Wills and Probate

If you are asking yourself what is a will? A will is an instrument in which you are able to instruct who will receive your assets after your death and who will handle paying your final bills and distributing of your assets.


A will is especially important if you have minor children or grandchildren that you wish to receive certain or all of your assets. Or if you want to designate a testamentary trustee to hold those assets in trust to be administered for the benefit of your minor children or grandchildren, until they reach legal age or any other age you desire, and ultimately distributed outright or as otherwise instructed by you. For your minor children and grandchildren, you can designate in your will who you want to serve as testamentary trustee to hold those assets in trust for the benefit of your minor children or grandchildren by naming that person in your will. In general, minors should not own assets. If a minor owns assets, generally a court-appointed guardian in a guardianship proceeding must oversee the assets and the administration and distribution of those assets, with any assets remaining being turned over to the minor upon reaching legal age, unless otherwise instructed by you.

For this reason, in order to seek to avoid court guardianship proceedings, an option that may work is for you to make provisions for those assets for minors in a testamentary trust, which is a type of trust created in your will that takes effect after your death. A testamentary trust can also be created in your will for persons of legal age if you desire to instruct a trustee on how your trust assets are to be administered and distributed to the persons you designate to receive your assets.

A will must go through the probate process for your bills to be paid and your assets to be distributed. As a probate estate lawyer, I can assist in estate planning and the probate of an estate after the death of a loved one. When a person passes away, someone will need to open a probate estate at court. This is usually the person named as the personal representative or executor in the will if the deceased person had a will, or, if not, a person designated in accordance with law to administer the estate by handling the collection and distribution of estate assets and the payment of creditors. If the administration of the estate requires a personal representative be appointed in a formal or ancillary administration, the appropriate paperwork must be filed with the probate court to obtain a court order appointing a personal representative and the issuance of letters of administration that empower the personal representative to administer the estate, with any required notice to the beneficiaries or heirs of the estate or interested parties. There will be certain procedural matters to accomplish initially, and I will guide and assist you throughout the administration of the estate. After letters of administration are issued, the personal representative, during the first stage of the administration of the estate, gathers information regarding the estate assets, the funeral and other expenses of the estate administration, bills, taxes, liabilities, and creditors’ claims, and publishes notice to creditors and serves known or reasonably ascertainable creditors. I provide legal advice and assist the personal representative with the legal paperwork to accomplish this.

After the initial stage of administration, I assist the personal representative with paying funeral and other expenses of the administration of the estate, estate bills, estate taxes, liabilities, and creditors’ claims in the legal prescribed order and manner. I will also assist the personal representative determine if any non-exempt real estate will need to be sold in order to pay claims or determine if other assets will be needed in order to handle the claims in the estate. Generally once the claims are paid, if not sooner, the assets are then distributed by the personal representative to the beneficiaries or heirs. There are many legal considerations in the administration of estates, and it is my job to assist the personal representative to carry out the requirements in a competent and efficient manner. When you hire me, I will assist you, the personal representative, with the opening, administering and closing of the estate. To the extent that the estate qualifies for what is known as a summary administration and does not need a personal representative, I help you with the probate process and obtaining a court order distributing the probate assets.

Power of Attorney

A Power of Attorney is a legal document that names a person or entity to act for you and authorizes and empowers the person or entity named to make health care decisions and handle investment and financial transactions and other matters as instructed by you for your benefit during your lifetime. This document is especially important if you ever become unable to handle your own affairs in an effort to avoid guardianship proceedings.

Living Will

A Living Will is a document where you can direct whether or not you want life-prolonging procedures if you are in a terminal condition, end-stage condition, or in a persistent vegetative state. In order for your directions to be carried out, your primary physician and another consulting physician must have determined that there is no reasonable medical probability of your recovery from such condition. In your living will, you may direct that life-prolonging procedures be withheld or withdrawn when the application of such procedures would serve only to prolong artificially the process of dying and that you be permitted to die naturally with only the administration of medication, or the performance of any medical procedures deemed necessary to provide you with comfort care, or to alleviate pain. In the absence of your ability to provide express and informed consent regarding the use of life-prolonging procedures, you may express in your living will that it is your intention that your living will be honored by your spouse, family, friends and physicians, as the final expression of your legal right to refuse medical or surgical treatment and to accept the consequences for such refusal. You may further designate a person to carry out your instructions in the event that you have been determined to be unable to provide express and informed consent regarding the withholding, withdrawal, or continuation of life-prolonging procedures.

Allow me, as an experienced estate planning attorney in Central Florida, to provide the personalized legal advice and service you deserve as I analyze the details of your important legal issues and transactions, such as wills, probate of estates, powers of attorney and living wills.

I look forward to working with you as your estate planning lawyer to achieve your estate planning goals or the handling of a probate estate in Orlando and Central Florida, including Orange, Osceola, Brevard, and Polk Counties. I will provide you with competent advice to reach your estate planning goals or in the handling of a probate estate. When you come to me as your probate estate attorney to prepare your documents for estate planning or for probate, I am dedicated to providing you with a complete set of legal documents for your specific circumstances and legal advice in the process.

Call or email today to schedule an appointment for a personalized consultation with me.

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The law office of Patricia L. Daugherty is also a debt relief agency. Ms. Daugherty helps people file for bankruptcy relief under the bankruptcy code.

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