Frequently Asked Questions:

Probate FAQ

What is probate?

Probate is the process of administering and distributing someone's estate after they pass away. This should be a simple process, but legal issues and disputes over the decedent's estate can sometimes make the process complicated and difficult. That is why you need a probate lawyer by your side.

How much does probate cost?

It is common for people to want to know how much probate will cost. This is especially true with small estates, because you may be wondering if probate is even worth it. The filing of a probate proceeding involves court fees, filing fees, and other administrative fees, but the biggest expense is usually the attorney fees. When a full estate administration is necessary, the Florida Probate Code provides for "reasonable attorney fees" equal to 3% of the value of the estate. However, small estates can often cost much less. Call our office for a free estimate of how much probate will cost in your case.

How long does probate take?

The length of time needed for probate varies depending on circumstances (such as whether or not disputes and litigation are involved), but the average full estate administration takes from 6 - 12 months. However, small estates can usually be administered in a much shorter time frame.

Can probate be avoided?

In many cases, yes, probate can be minimized through proper planning and preparation. A comprehensive and well-drafted estate plan can help make the probate process run much smoother and, in some cases, eliminate the need for probate altogether.

Real Estate Law FAQ

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What is real estate law anyway?

Virtually any legal matter or litigation that has to do with a piece of property – such as homes, commercial structures, or privately-owned business, to name a few – is considered real estate law. Due to the complicated nature of these laws, many attorneys are decidedly unfamiliar with them. If you have any problems regarding your property or estate, you need to find a qualified real estate attorney.

If I find a problem with my home after the purchase, what can I do?

Under Florida Law, a residential home seller has the legal obligation to disclose all defects known to the seller that materially affect the value of the property that are not readily observable to the buyer. Many times, a seller fails to make the disclosure required by law. If this happens to you, you will need to take the seller to court with the help of a real estate law attorney.

Will claims or liens prevent me from selling my home?

In short, the answer is yes. In Florida, a seller must provide marketable title when selling real property. In order to provide marketable title, all liens and clouds on title must be resolved prior to closing. Often, a seller must retain a Sarasota real estate lawyer to resolve all liens and title defects to proceed to a successful closing.

I've purchased a home "as-is" – am I responsible for any repairs?

If you purchased a home "as-is", you will ultimately be responsible for any future repairs and maintenance. Before you sign an "As-Is" Contract, make sure you are provided with a satisfactory inspection period to allow you to thoroughly inspect the property. It is important that you have a thorough inspection and are able to interpret the results. You should consult with a Sarasota Real Estate Attorney BEFORE you sign your contract to be sure your interests are adequately protected.

Foreclosure FAQ

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I am in foreclosure – what do I do?

If you have been served with foreclosure papers or will be within a short period of time, you should know that the worst thing that you can do is NOTHING. Ignoring your real estate problems will only make them worse. Homeowners facing these difficult and challenging circumstances are urged to contact The Edwards Law Firm, PL for a consultation to evaluate their financial situation and their mortgage documents. The cost of our foreclosure defense services is surprisingly very affordable and may be available at no cost to the homeowner under certain circumstances. However, we cannot help you if you do not take the first step and call our office.

Which is better for me - a short sale or a foreclosure?

Generally speaking, a short sale of an underwater property has less of an effect on your long term credit rating than the completion of a foreclosure does. By doing NOTHING and allowing the lender to complete its foreclosure, a homeowner is subject to significant long term effect on credit and a later action by the lender to collect the deficiency. A short sale allows the homeowner to retain control over their underwater mortgage problem by negotiating their best deal with a buyer and then negotiating the terms of its acceptance with the lender, including a waiver or settlement of the deficiency. If a homeowner does not like the terms of the short sale acceptance - for example, the lender requires a payment to settle the deficiency balance that is more than the homeowner can afford - then the homeowner can cancel the short sale contract with no further obligation.

What is an "underwater mortgage"?

An "underwater mortgage" is a mortgage whose balance exceeds the market value of the property. In Sarasota, values have recovered from their 2008-2010 lows, but in many areas, there are still a significant number of underwater properties.

What is a "strategic default"?

A "strategic default" or "voluntary default" is a situation where a borrower makes a conscious choice to stop paying their underwater mortgage because the borrower realizes that they are throwing "good money after bad" and that the amount being paid on their mortgage (which is significantly more than rent on a comparable property) will never be recouped. A "strategic default" is often coupled with a short sale which allows a borrower to negotiate the terms of a sale of the underwater property with the lender to include a waiver of deficiency.

What is a "waiver of deficiency"?

A "deficiency" is the amount of a mortgage that exceeds its value. A deficiency is possible in both a short sale and a foreclosure. In a short sale, a deficiency can result because the property is being sold for less than the mortgage balance. In a foreclosure, a deficiency can result if the fair market value of the property is less than the mortgage balance on the date of the foreclosure sale. A homeowner who does NOTHING and allows a foreclosure to be finalized by the lender is subject to later collection efforts by the lender. A homeowner who retains control over their real estate problem and sells their underwater property in a short sale has the ability to negotiate with the lender for a "waiver of the deficiency", often with little or no money paid by the borrower. The Edwards Law Firm, PL is experienced and qualified to negotiate your short sale and obtain a waiver of deficiency from the lender. However, you must call us for help.

Will the lender take a deed in lieu of foreclosure to settle my case?

A "deed in lieu" of foreclosure occurs when the borrower has offered to deed the property to the lender instead of allowing the lender to complete its foreclosure. After a borrower has given the lender a "deed in lieu", the lender will own the property and the borrower will have no further obligation on the note and mortgage. Generally speaking, the lender will accept the "deed in lieu" in full settlement of the note to include a waiver of the deficiency. Whether or not the lender will accept an offer of a deed in lieu will depend on the individual circumstances of the borrower. We can quickly evaluate the likelihood of a lender's acceptance of a "deed in lieu" during a consultation.

Can a lender pursue me for a deficiency balance after a short sale?

Depending on who a homeowner retains to negotiate their short sale, often there is no attempt to resolve the future possibility of a lender pursuing the homeowner for a deficiency. If a homeowner sold their property through a short sale and the short sale approval letter does not include terms that indicate a "full settlement" or "waiver of deficiency", it is very likely that the lender (or a collection agency working for the lender) will later pursue the homeowner for additional sums to pay the deficiency balance. At The Edwards Law Firm, PL, we always attempt to negotiate a full settlement of the note and mortgage in a short sale to avoid the possibility of a later deficiency judgment.

General FAQ

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How much does it cost to hire The Edwards Law Firm, PL?

At The Edwards Law Firm PL, we pride ourselves in offering a variety of fee structures to our clients. Typically, we will bill for our services on an hourly or flat-fee basis but will often structure the payment of our attorney's fees in an different way to suit a particular client's needs. Call The Edwards Law Firm, PL today for a consultation and discussion of the fee structure that will apply to your situation.


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