All About Probate Lawyers

Posted by on Mar 23, 2023 in Legal News |

Perhaps you’re in a position in 2023 where you have to hire a probate lawyer. Or, maybe you’re just curious about what exactly it is a probate lawyer does. In this article, we’ll explain the ins and outs of probate law, what probate lawyers do, and what to look for in a good probate lawyer.

What Is Probate Law?

Firstly, probate is a court process. It involves gathering the assets of a decedent (a deceased person), using the assets to pay the decedent’s debts, and distributing said assets to the decedent’s beneficiaries. If someone passes away without a will or trust and has all their assets in their own name, then it is up to the probate court to distribute properties and money. If these assets have joint owners, then probate is not necessary.

Generally, probate follows these steps:

1. A Petition for Administration is filed with various supporting documents, such as a will. If these documents check out with probate court, a Letter of Administration will be sent in response to grant your Petition.

2. Creditors are notified at this phase, and these debtors must file a claim with the decedent’s estate to get paid. If they don’t file a notice, the decedent’s estate could get out of paying the debt.

3. The estate’s personal representative (the same one who filed the Petition and notified creditors) inventories the estate, determining bank accounts, estate valuation, assets, property, and more.

4. The personal representative pays all claims and closes them.

5. The personal representative files an accounting with the courts detailing the value of the estate and what assets it holds after debts have been paid.

6. After accounting is approved, the personal representative distributes the assets according to the will’s instructions.

Above is an overview of the probate process. With that in mind, how can a probate lawyer help you through it?

What Does A Probate Lawyer Do?

Also called an estate attorney, probate lawyers are involved in various ways throughout the probate process, but their main function is to assist and guide the estate’s personal representative. A probate lawyer might take charge of tasks such as:

· Obtaining appraisals

· Assisting in claim payment

· Collecting life insurance proceeds

· Identifying and securing the assets of an estate

· Preparing and filing probate documents the court requires

· Determining if estate or inheritance taxes are owed and paying those obligations

· Resolving any outstanding income tax issues

· Managing the estate’s checking account

· Making final disbursements after debts have been paid

· Transferring assets to appropriate beneficiaries, including handling titling

These are just some of the ways in which a probate lawyer can help you manage your legal affairs. It helps to have a trained professional guide you through probate, as this process is notoriously time-consuming, labor-intensive, and complicated. Going it alone causes more stress than having a lawyer by your side.

Characteristics Of A Good Probate Lawyer.

Not all probate lawyers are created equal. There are those of us in the profession who are reputable and hard-working and those who are, well, not. That said, the Internet is a beautiful thing (sometimes). On it, you can read reviews and do your own research before committing to an attorney.

A good probate lawyer should have, first and foremost, knowledge and expertise. He or she should also be an effective, prompt communicator. Empathy, integrity, and perseverance and three other traits of a good probate lawyer. Make sure to vet your proposed lawyer thoroughly before deciding to become a client of theirs.

Hopefully, this guide will help you in determining whether you need a probate lawyer and who you should consider. If you’re in need of a probate lawyer, contact WFP Law today.

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Tips On Choosing A Trustee

Posted by on Mar 20, 2023 in Legal News |

Choosing a trustee could very well be one of the most important financial decisions you make in your life, as you’re entrusting this person with critical obligations and responsibilities. That said, not much guidance is out there on what to look for in a good trustee.

We’ve all seen news stories featuring trustees behaving badly and misappropriating property. You have to wonder, were there any warning signs? In this guide, we’ll tell you some “green flags” and “red flags” to watch for when selecting a trustee.

What Does A Trustee Do?

It’s right there in the name—a trustee is a person in a position of “trust.” This term refers to an individual who takes legal ownership of assets held in a trust. The trustee assumes fiduciary duties and responsibility for carrying out the trust’s purposes and goals.

A trustee must manage those assets with diligence. A trust cannot be set up if there is no trustee appointed by the settlor. The trustee, including even a lawyer, who is appointed is entitled to reasonable compensation (usually 1% to 3% of trust assets, though that number varies).

Signs Of A Good Trustee

You, the settlor in this case, have quite the task at hand. Picking a good trustee requires you to find someone you trust to hold and administer the property diligently and reasonably. Here are qualities of a good trustee:

· Honesty. Simple question—does your proposed trustee tell the truth? Honesty about matters both large and small is very relevant to this critical job. You want a trustee that will be upfront about the trust’s assets and what they’re doing with them.

· Dependability. The trustee should be dependable. He or she should show up to meetings, take phone calls, and be a reliable person who communicates effectively and promptly.

· Organization. Being a trustee requires a lot of organization. You need to know dates and obligations and remember pieces of vital information. The more complex the trust, the more you need your trustee to be organized.

· Stability. Is the trustee’s life stable? Does he or she have a steady job? Are they constantly embroiled in personal conflict? Do they struggle with addiction? We all have our own problems, but there is a major difference between a person who is stable and reliable and one who is not.

· Financial Experience. It might be best to pick a trustee with some financial experience, at least when it comes to their own financial affairs. Oftentimes, a

trustee’s position is financially-oriented, so having experience in this sector is a good idea.

· Ability. Does your trustee have the time and energy to devote to this job? He or she should have a bandwidth that can accommodate this critical role.

· Impartiality. A trustee should treat everyone in the trust equally, showing no favoritism, regardless of his or her personal opinions.

These characteristics are all important in a trustee, and you should consider each in turn when appointing someone to this critical role.

Red Flags

Much like there are “green flags” when picking a trustee, there are also major red flags, too. You should, firstly, rely on your gut. Your potential trustee might have all the characteristics above, but, if you have a bad feeling about them, even an inexplicable one, think twice before appointing them.

Here are some common red flags that should bar a trustee from being considered:

· Prior Bankruptcies. Declaring bankruptcy is a big deal, and it means that someone is unable to manage their own financial affairs. This is a major red flag to watch for.

· Prior Foreclosures. Additionally, if your proposed trustee has prior foreclosures, this could indicate issues with money management. For most, their house is their biggest asset—what did this person do to lose it?

· Any Criminal History. Everyone deserves a second chance, but not everyone deserves to be your trustee. Run a simple background check on your proposed trustee, checking court dockets to see if there are criminal cases or lawsuits against them in local courts, whether closed or open.

· Lack Of Neutrality. If your proposed trustee seems to have very strong opinions about those in the trust (if they’re vindictive or a “side taker”), this could affect their impartiality.

· Dishonesty. Of course, the last thing you want is a trustee with a history of lying or obfuscation. Even small lies can easily become big, snowballing ones, especially in the world of finance.

The best way to ensure you’re picking a good trustee is to get some outside perspective. Contact a WFP attorney to decide who should be your trustee, as they can help you make this life-changing decision.

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How Divorce Affects Inheritance

Posted by on Mar 3, 2023 in Legal News |

February was the month of love, and now we’re moving into March, the month of luck. Alas, you’re neither in love or lucky if you’re getting divorced (well, we guess it depends on your situation), and divorce can affect quite a few financial aspects of your life.

Inheritance, for example, can be affected by divorce. In this guide, we will give you an overview of how divorce affects inheritance and what you can do to ensure your family remains as minimally-impacted as possible.

First, Some Definitions

Before we start on this rather complex area of law, we should provide you with some basic definitions first. These include:

· Divorce. Divorce consists of the process of canceling a marital union, reorganizing legal duties and responsibilities, and dissolving the bonds of marriage between a couple. Divorce in Florida is governed by state law.

· Inheritance. Inheritance includes private property, debts, entitlements, privileges, obligations, and rights that occur upon an individual’s death. In this case, we will be talking about private property (money, land, etc.) that is handed down through Florida’s laws of distribution and descent.

· Marital Property. Marital property is acquired by a couple during marriage, no matter whose name is titled on the property.

· Non-Marital Property. Non-marital property includes that which each spouse owned before he or she got married. This includes property the spouse brought into a marriage and kept in their own name during the marriage.

Is Inheritance Marital Property In Florida?

As it pertains to inheritance, Florida law states that assets acquired separately by either spouse, including assets which are considered inheritance, are non-marital, and separate. Additionally, if you sell your inheritance (assuming it is land or something tangible) and buy anything with proceeds from that sale, that new purchase does not count as inheritance.

During A Divorce, Which Assets Are Protected?

In Florida divorce cases, non-marital assets are protected. Those assets that were acquired while the couple was married are marital property, unless a post- or pre-nuptial agreement states otherwise. Even if a spouse titles marital property in his or her name, this asset is unprotected during a divorce.

Is My Spouse Entitled To My Inheritance If We Divorce?

Because inheritances are considered non-marital property received by a spouse separately through devise, a non-interspousal gift, or bequest, your spouse cannot

inherit any portion of your inheritance. It is considered a non-marital asset and, therefore, off-limits.

Do Ex-Spouses Inherit Anything In Florida?

Divorce effectively cancels out or removes an ex-spouse from a will. This means that if you die and you are completely divorced, your ex-spouse will not be able to inherit anything. That said, if you and your ex are still on good terms, Florida laws do permit a post-divorce designation of your ex as a beneficiary.

How Can A Pre- Or Post-Nuptial Agreement Help Me?

Prenuptial agreements are written contracts a couple enters before they are married. These contracts address each person’s rights, assets, and debt responsibilities if the marriage ends. Prenups, as they are known, can be very helpful to people before they get married, as they could thwart a contentious divorce. They can also protect your assets in the event your marriage doesn’t work.

Postnuptial agreements are contracts a couple signs after they are married. These are similar to prenup agreements, as they outline debts, assets, and responsibilities, but they are not signed until after the couple weds. Again, postnups are very helpful in protecting your assets if the marriage does not work out.

As you can see, this is somewhat of a tricky area of law. Though the law might seem clear-cut, it is important to talk to an attorney to straighten out any inheritance-related issues during your divorce. Contact a WFP attorney today to learn more.

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Having A Will Vs. Not Having A Will: What Happens When You Die?

Posted by on Feb 23, 2023 in Legal News |

We get it—life gets busy. Though estate planning is a necessity for adults, some view it as expensive and time-consuming. We urge you to look past any preconceived, negative notions of estate planning and focus on your loved ones, as a person who has a will (and an estate plan) is far better-suited to take care of them than one who does not.

In this article, we will focus on the document that is the best-known of all estate planning arrangements: the last will and testament. We will cover what it is and entails, as well as what happens if you die without one.

What Is A Last Will And Testament?

Throughout almost the entire world, distributing the estate of a dead person after he or she dies has been a solemn social custom. The written will is said to date back to the times of Solon, an Athenian statesman who lived centuries ago. Originally, the last will and testament was a device solely for men who died without leaving an heir.

Now, a will is far more widely-applicable, thanks in part to Old English Law straightening out and expanding upon many of the classic rules behind estate disposition. A last will and testament is a legally-binding document that expresses how a person wants his or her assets (their “estate”) distributed after they die.

Assets can include anything from bank accounts to property, and heirs are the intended beneficiaries of the estate of a deceased person. This area of the law is vast and detailed, and different types of wills and applicable rules abound.

That said, in Florida, a will must abide by these rules:

· A will must be signed by a testator (the person making the will), and he or she must be mentally-competent and over the age of eighteen.

· The will must be typed or handwritten; you cannot have an oral will in Florida.

· The testator’s signature must be at the very end of the will.

· There must be two competent persons there to witness the will.

· The will has to be signed by everyone in the same room, and these individuals must sign the will at the same time.

In Florida, the law is followed strictly when it comes to wills. That is why it is important to talk to an attorney to have a valid will executed properly. Missing any one of the steps above can lead to a will being rendered invalid.

What Happens If You Die Intestate?

When we say “intestate,” we refer to dying without a last will and testament or other document to govern the distribution of your property. In Florida, if you die unmarried, the Florida Intestacy Statutes give all of your property to your kids. If there are no children, your estate goes to your parents.

There are many different disadvantages of dying intestate. Namely, you will have to go through probate court, a lengthy, time-consuming, privacy-invading court process. Here are other “cons” of dying intestate (there are no “pros”):

· You don’t get to leave the assets you want to the people you want to inherit them. Dying intestate takes away your choice in that matter. As a result, descendants may be unfairly disadvantaged or advantaged.

· You can’t nominate your own guardian for your children or an executor for your will.

· The estate’s distribution may be delayed if there are conflicts between beneficiaries. This isn’t unheard of in intestacy cases, as there is no will to clearly lay out the deceased’s wishes.

· You don’t get to make use of legal estate tax minimization.

Dying intestate takes away your freedom of choice—your estate is left in the hands of the government, and the courts may make decisions about your assets, kids, and pets that, were you able to choose, you would not have made.

Hopefully, the article has reinforced the need to have an estate plan, lest you die intestate. Contact a WFP estate planning attorney today to learn more about setting up a will and, if applicable, other legal arrangements.

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Estate Planning: It’s Not Just For The Wealthy

Posted by on Feb 19, 2023 in Legal News |

One of the most common misconceptions we hear frequently about estate planning is that it is only useful for millionaires and rich celebrities. Just the word “estate” might conjure up visions of mansions, private jets, and limousines. Happily, this misconception is not true, and estate planning is for anyone who has assets (so, pretty much every adult in America).

In this article, we will talk about who should have an estate plan, the benefits of estate planning, and how you go about setting up an individualized estate plan.

Who Is Estate Planning For?

The answer to this is simple: every adult should have an estate plan. According to CNBC, two-thirds of Americans do not have an estate plan, with 40% saying that they simply haven’t gotten around to creating one. 33% said they do not have an estate plan because they don’t feel as though they have enough assets, and the remainder said that they’ve eschewed estate planning because it is too costly.

It will be far more costly to not have an estate plan after you die, as dying intestate leaves your assets in the hands of the court. Probate is a long, expensive process that pays off your creditors first and gives your family what’s left, if anything. More than likely, this is not the way you want to see your estate distributed.

If you’re young and don’t have many assets, you’ll probably only need a few simple items, such as a will, beneficiary designation, and both financial and medical powers of attorney. If you have kids, you’ll have to name a guardian in your estate plan. Those who are older with more assets, particularly those who have health issues, may need a more expansive estate plan. Estate plans are not one-size-fits-all; each estate plan is tailored to its creator’s personal and financial lifestyle and situation.

The Benefits of Estate Planning

There are plenty of benefits of estate planning that will encourage you to “get around” to making one. These include:

· Estate planning minimizes the delays, expenses, and privacy invasions that so often accompany probate court.

· Your assets go to the right beneficiaries when you have a properly-executed estate plan.

· Estate planning allows you to plan for your end-of-life care, which is especially beneficial for those who want DNR agreements and other special, personal arrangements.

· You can arrange trusts and plan for the future of your accounts and investments, ensuring your financial legacy goes on.

· You can designate a trusted executor for your last will and testament.

· Guardianship for minor children can be arranged through an estate plan, ensuring that your kids have a stable future even if the worst comes to pass.

· If you own a business, estate planning will ensure its future after you’re gone (including if you want to sell it posthumously).

· Lastly, estate planning can help you legally minimize estate taxes after you die.

As you can see, there are a lot of reasons to have an estate plan. In the next section, we’ll talk about how you can set one up.

How To Set Up An Estate Plan

Luckily, this part is pretty simple. All you need to do is pick up the phone and call an estate planning attorney. He or she will help you determine what documents you need in your estate plan, setting up you and your loved ones for a smooth transition, should something happen to you.

You might be tempted to create your own will by using a “DIY legal service.” While this might seem convenient (and cheaper), it can cause a lot of issues, as the law is very technical and finicky. It’s easy to miss an important element or requirement when creating an estate plan, and this omission can to a lot of trouble in court.

No matter who you are, you need a plan for what happens after you die. Dying intestate only lengthens probate, putting your loved ones through an expensive, time-consuming court process that will, most likely, benefit them very little. Contact a WFP attorney today to learn more about how to create an estate plan.

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Protect Your Business Assets In 2023

Posted by on Feb 8, 2023 in Legal News |

You’ve worked hard for your business, and you don’t want to settle for less. Estate planning is a field of law that can greatly benefit business owners through key documents, legal strategies, legal tax minimization, and more. In this guide, we will discuss the basics of business estate planning. If this article seems like it is applicable to you, contact an estate planning attorney to learn more about how you can prepare your business for a future without you.

Estate Planning For Businesses

If you die and do not have a business succession plan in place, it is your business, family, and friends who will be left without direction. The execution of a deceased person’s last will and testament after their death can be tricky, but it is made far easier with a properly-executed, clear estate plan.

Estate Planning Strategies For Small Businesses

There are millions of small businesses in America, and they all should have an estate plan in place. When it comes to strategies for small business estate planning, here are a few you should note:

· Taxation Minimization

· Insurance

· Buy-Sell Agreements

· Family-Run Business Strategies

· Sole Proprietorship Strategies

We will discuss each of these in turn below.

Taxation Minimization

One of the best reasons to have a business estate plan is to minimize how much your estate will owe the IRS after you die. The IRS can tax anywhere from 35% to 50% of your business value after you pass, and that hefty sum is due nine months after the date of your death.

This often means that small businesses end up having to sell to pay off this burden. But, if you know your way through the IRS laws, you can minimize your business’ tax burden, 100% legally. An estate planning attorney who is trained in tax law can help you take advantage of IRS code sections and exemptions. This sector of estate planning will pay off handily in the future for your loved ones and employees.


Having an insurance policy is a part of estate planning, as it can provide necessary capital to your beneficiaries (who, in some cases, may be your business partners) after you die. According to experts, there are three insurance coverage policies you should have, if you have a small business. These include:

· Worker’s Compensation Insurance. In certain circumstances, this insurance provides employees with financial, medical, and wage benefits if they are injured on the job.

· General Liability Insurance. This policy provides protection for your business in the event of claims against it for bodily injury and other liabilities.

· Professional Liability Insurance. Common among lawyers, doctors, and others in professional capacities, this business insurance covers professionals against customers’ or clients’ claims of negligence, personal injury, copyright infringement, and more.

Buy-Sell Agreements

This type of contract establishes a plan for your business in the event an owner dies or becomes too sick to work. The buy-sell agreement establishes a price for your company and your shares of it, and it allows you to document what you want to happen to the business after you die or cannot work anymore. Establishing the business’ price through a buy-sell agreement goes a long way towards convincing family members that they are getting the fair end of the deal, should the company sell or your business partners buy out your stake.

Family-Run Business Strategies

If you own a family-run business, have you thought about how you want to divide your company’s assets? Many estate plans distribute assets to heirs based on contribution levels, experience, and other factors. An estate planning attorney will help you consider how to best strategize your business’ future, taking into account your family and personal situation.

Sole Proprietorship Strategies

Sole proprietors know that they are their business—their personal and company assets are not separated. More than any other type of business owner, sole proprietors need a clear estate plan for what will happen to their company after they die.

If you have a small business with no estate plan, it is time to speak to an attorney to ensure that, if you die or something happens to you, all that you’ve worked hard for is protected. Contact a WFP attorney today.

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