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Why is Probate case taking so long to end?

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I have a question regarding a Probate case in Miami, Florida. I am the current Executor. I don't live in the State, but I hired a lawyer to represent me. On 5/8/01 the case would have been opened for a year. The Estate is small, less than $100,000 but more than $65,000. There are no outstanding loans, debts, or credits on the Estate. All necessary forms have been signed and returned to the Lawyer. In my limited view of the Law, this case should have been closed six months ago, at least. I feel the Lawyer is dragging it on. In October 2000, he stated the we were waiting for the IRS clearance to comeback stating that there are no taxes on the Estate. Last month, I received a letter from the court stating that, for a year, the case has been dormant. Papers will have to be filed in order to either close the case or extend it. When I asked the Lawyer about this, he stated that this is routine and the courts computer kicked this letter out. The letter also stated if no forms are filed in the next 30-45 days, the case will be dismissed. I am fed up at this point. If I go with a new lawyer now, do I have to start from the beginning and wait another year or can the new lawyer pick up where the case left off? If I go with a new lawyer, will they be able to end the case in the next 30-45 days? What can I do if anything, as Executor, to end this case myself?



MAY 10, 2001


I can't say for sure, but I think it is possible that this lawyer may be stalling when he says that he is "waiting for IRS clearance to state that there are no taxes on this estate". It is common knowledge that an estate is not subject to federal inheritance taxes unless the amount is over $675,000, so this estate clearly is below that guideline. Just to be on the safe side, ask him for verification that he has corresponded with the IRS about this matter--ask him to see the letter he sent to them (along with a copy of the tax return) or any letter that he has received from them about this matter. If he can't produce any documentation about this, then I would say his excuse is highly suspicious.

I can't figure out the reason that your attorney is stalling to keep this case open (maybe so he can bill additional hours of supposed "work" on the case), but you clearly should not be using his services anymore since he is not working in the best interests of you or the estate.

Regarding the letter that you received from the court, you should take that letter very seriously (your lawyer gave you very bad advice when he said that it was just a "routine letter that the computer kicked out"!). Get a new lawyer (preferably in the same city as the other attorney) to file the forms within the specified time period (he can tell you whether or not you need to officially "fire" the other attorney--the new attorney will be responsible for contacting the old attorney to get any papers regarding your estate case sent to him). Of course you need to get the forms filed within the time period, or else you would lose the right to receive or distribute any monies/property left by the estate!

Your probate case will most likely be continued at whatever point it was left off at (in other words you would not be starting again at the beginning). No one can make a specific promise as to when your case will end, as other factors to consider are how many other cases the probate court has to work on, but with a new attorney he should be able to get a fairly quick ending to getting this estate closed as soon as the weak excuse about the IRS is out of the way.

Just be patient and everything will work out okay!


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