Lawyer For Probate & Estate Administration In Florida
What Is Probate & How Is It Started?
Probate is a legal process that governs the administration and transfer of property after someone dies. It is often complex and it can be hard to figure out the process without proper guidance. Probate is a necessary process that most Florida estates go through. As with any state, there are multiple factors that come into play in the probate process in Florida.
It is mandatory under Florida law for anyone in possession of a will to submit it to the local courthouse within 10 days of becoming aware of the testator’s death. The time limit set here is extremely short. Technically, this is an important part of the probate guidelines in Florida. But in practice, many people file after the 10-day deadline with no repercussions.
Typically, probate cases are submitted to the circuit court clerk in the county where the decedent last resided. A filing fee is paid and a file number is issued. The clerk keeps an ongoing record of all documents associated with the administration of a decedent’s probate estate once the petition for probate has been filed.
The Decedent & The Probate Process
The probate court is responsible for overseeing the distribution of a decedent’s property after their death. Commonly, this entails proving the validity of the will and carrying out the wishes of the decedent.
Although not set in stone, the average duration of the probate process is typically between six months and a year. However, each case is unique so expect that some probates can take significantly longer than others. The circumstances and duration of the case can vary greatly from the norm if, for example, the will’s validity is contested. A qualified probate lawyer can help you navigate the probate process in court, from beginning to end.
What Are Probate Assets?
Any of the following could be considered probate assets:
- Land, buildings, cars, money, and anything else the deceased owned are all considered “property” in this context.
- A financial asset that was solely owned by a deceased person, such as a bank or investment account.
- Payouts from a pension plan, IRA, or life insurance policy will go to the deceased’s heirs after their deaths.
- Probate assets include any real property that was either solely titled in the decedent’s name or jointly titled with another party (except for homestead properties).
Probate With A Will
If the deceased person left a will, the probate process is known as “probate with a will” in the state of Florida. To get the ball rolling, the heirs must file a petition for administration with the probate court in the county where the deceased person lived. The court will then appoint a personal representative (executor) who will be responsible for managing the estate and distributing assets according to the will.
The personal representative must locate and inventory all of the assets and property owned by the deceased person. They must also notify creditors and pay off any outstanding debts or taxes owed by the estate. Once all debts have been paid, the personal representative can distribute the remaining assets to the beneficiaries named in the will.
If any disputes arise, such as a challenge to the validity of the will or a disagreement among beneficiaries, the court will resolve them. The court will also oversee the probate process to ensure that all steps are taken correctly.
In Florida, the probate process can take anywhere from several months to over a year, depending on the complexity of the estate and any challenges that arise. It’s important to note that probate can be costly, as there are court fees, legal fees, and other expenses involved.
Overall, the probate process with a will in Florida involves filing a petition, appointing a personal representative, inventorying assets, paying debts and taxes, distributing assets to beneficiaries, and resolving any disputes or challenges.
If you happen to be in Miami-Dade County, it is best to consult a probate lawyer in Coral Gables FL to answer your questions regarding the probate process with a will.
Probate Without A Will
When a person dies without a will in Florida, it is referred to as dying “intestate.” In such cases, the probate process is different from the process with a will.
The first step is for a family member or other interested party to file a petition for administration with the probate court in the county where the deceased person lived. The court will then appoint a personal representative (administrator) who will be responsible for managing the estate and distributing assets according to Florida’s intestate succession laws.
Intestate succession laws in Florida determine how the assets of the deceased person will be distributed among their surviving heirs, based on their relationship to the deceased person. For example, if the deceased person was married with no children, their spouse would inherit the entire estate. If the deceased person was unmarried with children, their children would inherit the estate equally.
The personal representative must locate and inventory all of the assets and property owned by the deceased person. They must also notify creditors and pay off any outstanding debts or taxes owed by the estate. Once all debts have been paid, the personal representative can distribute the remaining assets to the heirs according to the intestate succession laws.
If any disputes arise, such as a challenge to the appointment of the personal representative or a disagreement among heirs, the court will resolve them. The court will also oversee the probate process to ensure that all steps are taken correctly.
In Florida, the probate process when there is no will can take several months to over a year, depending on the complexity of the estate and any challenges that arise. It’s important to note that probate can be costly, as there are court fees, legal fees, and other expenses involved.
Overall, the probate process in Florida and any other state for that matter, is quite complex. A skilled probate attorney will be able to provide appropriate guidance on what to do and when to do it.
In Florida, regular probate refers to the formal administration process.
Formal probate may be required if the estate does not qualify for an informal method of administration. The formal probate process begins when the will’s designated executor, or other interested parties, petitions the circuit court to be designated as the estate’s representative. Probate can be handled in one of the ways:
- Formal administration.
- Summary administration.
- Disposition of Personal Property Without Administration.
Probate court is usually held in the area where the decedent last resided. Notice is given to beneficiaries and heirs so that they may raise objections. Letters of administration are issued by the court and give the personal representative legal authority to handle estate matters. A valid will has been submitted to the court system.
This can be accomplished by obtaining sworn statements from the will’s witnesses attesting to its authenticity. If the will is considered “self-proving,” then you only need to send the document itself. If the witnesses to the will’s execution also sign a statement in the presence of a notary public, the will is considered self-proving under Florida law.
The personal representative, with the court’s oversight, collects and inventories assets, starts paying debts and taxes, and gives the remainder to the beneficiaries. Finally, the representative should file an accounting with the court detailing the estate’s assets, the personal representative’s management of those assets, and the distribution strategy. Those who don’t agree with accounting are free to challenge it in court.
After all of the assets have been divided and distributed, the personal representative petitions the court to close the estate by filing proof or receipts. An order from the court will be released and it formally ends the administration of the estate and relieves the representative of further duties.
Many Florida estates qualify for “summary administration,” a simplified probate process. Compared to full administration, summary administration takes much less time and money. The following conditions make it a viable alternative:
- It has been more than two years since the decedent’s passing.
- The total value of the estate that must go through probate is less than $75,000.
The named executor of the will or someone who stands to inherit property from the deceased must as “Petition for Summary Administration” with the probate court. The petition must be signed and confirmed by the deceased person’s surviving spouse. If any beneficiary isn’t willing to sign the petition, legal notice of its filing must be served on them.
To petition for summary administration of an estate, you must demonstrate eligibility, list the decedent’s funds and their value, and specify who will be receiving what.
In summary administration, there is no appointed personal representative by the court. If the court rules that summary administration is appropriate, it will issue an order transferring ownership of the estate’s assets to the rightful heirs. For example, you could use this court ruling to prove to a financial institution that you’re the legal heir to money deposited with it by the decedent.
Disposition Of Personal Property Without Administration
Despite what the phrase “without administration” might lead you to believe, this method involves bypassing the probate hearing altogether. It should be noted that this option is only available if:
- No real estate or property of any kind was left by the decedent.
- When compared to the worth of the decedent’s assets, the total cost of the funeral is less.
- No creditor can claim the personal property.
As there is no formal administrative hearing, a “Disposition of Personal Properties Without Administration” form must be filed to reclaim assets. This is a quick and easy way to transfer a small estate, but does not come without risks. Whether you need help with the probate process or are just looking for someone who can explain the ins and outs of estate planning in layman’s terms, a probate lawyer can help you.
Key Roles In The Probate Process
The probate process can be confusing especially with multiple people involved in the process. Here’s a quick guide on who does what in the process:
The Probate Court In Coral Gables Florida
The role of the court in most probates is that of a supervisor to ensure that the process is carried out in compliance with the law. During probate, the court is responsible for many things.
- Verifies the will’s validity. When a will is submitted to the court, it’s going to be reviewed (along with any accompanying witness statements) to ensure its validity.
- Releases claims from creditors. The deceased person’s personal representative must inform all debtors of the death and the subsequent opportunity to be paid. All claims must be reviewed by a judge before any decisions can be made about how to settle them.
- Needs to verify the accounting done by the personal representative. All of the representative’s filings, such as an accounting of the estate’s assets and receipts for expenses paid from the estate, are verified by the court.
- Validates the asset count. All of the decedent’s assets can be distributed to heirs after the court verifies that the representative has properly collected and valued them.
- Manages the process of transferring out possessions. The court oversees the distribution of assets to the correct parties under Florida law and the wishes of the decedent. The court will ensure that all beneficiaries have been made aware of the process.
Personal Representative Or Executor
The personal representative or executor is the individual tasked with initiating the probate process. The executor named in a will is the person responsible for starting the probate process by submitting the will to the court. This person is usually a close relative or trusted friend. There is a deadline for completing this procedure following the death of the decedent.
The representative and the court collaborate to inventory and valuate the decedent’s assets. They are also responsible for paying off the latter’s liabilities. The personal representative can sell off assets to settle debts if necessary.
The personal representative or executor has many duties, including
- Obtaining copies of all relevant documents from the decedent’s attorney and financial institutions (including stocks, bonds, and bank accounts).
- Determining whether any taxes are due on the estate.
- Identifying all potential heirs, paying off any debts or bills owed by the deceased person before distributing assets among heirs according to their wishes as outlined in said will.
Why Would You Need A Probate Attorney?
You should consult with a Florida probate attorney in all probate matters. Probate in Florida law requires legal representation, especially for formal administration.
Most personal representatives would benefit from the assistance of a probate attorney. The court is only able to supervise the process but cannot provide one-on-one help. The various stages and documentation involved in the probate process will be better handled by an experienced probate lawyer.
“How Do I Find The Best Probate Attorney Near Me?”
If you’re asking yourself this question, the best way is to open up a search engine like Google and type in “best probate attorney near me” This should pull up a list of qualified lawyers near your area. The next practical step is to check these listings to determine the best fit for your circumstances.
Losing a loved one is painful and grief can be debilitating in many cases. You are very likely not in the best frame of mind to deal with probate matters on your own. The Estate Plan is an estate planning law firm that focuses on estate planning and probate matters. The team of experienced lawyers and staff provide clients with dedicated assistance and representation. Reach out to them by visiting their offices at 135 San Lorenzo Ave #750 Coral Gables, FL 33146 or calling them at (305) 677-8489.