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Tampa Estate Planning Attorney > Blog > Probate > Why You Should Act Quickly To Open A Family Member’s Estate For Probate

Why You Should Act Quickly To Open A Family Member’s Estate For Probate


After the death of a family member, the last thing on your mind is ensuring that your in-laws and your stepchildren get their inheritance, unless, of course, they are bugging you about it.  After planning a funeral and moving the decedent’s belongings out of the nursing home, you are eager to get used to a new normal.  The last thing you have the energy to do is negotiate with the decedent’s creditors.  There is no legal deadline for initiating probate proceedings, and some people open the estates of family members who died years earlier; this most often happens when the estate is of modest value and when the decedent did not leave a will.  The danger of not opening a deceased family member’s estate promptly is that, if you do not, someone else will.  There is an entire industry of estate research firms that are in the business of filing far-fetched claims in probate court.  The sooner you get probate started and finished, the more protection you have against strangers messing with your family member’s estate.  If you have been procrastinating getting started on probate, contact a Tampa probate attorney.

Settle the Estate Before Long-Lost Relatives Have a Chance to Come Out of the Woodwork

When you open a family member’s estate for probate, one of your duties as personal representative is to notify all of the people listed in the will so that they can contact the probate court.  If the decedent did not write a will, then you should notify all of the decedent’s close family members who would inherit under the laws of intestate succession.  This can be stressful if you are estranged from your family members, but a probate lawyer can communicate with the estranged family members on your behalf.

In an example of what can go wrong, a man named James died unexpectedly, leaving behind his wife and young daughter.  He also had an adult daughter from his first marriage.  James’s wife did not immediately open the estate for probate.  Eight years later, James’s older daughter initiated probate of the estate.  Based on information she had received from an estate research firm, she told the probate court that she was the only surviving family member, and the court awarded her the entire estate.  Several months later, Agnes’s wife petitioned the probate court to correct its mistake.  It did, and it ordered the estate research firm to return the money it had received as a commission.  The probate court then distributed 50 percent of James’s estate to his wife and 25 percent to each of his daughters.

Contact David Toback With Questions About Probate Cases That Start Years Later

A Central Florida probate lawyer can help you if a family member of yours died several years ago, but no one has petitioned the court to open the estate for probate until now.  Contact David Toback in Tampa, Florida to set up a consultation.



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