What to do after an accident

DO NOT LEAVE THE SCENE!
Call the Police Immediately to report the accident, no matter how small and notify them as to any medical assistance which may be needed. It is a criminal offense to leave the scene of an accident, so stay with your vehicle until the police arrive.

Stay Calm, getting upset or angry will only make the situation worse and potentially volatile. Remember the old adage: “Don’t sweat the small stuff, and it’s all small stuff.”

Warn other motorists by turning on your vehicle’s flashers or setting up flares.

Get yourself off the roadway so as to avoid any further injuries from passing motorists.

Obtain witnesses names, phone numbers, and addresses which can become very important if the issue of who was at fault ever arises.

Exchange information with the other driver making sure you exchange the following information:
Driver’s Name
Address
Phone#
Driver’s License#
Vehicle year, make, model, color
Name & address of owner of vehicle
Insurance Co. name
Insurance Policy#

MAKE A DIAGRAM & TAKE PICTURES OF THE SCENE
If it is at all possible draw a diagram of the street and nearest intersection showing the relative position of the vehicles both before and after the accident. Also include any markers, such as street signs or posts or driveways to pinpoint the location of the accident. Be sure to notate what time of day it is, the weather (rainy, sunny, condition of the road, etc.) Jot down any other information you feel is relevant and pertinent.
Take pictures of all the vehicles involved. If you don’t have a cell phone camera, it is a good idea to keep a disposable camera in your glove compartment in case of such an event.

NEVER ADMIT LIABILITY!
You should never assume responsibility for an accident, no matter how strongly you feel. If you feel at fault, there is a time and a place for saying you’re sorry.

NEVER SIGN ANYTHING AT THE SCENE
The only thing you should sign at the scene of an accident is a traffic citation. You are required by law to sign a traffic citation issued to you. In fact it is an arrestable offense if you refuse to sign a citation. However, do not sign anything else. Many insurance companies have agents who will come straight to the scene and offer you a settlement check or try to influence you to sign a release. DO NOT DO IT! There is no rush. Have an attorney look over the papers before you sign anything. Do not give any taped or written statements to any insurance people. Consult with your attorney first before you give a taped or written statement.

GO SEE A DOCTOR
The new PIP laws require you to seek emergency care within 14 days in order to be covered for your accident under your PIP insurance policy No matter how you feel, it is always best to have a physician check you out to determine if you have any injuries. In a surprising number of cases, what seems to be a minor injury in the hours following an accident blossoms into a major medical problem over the next several days or weeks.

NOTIFY YOUR INSURANCE COMPANY
Notify your insurance company regarding the incident so they can begin taking action on your claim.

CONSULT YOUR ATTORNEY
Accident victims who negotiate with insurance companies on their own behalf rarely receive full compensation for their injuries. Insurance companies have a bottom line that they are trying to protect, do not be fooled by their claims that you are in good hands. An experienced personal injury attorney knows how to evaluate accident cases, protect a victim’s legal rights, and negotiate for full compensation from insurance companies. So, don’t hesitate to refer people you know who get injured to a personal injury attorney. An attorney should be happy to assist them. That’s our job!

Which Legal Entity Is Right For Your Small Business? A Review of Your Corporate Formation Options

One of the most crucial decisions you will make concerning your new business is what legal entity to adopt.  The type of business entity you select can have significant consequences for your personal liability, control over the business, level of management, your ability to grow and expand, and the level of taxes you pay, both federally and in state.

The following is a brief overview of some of the business entities available to you in Florida.  This list is not intended to replace the guidance of a business formation attorney.  A corporate formation attorney will examine your individual situation and offer expert advice as to the best legal entity for you.  While no replacement for an attorney, this primer will arm you with the knowledge you need to better understand your business formation options.

  1. Sole Proprietorship—this is the most common entity for home-based businesses.  While this entity has the fewest legal formalities, it also offers the least amount of legal protection.  A sole proprietorship typically involves one owner who also operates the business.  This entity offers ease of set up and taxation.  You will be personally liable if sued, however, and you may have trouble growing the company later if you wish to take on investors.
  2. Limited Liability Company (LLC)—LLC’s have become extremely popular in recent years, and the advantages of such entities make it easy to see why.  LLC’s are hybrid entities that combine the benefits of corporations and partnerships.  Your personal assets are protected in the case of a lawsuit if you use an LLC.  This entity offers flexibility in both taxation and membership.  It can, however, be tricky to offer stock options to investors and there is a lot of paperwork involved, often necessitating the assistance of an attorney.
  3. Partnerships—partnerships involve one or more individuals who share profits and losses of the business.  There are two main types: general and limited.  A general partnership requires the partners manage the company together and all partners assume responsibility for debts.  In a limited partnership, on the other hand, limited partners provide investments but have no control over the company.  Partnerships can be costly to set up because of the multiple parties involved and sometimes differing roles of the partners.  In founding a general or limited partnership, you should consider what each partner is investing in the company, their responsibilities, possible buyout plans, and disagreement resolutions.  While partnerships allow for collaborative business growth, they can also leave you liable in the event of a lawsuit.
  4. Corporations—a corporation is often set up for a larger entity, generally a business that involves shareholders or investors.  Individuals are not generally personally liable for the debts of a corporation.  Corporation types include C-corporation and S-corporation.  Raising capital is easy with a corporation and there are some tax benefits.  However, forming a corporation can be costly and involve a massive amount of paperwork.

As a small business developer just starting out, you have numerous options at your disposal as you consider forming your business entity.  A corporate formation attorney will thoroughly examine your intended business model and research all potential benefits as well as drawbacks to using a certain legal entity.  After much discussion and study, your business attorney will advise you as to which corporate entity is best.

Start your Florida small business off the right way—contact Scott Law Group, PLC today.  Our dedicated firm of business professionals will ensure you select the correct business entity which will lead you to years of success.  Call us at (727) 754-5001 to schedule a free consultation.

Top Bankruptcy Myths Dispelled

Bankruptcy is a term which conjures up much emotion and a myriad of beliefs.  Our society, as a whole, tends to paint a bleak picture of bankruptcy and those who declare it.  We have probably all heard, at one point or another, “facts” such as: bankruptcy will ruin your credit for life; you will lose everything if you declare bankruptcy; only those who are deadbeats declare bankruptcy; and bankruptcy is too difficult to pursue.  The fact is, however, that for many Americans bankruptcy is actually a necessary path towards financial freedom and success.  For over one million financially struggling Americans annually, bankruptcy offers a much needed fresh start.

The following is a list of some of the top bankruptcy myths.  It is our hope in debunking these myths, you will obtain an accurate picture of the bankruptcy process, enabling you to make an informed decision on whether bankruptcy is a viable tool for you.

Myth #1: Bankruptcy will destroy your credit forever—this is probably the number one myth concerning bankruptcy.  Bankruptcy will significantly impact your credit.  It will drop your credit score by 200 points or more.  For 10 years following your bankruptcy, it will be viewable on your credit score.  However, you can rebuild your credit score in as few as two years.  For many debtors, filing for bankruptcy is actually the quickest way to achieve good credit.  When you are behind on their bills, this information is constantly being reported and continuously damaging your credit.  By filing for bankruptcy, all negative reports on your credit history stop.  You can then begin to build positive credit, and achieve a positive credit score in just a short period of time.

Myth #2: You will lose everything if you declare bankruptcy—there is a common belief that by declaring bankruptcy, you will lose your home, vehicle, and other assets.  The reality is that most of these possessions will be protected throughout the bankruptcy process.  Under Chapter 13 bankruptcy, you keep all of your assets and are not at risk of losing anything.  Under Chapter 7 bankruptcy, particularly in Florida, many of your assets will be exempt.  Florida offers numerous exemptions to debtors including: your homestead, the earnings of the head of household, motor vehicles (up to $1,000), proceeds of life insurance, and some personal property.  With proper planning and advice from your licensed bankruptcy attorney, you can protect those assets you care most about.

Myth #3: Only deadbeats declare bankruptcy—what do Abraham Lincoln, Henry Ford, Mark Twain, Walt Disney, Larry King, Burt Reynolds, Mickey Rooney, and Willie Nelson, all have in common?  They declared bankruptcy then went on to much success, fame, and wealth.  All of these individuals serve to highlight that bankruptcy can happen to anyone, even the most talented and intelligent among us.  Millions of hardworking Americans will find it necessary to file for bankruptcy each year.  For most people, their debts are not the result of frivolous spending or unwise monetary transactions.  In fact, the number one cause of the majority of bankruptcies today is health insurance debts.  No one should feel embarrassed or stigmatized by their decision to declare bankruptcy.

Myth #4: Filing for bankruptcy is too difficult to pursue—while bankruptcy does involve much paperwork, with the help of a knowledgeable bankruptcy attorney, the process will be smooth and simple.  An attorney with experience in the field can advise you as to your eligibility and navigate you seamlessly through all necessary filings.

At Scott Law Group, PLC, we are committed to ensuring each of our clients receive unparalleled legal representation.  Our seasoned attorney staff can fully advise you as to your bankruptcy options and help you select the best means to achieve a bright financial future.  Call us today at (727) 754-5001 for a free consultation.

The 10 Basic Steps of Formal Administration in Florida

Probate is a complex process that few are prepared to deal with on their own.  Following the death of a loved one, probate will often be necessary to transfer the assets of the decedent to his or her heirs and beneficiaries.  Unfortunately, probate must be completed whether a will exists or not.  In Florida, there are two types of probate: formal and summary administration. Summary administration is only available if the value of the estate, not including exempt property such as the decedent’s homestead, is not more than $75,000. In addition, the decedent’s debts must be paid.  Due to the stringent requirements for summary administration, most estates will go through the formal administration process.

The following is a list of the ten basic steps to formal probate administration in Florida.  Knowing these fundamental steps in advance, you can prepare for the eventuality of probate upon the death of a loved one.

  1. Deposit of the will in court—Florida law requires the custodian of the decedent’s last will and testament to deposit it with the clerk of the appropriate court within 10 days of the decedent’s death.  Your submission must be of the original will, if available, along with a certified copy of the death certificate.
  2. Retain a probate attorney—before petitioning for administration of the estate, you should retain the assistance of an experienced Florida probate attorney.  All personal representatives are required to engage a probate attorney unless they are the sole heirs or are attorneys themselves.  It is best to consult with an attorney as early as possible to ensure the correct initial steps are taken.
  3. Petition for administration—by law, any interested person, that is any person who might reasonably be expected to be affected by the outcome of the probate proceedings, may petition the court for the formal administration of an estate.
  4. Appointment of a personal representative—a personal representative is appointed by court order.  Generally, it will be the person named in the decedent’s will.  If no will exists, first preference is given to the spouse.  The court will issue letters of administration which give the personal representative authority to act.  The estate is now considered open.
  5. Validity of the will—if a will is self-proven and executed in accordance with the law, it will be admitted without further examination.  If it is not self-proved, it can be admitted by oath of an attesting witness.
  6. Notify creditors—the first step in administration of the will is the notifying of creditors.  The notice of administration should be published as soon as possible to ensure the probate process proceeds in a timely manner.
  7. Collect decedent’s assets or leave with beneficiaries—the personal representative must either take possession or control of the assets, or may elect to leave assets with the beneficiaries.  He or she will be responsible for managing the assets both before and during distribution.
  8. Inventory of assets and processing claims from creditors—a complete inventory of the assets in the estate should be filed within 60 days of the issuance of the letters of administration.  This inventory will be labor intensive and should include a list of all property along with the fair market value.  Claims from creditors must be paid within one year from the date of publication of the notice to creditors.
  9. Prepare a final accounting—after completion of administration, the personal representative must make a final account of all actions undertaken during administration of the estate.  The court will hold a formal hearing to approve the accounting and any interested persons may object.
  10. Closing the estate—when all steps in administration have been completed, the personal representative will file a petition for discharge of the estate and a plan of final distribution of assets.  Once the distribution is complete, the court will then issue an order discharging the personal representative.

As these ten steps demonstrate, the probate process is rather complex and lengthy.  At Scott Law Group, PLC, we strive to take all stress and confusion out of formal administration.  With our guidance, your task as personal representative will be smooth and simple.  Call Scott Law Group, PLC today at (727) 754-5001 to schedule a free consultation.

The Dangers of Using Legal Zoom, Rocket Lawyer, or a CPA to Setup an Entity

In our technology-driven era, many people turn to websites like Legal Zoom and Rocket Lawyer, who offer corporation formation or entity creation at discount prices, to startup their company.  Still others, perhaps in an effort to save costs, employ the services of a CPA to form their business entity, believing these professionals to be knowledgeable in the field.  Despite the advertisements of these non-attorney companies, however, there exists much danger in using these providers to setup your corporate entity.

The following is a list of the potential hazards involved in not employing the help of a professional corporation formation attorney.  This list is not designed to dissuade you from using Legal Zoom, Rocket Lawyer, a CPA, or the like.  Rather, its intent is to ensure you are fully informed when making the important decision of who should form your new business.

  1. You may actually pay more–CPA firms and Legal Zoom charge for some services that you can do yourself for free.  The basic setup of your entity can be done quickly and easily on your own.  By visiting Florida’s Secretary of State website, you can register your entities name, file your Articles of Organization or Incorporation, or Certificate of Limited Partnership.  You can then visit the IRS webpage to request an EIN number.  The only costs involved in these basic startup steps are filing fees, which most CPA firms and websites will require you cover anyway.
  2. Forming an entity is more complicated than you think—non-attorney companies cannot offer you legal advice because they are not licensed attorneys.  A thorough, individualized legal consultation is the most important step in formation of a corporate entity.  This is due to the complex nature of entity startups.  An attorney can advise you as to what entity is the best structure for your business.  The options are numerous and include: C-Corporation; S-Corporation; Limited Liability Company; Sole Proprietorship; and Limited Partnerships.  A knowledgeable business attorney will review your proposed business plan, including the number of partners and the investments of each.  Essential issues such as decision making and profit sharing will be discussed and decided with the guidance of your expert business attorney.  Intellectual property issues, whether it be protecting your own or ensuring you do not infringe upon another, will all be addressed in your attorney consultation.  The assistance of a seasoned business attorney is absolutely vital to the long term success of your new business.
  3. You may face disputes down the road—Legal Zoom and other legal help websites, along with CPA firms, use boiler plate documents.  These documents are not tailored to the specific company and often lack guidance as to specific problems.  When a business dispute arises down the road, business owners turn to their corporate documents seeking resolve, and instead find the issue not addressed.  This can lead to ongoing disputes that often end up in the courtroom, costing business owners and their companies tens of thousands in legal fees and much wasted resources.

The team of legal professionals at Scott Law Group, PLC work with area entrepreneurs to chose the right business entity for their budding company.  At Scott Law Group, we will provide you with vital information as to the advantages and disadvantages of each entity.  Armed with this knowledge, we will assist you with all steps to forming your new corporate entity.  The first step to a successful business is a properly formed business entity, and with Scott Law Group, PLC you can rest assured your company is off to a bright start.  Call us today at (727) 754-5001 to schedule a free consultation.

Part II: Essential Estate Planning for Baby Boomers

In Part I of Essential Estate Planning for Baby Boomers, we highlighted the importance of 1) creating a will or trust; 2) creating a durable power of attorney; and 3) setting up a health care power of attorney.  Below is the continuation of our list of the most crucial estate planning strategies for the boomer generation:

  1. Draft advance directives—there are several types of advance directives, and all involve your medical care.  A living will is used to specify what kind of life-sustaining treatments or surgeries you want or do not want performed.  For instance, you can elect to be removed from ventilation in the event you fall into a coma.  You could also set out time frames for the use of mechanical ventilation and nutritional assistance, requiring, for example, these efforts be ceased after 60 days.  Setting out such advance directives can be a great kindness to loved ones who may otherwise experience great stress attempting to make such difficult decisions.  You may also create a DNRO or Do Not Resuscitate Order.  This document requests that no resuscitative techniques be used in the event of respiratory or cardiac arrest.  Absent this document, doctors are required to attempt resuscitation.
  2. Ensure the correct beneficiary is listed on your life-insurance policies, retirement accounts, and bank accounts—under state law, some assets will automatically pass to the listed beneficiary regardless of the dictates of your will.  Most notably, this includes life insurance policies. Scenarios often arise where individuals fail to remove their former spouse as the designated beneficiary of their life insurance policy and a courtroom battle ensues. Similarly, many people place the majority of their assets in retirement accounts such as 401(k)s and IRAs.  Here, the beneficiary designation is crucial.  All baby boomers, and even the younger generations, should double check beneficiaries on these important documents and accounts to ensure that which they worked hard to earn goes the desired individuals.
  3. Create an estate plan for the whole family—estate planning is not solely about you.  One of your first tasks should be to ensure your aging parents have taken all the essential estate planning steps set out in Parts I and II of this series.  Elderly parents should have a will or trust in place, power of attorneys for both financial and health matters, and advance directives.  These acts will help ensure you are not making heartbreaking end of life decisions and your parents hard-earned assets go to those they care about.  Do not forget about your children when it comes to estate planning either.  If your child is seriously injured while away at college, for instance, you need the legal right to act on his or her behalf.  Ensure your children have a health-care proxy, even if further estate planning such as a will is unnecessary at this stage.

Estate planning is tough. There is no doubt that it will evoke much emotion and involve some difficult decisions.  But the alternative of not creating an estate plan is far worse.  Without a comprehensive estate plan in place, you will have no control over who receives your assets, how your finances are managed, and what end of life care you receive.  Furthermore, your family may be left grappling with end of life decisions that they are entirely unprepared to make, and in total financial upheaval following your death.  The better course of action is clear.  Creating an estate plan today can save your family much pain and expense.

At Scott Law Group, PLC, we truly care about each of our clients and strive to ensure they receive the finest of legal services available in the state of Florida.  With over 18 years experience, attorney Sean D. K. Scott can expertly guide you through the estate planning process to create directives that will ensure your families well-being.  Call us today (727) 754-5001 for a free consultation.

Part I: Essential Estate Planning for Baby Boomers

Estate planning is a topic most people tend to avoid. Creating a will, trust, and other vital end of life documents often seems complex, cumbersome, and overwhelming. Further, the task requires turning to unpleasant thoughts such as death and the distribution of one’s assets. The perceived ugliness involved in estate planning leads to continual procrastination on implementing any estate planning strategies. One survey recently conducted by the U.S. Trust found that nearly 30% of all those involved in the study did not have any kind of estate plan.

Though creating an estate plan can involve some time and consideration as to difficult subjects, it is absolutely vital in furtherance of your legacy. Without an estate plan, the pain your loved ones will already experience upon your death will be further rocked by the upheaval of their financial life. The following is the first part of our list of essential estate planning strategies. While these plans are applicable to all generations, they are of particular magnitude to the aging baby boomer generation.

1. Create a trust or a will—this is often the first and most important step in estate planning. While it may seem obvious to draft a will, a shocking number of Americans fail to do so before it is too late. A will dictates who will receive your assets upon your death. It can also set out your wishes for guardianship over your minor children in the event both you and your spouse perish. It is important to remember, however, that a will does not avoid probate. Your last testament will go through the probate process, but generally the timeframe will be far shorter than for those who die intestate, or without a will. In addition to or instead of a will, you can set up a trust. There are a multitude of different types of trusts, and a qualified estate planning attorney can advise you on the one best suited to your needs. One of the most popular and easiest to create is a revocable living trust. This trust allows your assets to avoid the costly, time-consuming probate process. It will also follow you across state lines, making it ideal for those who own property in multiple states. Whichever you chose, the important thing is that you create a will or trust today. In the absence of these crucially important documents, disposition of your hard-earned assets will be done according strictly to state law, which can lead to undesirable outcomes.

2. Create a durable power of attorney—in addition to preparing for your eventual death, it is essential to anticipate the possibility you may become incapacitated and unable to make critical decisions as to your finances. A durable power of attorney allows you to select someone who you trust to manage your assets in the event of your physical or mental incapacity. Most often, an adult child is selected, but the decision is yours to make.

3. Create a durable health care power of attorney—related to a general power of attorney, a health care power of attorney enables a trusted family member or friend to make medical decisions on your behalf when you are unable to do so. For instance, if you were rushed into surgery and a decision had to be made as to an additional procedure, the individual authorized in your durable power of attorney would be able to issue a resolution to the doctor’s request. Your health care agent should be someone that you trust to have your best interests at heart.

At Scott Law Group, PLC, we understand the vital significance of creating an estate plan. We view estate planning as far more than just dictating who receives what when you pass away—to us, estate planning is synonymous with legacy planning. Your estate plan represents a significant piece of the overall legacy you leave behind. To this end, we vow to do all we can to help you create a lasting legacy. Call us today at (727) 754-5001 for a free consultation.

Relief from Second Mortgages: Second Mortgages Can Now Be Stripped During Chapter 7 Bankruptcy

Like many Florida homeowners, Lorraine McNeal owed more on her mortgage than what her home was worth.  Ms. McNeal found herself a part of the ever growing portion of U.S. residents who are considered to be “underwater” in their mortgages.  Although home prices have risen throughout Florida in recent months, they are still far from the peak market prices of 2008.  This great disparity between owed amount and worth of the home leaves many Floridians and individuals across the country literally drowning in debt they cannot relieve.

Seeking freedom from her overwhelming monetary burdens, Ms. McNeal filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy.  During the bankruptcy process, she requested the court “strip off” her second mortgage.  The term “strip off” means to remove an unsecured loan entirely, making the debtor not liable for repayment of any kind.  In Ms. McNeal’s case, her home was subject to a first priority lien of $176,413.  She had a second mortgage in the amount of $44,444, and her home was valued at $141,416.  Ms. McNeal urged that because the primary lien exceeded the value of the home, the junior lien, held by GMAC Mortgage, LLC, was wholly unsecured and therefore could be stripped off under 11 U.S.C. § 506(d).  The District Court denied the motion, ruling that § 506(d) does not apply to Chapter 7 bankruptcies.

Ms. McNeal appealed the decision to the Eleventh Circuit—and it ruled in her favor.  In the case of In re McNeal, No. 11-11352 (11th Cir. May 11, 2013), the Eleventh Circuit found that, pursuant to an older case entitled Folendore v. United States Small Bus. Admin., 862 F.2d 1537 (11th Cir. 1989), debtors may strip wholly unsecured liens in Chapter 7 bankruptcy.  Previously, Florida courts had disallowed such actions, believing a case arising out of the U.S. Supreme Court overruled Folendore.

The McNeal decision places Florida in the minority of states which allow stripping off of second mortgages during Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Ordinarily, relief from second mortgages is only allowed through Chapter 13 bankruptcy.  The Fourth, Sixth, and Seventh Circuits have all held that junior liens cannot be stripped off under Chapter 7 bankruptcy.  Until recently, the McNeal decision remained unpublished, leading some Florida courts to elect not to follow the Eleventh Circuit’s opinion as it was merely persuasive.  Now, however, the opinion has been published and is binding on all Florida courts.

The McNeal decision is an extremely important one for Florida debtors.  The following as some key points to take away from the decision:

  1. You may now be able to entirely eliminate your second mortgage—if you are a Florida resident and owe more than your home is worth, you might be able to “strip off” your second mortgage using a Chapter 7 bankruptcy.  This means you are no longer liable for this amount and will never have to pay it back.
  2. Time is of the essence—recently, a petition for certiorari was filed in the Supreme Court requesting the Court address the issue of stripping away second mortgages in Chapter 7 bankruptcy.  Given the split between the circuits and the momentous impact of the issue on struggling homeowners nationwide, it is quite likely the Supreme Court will elect to decide the issue.  This creates uncertainty as to whether your ability to strip off your second mortgage using Chapter 7 bankruptcy will exist for long.  Therefore, it is important to act now.
  3. A knowledgeable Florida bankruptcy attorney can advise you on whether McNeal will offer you relief—to be eligible to strip off your second mortgage, you must meet certain requirements both under 11 U.S.C. § 506(d) and the general Chapter 7 bankruptcy guidelines.  A licensed, experienced Florida bankruptcy attorney will thoroughly examine your individual situation and find the best option for relief from debt for you.

Scott Law Group, PLC, has over 18 years experience in the field of bankruptcy law.  We are a team of dedicated professionals who strive above all else to protect our clients interests.  Call us today at (727) 754-5001 to find out how we can help you achieve financial freedom.

Frequently Asked Questions About the Florida Probate Process

Though all are familiar with the term probate, few have a full understanding of what it is and how it works.  The following is a list of frequently asked questions, designed to increase your understanding of probate in Florida:

  • What is probate?

In Florida, when a loved one dies, his or her estate may go through the process of probate.  Probate is a court-supervised process through which one’s assets are distributed to either those heirs named in a will or according to the laws of intestacy.  Probate generally takes place in all cases unless the deceased has placed his or her assets in a properly created and funded living trust.  When a will exists, the court will prove its validity during probate.

  • How long does probate take?

Probate is generally thought to be a lengthy process, and for most estates it is indeed time-consuming.  The length of probate in any state is largely contingent upon the creditor notice and claims period.  In Florida, all claims must be filed three months from the date the notice to creditors is first published.  Therefore, it would be essentially impossible to close the estate in less than four months.  The average timeframe for completion of the probate process in Florida is six to eight months, although far longer has been recorded.  The length of your specific case will depend upon many factors, including whether real estate must be sold, litigation ensues, or tax returns are needed.  A seasoned probate attorney will review the basics of the estate and be able to provide you further guidance as to the likely length of probate.

  • How much does probate cost in Florida?

One of the most common concerns most people have is what cost will be involved in probate.  If a small estate is involved, it is important to know the anticipated cost of probate to determine whether it is justified.  The cost of the probate process will depend largely on the size of the estate, but it helps to first outline where the expenses arise.

The largest cost in probate proceedings are generally attorney’s fees.  While other expenses are involved, such as accounting fees, filing fees, and publication costs, these costs pale in comparison to the attorney’s fees involved.  Probate attorney’s fees are nearly inevitable, as well, because Florida law requires a probate attorney for most cases.

In Florida, the attorney acting on behalf of the personal representative may charge a reasonable attorney’s fee.  The attorney is paid from the assets of the estate, and therefore will impact the overall amount the heirs will receive.  Accordingly, the state has more guidance on these attorney’s fees than in other areas of the law.

The Florida probate code provides a list of fees which it deems reasonable.  The fees are broken down by the compensable value of the estate.  This entire list can be referred to and will provide you will a general idea as to the likely expense involved in your probate case.

  • Who can serve as a personal representative in Florida?

In Florida, each estate must be represented by someone during the probate process.  This individual is generally referred to as the personal representative.  Personal representatives can be most anyone, so long as they are not a convicted felon or minor, and are mentally and physically capable of performing the task.  If a will exists, the person selected in it will generally become the personal representative. When an individual dies intestate, preference goes first to the spouse and next to the person selected by a majority of the heirs.  Non-residents who are closely related to the decedent are able to serve as personal representative.

Scott Law Group, PLC, Can Simplify the Probate Process

            At Scott Law Group, PLC, we understand how complex probate can be and acknowledge the often challenging timing of the process.  We are experienced, compassionate probate attorneys who will guide you through the probate process as quickly, and with as little stress as possible.  Call Scott Law Group, PLC, today (727) 754-5001 to schedule a free consultation.