Thomas-McDonald Law Firm, PA

Firm Overview

The loss of a loved one is a difficult time for family and friends. We have helped guide many families through these times. We will help you from the start to the end of the probate process. We will provide help you prioritize your tasks, organize the estate, and help you stay in compliance with our complex Florida probate laws.

I have affordable fees to preserve your assets. I strive to understand my client's objectives and their goals at the onset of the attorney/client relationship. We will determine together what is best route to achieve my client's objectives and work harmoniously toward reaching the goal as effectively and as caringly as possible.

AREAS OF EXPERTISE
- Probate Administration & Litigation
- Wills and Trusts
- Family
- Trial and Appellate Practice
- Divorce, Child Custody/Time-Sharing, Marital Agreements
- Adoption and Surrogacy Law
- Collaborative Divorce/Family Law (Certified Training Completed March 2017)
- Guardianship & Elder Law
- Family Mediation

Please contact me for a consultation about your options.

Main Office
Main Office
Town Center One
8950 SW. 74th Court, Suite 1711
Miami  FL  33156
Phone
  • (305) 925-6999
Fax
  • (904) 212-2303
Websites

Office Information

Languages Spoken
English, French

Other Offices

Jacksonville Location
301 W. Bay Street
Suite 14114
Jacksonville,  FL  32202
Probate
General Information on the Probate Process
When a person domiciled in Florida passes away with assets in their individual name and with no designated beneficiary, an estate needs to be open to manage the decedent's affairs. This court process is called a probate administration. Probate involves identifying and marshaling the assets of the decedent, notifying the decedent's beneficiaries and creditors of the decedent's death, paying the decedent's debts and expenses of administration, and ultimately distributing assets to the proper persons. Who inherits from the decedent depends on whether the decedent was survived by a spouse and/or minor child, and whether the decedent executed a valid last will and testament devising his assets. When the decedent does not have a last will and testament, they are said to have died intestate (meaning without a will) and their assets are distributed to the survivors as outlined in the Florida Statutes. It is a common misconception that the decedent's assets will escheat (i.e., pass) to the state of Florida. However, the assets of a decedent will escheat to the state of Florida only when the decedent passes away with no last will and testament and no family members can inherit under Florida Statutes.

It is true that the probate administration process can be time-consuming and cumbersome, something that most people strive to avoid. However, the reality is that many people do not execute the proper lifetime estate planning documents necessary to avoid probate. So, for the decedents' estates that are subject to probate, probate administration is an extremely important process that, except in very few and limited circumstances, must by law be managed by a qualified lawyer per Florida. Fla. Prob. R. 5.030 (a).

There are two "main" types of administrationformal administration and summary administration. The personal representative is a fiduciary who has duties and responsibilities to the beneficiaries as well as the creditors.

How long does the probate process take?
In the best case scenario, estates not required to file a federal estate tax return close within five or six months, assuming that there is no litigation, such as a will contest, dispute between beneficiaries, or dispute with a creditor. For those estates required to file a federal estate tax return, the estate can typically not be closed until the closing letter is received from the IRS, which can be a lengthy process. When the decedent has passed away at least two years before the probate administration takes place, the process may be quicker. Furthermore, for more lengthy estates and depending on the facts, sometimes the Judge will authorize a partial distribution to beneficiaries while outstanding issues are being resolved.

So, why does it take so long? Although this is not an exhaustive list, here is a list of tasks that must be accomplished:

- Identification, valuation and safeguard of assets.
- Identification and notification of possible heirs and creditors.
- Assessment of the validity of claims against the estate of the deceased.
- Publication of all legally required notices.
- Management/investment of assets and real estate.
- Application to the court for authorization to liquidate and distribute assets to beneficiaries and creditors.
- Filing and payment of federal and state income, estate, and gift tax returns.
- Objection to the filing of improper claims.
- Defense of lawsuits brought by creditors, if filed.
- Payment of valid claims of creditors.
- Employment of advisors and professionals to assist in administration.
- Payment of administrative expenses.
- Preparation of an inventory of assets and a formal accounting.
- Distribution of statutory amounts (including exempt property) or assets to the surviving spouse or dependent family members.
- Distribution of assets to beneficiaries.
- Closure of probate administration.

All of the above steps are parts of a "formal" probate administration. Florida does provide some alternate procedures in certain limited situations (see below). "Summary" probate administration is generally available if the decedent died more than two (2) years ago or the assets of the decedent's estate are less than $75,000.00, not including the decedent's homestead property.

Our firm represents both personal representatives and beneficiaries of estates. As the personal representative, we ensure that you comply with the Florida Statutes and your fiduciary duties, as well as provide proper notice to the other interested parties. Although the fiduciary is obligated to retain counsel, all interested persons have a right to counsel. We represent beneficiaries of estates either when there is litigation or when a beneficiary just wants to ensure they understand the process and their rights. While the personal representative's attorney has certain duties to beneficiaries, the attorney does not represent the beneficiaries and cannot be relied on for legal advice pertaining to the option(s) of the beneficiary.

Aislynn Thomas-McDonald

Mrs. McDonald practices Family and Probate Law. While Mrs. McDonald is recognized throughout Florida for her success in the courtroom, she contributed to the advancement of Mediation and Collaborative Divorce practices in family law from North to South Florida. She has also dedicated years of her life to teaching, advocating for domestic violence awareness and prevention, children's legal advocacy, the literary arts and women's rights.

Family legal issues have lifelong consequences, so it is crucial to retain a lawyer who is trusted by colleagues and clients. Attorney Thomas-McDonald has earned an AV Preeminent Peer Review Rating by Martindale-Hubbell, a recognition of her superior legal ability and ethics by attorneys familiar with her work.
Education
  • Florida International University
    JD , 2012
  • Mississippi College
    MS , 2005
  • American University of Paris
    BA , 2001

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