Both of these types of estates are supervised by the court. 


How do I provide for a disabled son or daughter after I die?

There are several different ways to provide for your disabled son or daughter.  The best choice is to consult an attorney to see which way is best for you and your family.


What do I do if I can’t find the original will?

Florida law allows a copy of the will to be admitted to probate.  This means the judge recognizes the copy as the last will of the decedent.  The court will then proceed to supervise the estate as if the original will had been filed.  IF you find yourself in this position, you need to contact an attorney.

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