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Probate is the legal process of finalizing a person’s finances and property after death. Through probate, legal debts are paid and property is distributed to heirs. Titles to assets are legally transferred by the personal representative to heirs and filed with the appropriate government offices.

Florida probate attorneys can assist with the administration of an estate. They also assist individual heirs if they have concerns or disputes with other heirs or the personal representative.

Five Things You Need to Know About the Florida Probate Process

1. There are different types of probate estates.

The type of probate depends on the person’s assets at the time of death. For a person who did not own real estate and whose personal property is worth less than the cost of final expenses, a form entitled “Disposition of Personal Property Without Administration” may be filed with the court instead of formal administration.

Formal administration is the most common type of probate estate. It is the formal process of distributing assets and paying debts of the decedent. If the total value of the decedent’s property is $75,000 or less, the estate may qualify for summary administration, which is an expedited version of formal administration.

2. All assets may not pass through probate.

The personal representative is responsible for identifying and securing the assets subject to the probate estate. However, some assets may not pass through probate. Assets with beneficiary designations, such as life insurance policies and retirement accounts, pass directly to the beneficiaries. Assets held in trust typically do not pass through probate and some property that is held in joint tenancy may not be subject to probate.

3. Estates can be probated without a will.

If a person died without a will, an estate might still be necessary to distribute assets and pay debts. Florida’s intestate laws govern estates in which the person died without a valid will. The intestate laws dictate how assets are distributed to heirs following a statutory priority.

4. You have ten days to deposit the original will with the court.

According to Florida Statutes §732.09, the party holding a person’s original will has ten days from notice of the person’s death to deposit the original will with the probate court in the county in which the decedent last resided. Depositing the original will with the probate court does not open a probate estate.

The court holds the will in case an estate is necessary. If a person died owning property that requires probate, the personal representative named in the will files a petition with the probate court to open an estate.

5. A personal representative has numerous duties to probate an estate.

A formal administration requires that the personal representative take several steps to ensure that the estate is administered correctly. The personal representative typically:

  • Petitions to open a probate estate.
  • Publish Notice to Creditors of the estate (the court typically handles this step).
  • Serves Notice of Administration to potential heirs.
  • Identify and secure the property of the estate.
  • Conduct a diligent search for valid, legal debts owed by the decedent at the time of death.
  • Review claims filed by creditors and object to improperly filed claims.
  • Pay valid claims.
  • File personal tax returns and estate tax returns when required.
  • Prepare probate forms, including but not limited to inventories, accountings, and distributions.
  • Pay the costs of administering the estate.
  • Sell assets as directed by the will or distribute assets as directed by the will, statute, or court order.
  • Petition to close the estate.

There could be additional steps, depending on the estate. A personal representative may need to hire one or more professionals to assist with the probate, including accountants, estate attorneys, tax preparers, realtors, and appraisers.

Contact Our Florida Probate Attorneys with Questions

The above information is a brief overview of some of the things that you may need to know about probating an estate in Florida. If you have specific questions or need assistance with an estate, our Florida probate attorneys are available to answer your questions and assist you with probate matters. Schedule a consult with one of our experienced Florida estate planning attorneys today.