A lot of people who first visit an estate planning attorney have never been to court, have never filed a lawsuit, and have little idea of what the legal process is all about. The very idea of speaking to a lawyer is itself often very intimidating, and can cause many people to feel nervous. After all, what if you do something wrong? What if the court doesn’t approve your estate plan?
To help demystify the topic, we are going to look at the role a court plays throughout the estate planning process. Here are some commonly asked questions that a lot of people have about courts and their role in estate planning.
Will I have to go to court if I make an estate plan?
Probably not. At its most basic, the estate planning process is simply a way for you to make certain types of decisions. The law says that you, as an adult, get to make choices about your property, your representatives, your health care, and other important issues. If you make these decisions in a legally enforceable manner, you can rest assured that, should you die or become incapacitated, your wishes will be protected.
When you make these decisions, you have to make sure that you create documents that comply with various Florida and federal laws. Your attorney will guide you through this process and make sure you have the right kinds of documents in place.
However, during the process of creating an estate plan and developing these legal documents, you will most likely never have to go to court or stand in front of a judge.
What about notaries?
Some of the legal documents you create as a part of the estate planning process might require you to have some documents notarized. Notarization means signing a document in the presence of a licensed official (a notary) who confirms your identity. Notarizing a document doesn’t necessarily mean that a court will later accept it, nor does it mean that the notary verifies the veracity of the statements the document contains. It simply means that a licensed state official confirms your identity as the person who signs the document.
When does the court get involved?
Courts only get involved in estate planning cases when certain events take place. For example, if someone dies and leaves behind a last will and testament, someone might challenge the validity of that document by filing a lawsuit with the local court. In other cases, a court might get involved if a person becomes incapacitated and it isn’t clear who should have the legal right to make decisions for that person.
In general, courts only get involved in estate planning cases after a person dies or if specific types of conflicts arise.