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Addressing various probate issues

Estate planning can encompass a wide variety of legal and financial issues, including the use of trusts, retirement income planning, powers of attorney and medical directives, to name a few. The oldest, and perhaps most fundamental, estate planning document is the last will and testament. Wills are a common device used to transfer property from the testator to heirs. The process generally used to act on a will's contents is the probate process. Because this process can be complicated, and varies from state to state, there are several issues with which individuals may need help.

Making changes to a will is likely to have an impact on the probate process. Because of certain life changes, such as marriage, divorce or the birth of a new child, a Florida resident may wish to change a previously written will. In such a case, it is important that the changes be made correctly so that the new bequests will be valid in the state in which the will is probated, and the assets are distributed accordingly. Wills can also be contested after the testator's death. This usually occurs because a potential beneficiary believes the will was made under duress or as a result of coercion or fraud, or while the testator was not competent.

If there is a problem with a joint bequest, as in a situation where property is given to two or more people and they cannot agree on how to dispose of it, the parties may need help to determine the legal options. If someone owns property in other states or countries, it will be imperative that any will is written with the law of those jurisdictions in mind. Finally, if a will has been lost beneficiaries may need help navigating the intestate process or dealing with the legal requirements to prove that the will was, in fact, lost.

Florida residents should be aware that the probate process can be extremely complicated and fraught with obstacles. While having a comprehensive estate plan is important, it is equally important to explore all the legal options and requirements of probate, if a will is going to be part of that plan.

Source:, "5 Probate Problems That A Probate Lawyer Can Help With," Keith Morris, Jan. 6, 2014

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