Reopening an Estate for Probate After It Has Already Settled
If you enjoy performing the tasks of the personal representative of an estate, you should consider a career as an estate planning lawyer. Most people find the task stressful, even if they knew for years in advance that their parent, spouse, sibling, aunt, or uncle had named them as a personal representative in their will. When the estate finally settles, most people pour themselves a glass of champagne and celebrate the fact that the probate is over and their work as personal representative is done. They are usually correct that their tenure as personal representative is entirely in the past, but there are a few situations in which it is possible, or even necessary, to reopen an estate that has already settled. The first step to reopening an estate, or to keeping it closed when someone else wants to reopen it, is to contact a Central Florida probate lawyer.
When It Is Necessary to Reopen the Estate
During probate, one of the personal representative’s duties is to locate all the heirs mentioned in the will. The best wills mention every name by his or her current legal name as well as other names by which he or she may be known. If the will says something like “the remainder of my estate shall be divided equally among my sons and daughters,” and after the estate settles, a long-lost son or daughter previously unknown to the personal representative surfaces, the court must reopen the estate at the request of this heir so that the heir can seek his or her fair share of the inheritance.
When Reopening the Estate Is a Possibility
In other situations, the court can decide on a case by case basis whether to reopen the estate. These are some cases in which the court may or may not agree to open an estate for probate:
- You argue that the decedent’s assets were not correctly distributed according to the instructions in the will.
- You have discovered a version of the will other than the one that was administered during probate, and you believe that the newly discovered will is the one that accurately represents the decedent’s wishes.
- You discovered additional assets that belonged to the decedent and were eligible for probate but were not distributed during the original probate process.
If you wish to reopen an estate for one of these reasons, a probate lawyer can help you draft the strongest possible petition to reopen.
When Reopening the Estate Is Unnecessary or Impossible
Trying to collect a debt from an estate that has already settled is almost always a losing proposition. The original probate process keeps the estate open long enough for creditors to claim their debts and involves public notices encouraging them to do so.
Contact an Attorney Today for Help
Hiring a Tampa probate lawyer greatly improves your chances of being able to reopen an estate that has already settled. Contact David Toback for a consultation on your case.