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Majority of Florida residents fear probate litigation

According to recent reports, the majority of Florida residents fear the probate process. If a layperson only knows one thing about estate planning, it is often to stay as far away from probate as possible.

This mindset is not altogether surprising. Probate involves numerous and often complex statutes which can directly affect the administration of a person's estate. While the administrative side of probate is certainly daunting for many, the lingering possibility of probate litigation is even more unnerving. The truth, however, is that many people do not fully shield themselves from a potential probate.

For certain assets held by a person at death, the probate process may be necessary to fully transfer title. This process almost always requires the interpretation of a will or, in the absence of a will, an interpretation of Florida's intestacy statutes. While ideally wills and statutes would be unambiguous, disputes over their meaning and effect happen all the time.

Challenging a will's validity, for example, is a common court battle meant to effectuate a person's true intent. While the will may say one thing, some heirs may feel like another heir coerced the decedent into amending the document late in life.

In these instances, heirs seeking to either uphold a will or strike it down will need to be armed with the best information about their options. From simple administration to complex litigation over a disputed will, going into the process with the right information can help an heir enforce the true intentions of the decedent.

Source: TC Palm, "Resolving the problem with probate," Robert Schwartz, June 4, 2104

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