Serving Florida for More than 20 Years
Estates - Trusts - Probate
Areas of Practice
About Rose Marie
Preddy Law Firm, P.A. is conveniently located between St. Augustine and Jacksonville, Florida. The firm established in 2000 is owned and managed by Rose Marie Preddy, Esquire, who has been practicing law since 1997 in Florida and before that, since 1995 in Michigan. Throughout her career, Preddy has held several leadership positions in the Rotary Club of Bartram Trail, First Coast Blue Star Mothers, Inc., Betty Griffin Center, Christian Legal Society, and various voluntary other Bar Associations. She has been consistently recognized by national and state organizations for her legal competency and the quality of her representation.
Read What Our Clients Are Saying
Rose Marie Preddy is a Model Citizen
Rose Marie Preddy is a model citizen. She brings a sense of duty and commitment to our profession that is rare. She is an advocate and a voice of reason at the same time. She comforts her clients and provides them security in times of uncertainty and great stress. She is a wonderful lawyer, and an even better person. Her clients and peers rightfully rely on her sound judgment. I would trust her with any matter in her broad area of practice.
– Jacksonville Law Firm
Frequently Asked Questions
In many cases, yes. Florida Probate Rule 5.030 states that a personal representative must be represented by an attorney admitted to practice in Florida. There are narrow exceptions as defined in the Florida Statutes. Even in those cases, it is usually in a person’s best interest to consult with legal counsel on the best path forward. Other parties who could benefit from having an attorney during the probate process include:
- Individuals challenging the validity of estate planning documents
- People who feel they were unfairly left out of a will or a trust
- Heirs and beneficiaries
- Others who believe they may have an interest in an estate, such as a creditor
Probate, sometimes called estate administration, is a court-supervised process that identifies and gathers the assets of a deceased person (also known as a decedent), pays the decedent’s debts, and distributes the decedent’s assets to their beneficiaries. In general, a decedent’s assets will pay the probate proceeding’s cost, the decedent’s funeral expenses, and the decedent’s outstanding debts. The remainder of their assets will be distributed to the decedent’s beneficiaries.
There are various steps involved in the probate process, including:
- Determining whether there is a valid will
- Accounting for the estate’s assets and debts
- Paying of the estate’s creditors
- Distributing assets to beneficiaries
The probate process begins with a person filing a Petition for Administration and associated documents with the probate court in the county where the deceased resided. At the time of filing, the people named in the deceased’s will and all potential legal heirs will be formally notified that the deceased’s estate is open. If there is no will, the rules of intestacy will direct who would be in charge and who would inherit.
After court review, the judge will issue Letters of Administration indicating that the petition has been granted. The Letters of Administration also designate an executor (referred to in Florida as the “personal representative”). Typically the person who filed the petition is the one requesting to be appointed per the will or the rules of intestacy. This designation allows the personal representative access to the deceased’s assets and to proceed with estate administration tasks.
The first task will usually be to open an estate account that serves as a depository for all estate assets subject to probate. The personal representative then must attempt to notify the deceased’s creditors that an estate is open. This notification may be done directly, but Florida Statute § 733.2121 requires personal representatives to publish a notice to creditors once a week for two weeks in a newspaper published in the county where the estate is administered or when there is no newspaper published in the county, in a newspaper of general circulation in that county. If the creditor is known by the personal representative, they must be notified directly.
The total net worth of a deceased person’s estate must be assessed, and the personal representative will have to conduct a thorough inventory and valuation of the deceased’s property. The property can include all of the deceased’s bank accounts, brokerage accounts, stocks, bonds, real estate deeds, vehicle titles, and any other countable assets. After the Inventory is complete, the personal representative files it with the court. The Inventory is a confidential document which cannot be viewed by the general public.
After three months have passed since the deceased’s creditors were notified, the personal representative begins the process of closing the estate by paying all valid debts. Any claims received after this point will not be considered valid. Debts must be paid by using the cash available in the deceased’s estate account. However, if there is no liquidity, the personal representative must sell off other estate property to generate more cash to satisfy creditors’ claims.
A final income tax return must then be filed and paid to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). A personal representative is a fiduciary and can face personal liability for any penalties or unpaid taxes associated with the deceased’s estate, so it is incredibly important to have a probate attorney at this stage of the process to ensure compliance.
All people named in a deceased’s will (or intestate beneficiaries when there is no will) then receive the appropriate assets in accordance with the decedent’s instructions, and a plan for distribution needs to be agreed upon by all applicable parties. After all estate property has been distributed among the deceased’s beneficiaries, the personal representative must file a petition to discharge them from their fiduciary position and close the estate, ending the probate process.
A Florida probate lawyer will walk you through the entire complex probate procedure. When your loved one dies without a will, the probate attorney can help you name a personal representative and determine the proper heirs.
A lawyer will also be beneficial in the many probate cases in which the probate process becomes contentious among family members, which can happen when there are doubts about the validity of a decedent’s will, a decedent did not properly sign and have their will witnessed under Florida law, an original will was lost or destroyed, there is an unexpected or unplanned asset added to an estate, or there are no ascertainable beneficiaries or heirs.
There are strict filing deadlines for lawsuits regarding an estate or personal representative. A personal representative cannot be held liable for any claim that arises two years after a person’s death, and creditor claims are barred three months after the first publication of a notice to creditors. Attorney fees for probate should be payable directly from an estate, so there are no out-of-pocket expenses.
Probate is a highly specialized area of law, and there is no shortage of lawyers in the Jacksonville area that would be happy to represent you. With so many options, it can be difficult to determine which lawyer or law firm is a good fit for your needs. Some of the things you should consider when you are looking for a lawyer include:
- The lawyer’s experience
- Whether they focus on probate or also handle other matters
- Whether the lawyer has successfully handled similar cases in the past
- The attorney’s communication style
- Whether you are comfortable working with the lawyer
You should also consider the nature of your legal needs when looking for an attorney. For example, some probate lawyers focus on helping estate administrators navigate the probate process. On the other hand, other attorneys prefer to represent people who are challenging the validity of estate planning documents like trusts or wills. The Preddy Law Firm, P.A. is unique in that it will handle both administration and related litigation related to will contests or fiduciary misconduct. Finding an attorney whose skills and experience closely match your legal needs is a good idea. Doing so could maximize your chances of obtaining a favorable outcome.
People are looking for an experienced probate attorney in Jacksonville, Florida, that they can trust. Preddy Law Firm, P.A. is conveniently located between Jacksonville and St. Augustine and has provided over 25 years of legal expertise across Florida.
Preddy Law Firm, P.A. handles all probate matters as well as issues relating to estate planning, revocable and irrevocable trusts, advanced directives, tax planning, asset protection, business succession planning, guardianship, and Medicaid planning.
We represent clients throughout the greater Jacksonville area, St. Johns, St. Augustine, Ponte Vedra, Orange Park, and Fleming Island.
Are you in search of a Florida probate attorney? Call us at (904) 665-0005 or contact us online to schedule a consultation today.