The loss of a loved one is rarely easy, particularly if the death was unexpected. Ideally, the decedent worked with a knowledgeable estate law attorney to draft a will, trust or other estate planning tools, but even with this planning, however, the probate process here in Florida can become delayed.
The family may find themselves wrapped up in a probate process that takes on a life of its own, becoming a process that drags on for many months or years. The reasons for a delay will be varied and likely tied to unique nature of the estate.
Reasons for delays
Some of these can be avoided through effective planning, while others involve unforeseen circumstances:
- Too many beneficiaries: Fulfilling the legal obligation to track down a multitude of beneficiaries can take time. Once they are located, there is documentation that needs to be signed by all involved, and some may need prodding to address their responsibilities.
- Beneficiaries live far away: Even with modern technology, it can still be an ordeal to work with people who do not live locally.
- Assets located outside of Florida: The decedent may have been a Florida resident, but they could still own property in a different state or country. This can lead to ancillary probates in these other places, which adds layers of complexity to the process.
- Estate may have to file taxes: The IRS may require a federal estate tax return Form 706. Generally, the IRS will take three to four months to process the return and additional months if there are discrepancies. The estate that must file a 706 cannot be closed until the IRS gives its approval.
- Unusual assets: Placing a value on collections, race horses, mineral rights or some form of intellectual property can be complicated by differing opinions on the value.
- Beneficiaries do not work together: Well-crafted estate plans lighten the burden put upon beneficiaries, but there can still be areas of disagreement or a general distrust.
- More than one will: Competing wills often mean the courts must examine the wills and determine which is the appropriate one. This takes time.
Finding the right person for the job
Those drafting an estate plan may wish to have a spouse or child as the executor. This can be a mistake if they do not have the aptitude or interest in handling the paperwork, making difficult decisions or communicating with everyone involved. An estate law attorney with experience in Florida can be a tremendous help in effectively addressing any of the above issues or other matters unique to a Florida estate.