St. Petersburg Wills, Trusts & Probate Lawyer
Our attorneys represent clients in probate administration matters and estate planning. We recognize every client’s situation is unique, and we offer personalized estate planning services tailored to accomplish your goals and objectives while minimizing or eliminating potential tax implications. Through estate planning and probate, we help ensure that you and your family are taken care of during your lifetime and that your wishes for the future are fulfilled after you are gone. Call Meros, Smith, Lazzara, Brennan & Brennan, P.A., for help with St. Petersburg wills, trusts & probate.
Wills are important for a number of reasons. They enable you to appoint an executor for your estate whom you trust to carry out these essential duties. Through your will, you can name a guardian for your minor children, whether you have any now or may have some in the future. The will can also be used to make specific gifts to individuals and institutions of your choosing, leaving a lasting legacy in your memory. Further, the will can help ensure no part of your estate gets left out and that all assets are properly distributed or transferred to a trust.
At Meros, Smith, Lazzara, Brennan & Brennan, P.A., we take the time to understand your needs and desires. We’ll draft a will that accomplishes your wishes, meets all legal formalities under Florida law and is self-proving to ease the probate process. Our insightful and experienced estate planning lawyers are also available to review your will periodically and revise it as needed, such as in the event of a divorce or other life event impacting you or your heirs. Our lead attorney for probate and estate planning matters, Walter E. Smith, is also a Florida State Bar Board Certified Civil Trial Lawyer and Board Certified Business Litigation Lawyer. Should any will contests or challenges arise, our firm is well-equipped to provide capable and assertive representation in court.
In addition to preparing your will, we’ll also prepare durable powers of attorney, living wills, and healthcare directives/medical directives to ensure your medical needs and financial affairs are handled in accordance with your wishes by people you trust, should you ever become incapacitated for a period and unable to manage your affairs. Our comprehensive estate planning attorneys help make sure you and your family are protected and your needs are met.
Revocable living trusts are an alternative method to transfer property to heirs and beneficiaries that offer many advantages over using a will as the primary means to distribute an estate. For one thing, trusts avoid probate, which can be an expensive and time-consuming process. Also, trusts are private documents, whereas wills become a matter of public record. Individuals wishing to keep details about their financial net worth and where it’s going private can keep the media or members of the general public out of their affairs by using trusts.
Different types of trusts can also be used to accomplish specific purposes. For instance, a special needs trust can leave money to an individual with disabilities without jeopardizing their eligibility for means-tested government benefits. An asset protection trust or spendthrift trust can protect an inheritance from being lost to an heir’s creditors or in a divorce or lawsuit, or due to problems with substance abuse, mental health or bad spending habits. Some trusts can ensure gifts to family members and charities, while other trusts can maximize tax planning and investments for the grantor and beneficiaries.
Probate is required to give effect to the terms of a person’s will and distribute any assets that do not pass outside of probate, such as trusts, life insurance policies, jointly-titled property, and certain retirement accounts or bank accounts, depending on how they are designated. Probate is also used to pay debts and taxes owed by the estate and settle any creditor claims against the estate.
Probate in St. Petersburg is supervised by the Pinellas County Court, but the actual work involved falls on the shoulders of the personal representative of the estate, such as someone nominated in the will to be its executor or otherwise appointed by the court. Often, this person is a grieving spouse or child who might be overwhelmed by the numerous jobs required of a probate administrator. Meros, Smith, Lazzara, Brennan & Brennan, P.A., can help by providing advice throughout the process and taking on any tasks that are better suited for an experienced probate attorney to handle. Our probate lawyers can help with every aspect of the Florida probate process, including:
- Filing the petition in court to open the probate estate
- Submitting the will to the court
- Locating and notifying heirs regarding the probate proceeding
- Notifying creditors as required by law
- Conducting an inventory of the estate
- Paying debts and claims against the estate
- Challenging disputed claims and resolving them through litigation, if necessary
- Filing required tax returns
- Managing estate property for the benefit of the heirs
- Distributing assets according to the terms of the will
- Filing documents required to close the estate
Our team can also identify whether the estate qualifies for disposition without administration and if so, guide you through this informal, summary alternative to probate.
Help With Wills, Trusts & Probate in St. Petersburg and Surrounding Areas
From simple estates to complex probate matters, including adversarial proceedings related to will contests, probate or trust administration, the law firm of Meros, Smith, Lazzara, Brennan & Brennan, P.A., provides practical advice and professional assistance to meet your needs. Call our St. Petersburg office or contact us online to schedule a consultation.