When an individual dies, his or her estate goes through the probate process. During the probate process, the deceased individual’s assets are distributed among his or her heirs or beneficiaries. In order to begin the probate process, all interested parties must file a petition with the appropriate court. Below is an overview of the probate process in Florida.
Personal Representative Appointment
Following the filing of a probate petition, the court assesses the validity of the deceased individual’s will. If an individual dies without a valid will, then the state’s intestacy succession laws determine who is entitled to inherit the probate estate. If there is a valid will, however, the court appoints a personal representative to handle the administration of the probate estate. The personal representative of the probate estate is responsible for contacting all heirs and beneficiaries once probate has been opened. This individual is also required to notify all of the deceased individual’s creditors in a manner prescribed by Florida law. After notification, creditors are allotted a statutorily mandated period of time within which they may file claims against the estate.
Preparation of Inventory
Once a personal representative has been appointed, he or she is required to prepare an inventory of the probate estate’s assets and assess their value. However, the personal representative is not required to do this alone. He or she may hire accountants, appraisers, and other professionals to assist with the administration of the estate. The personal representative must also supply the court with a list of beneficiaries, heirs, and other parties of interest. In addition, the personal representative is responsible for the preservation of all estate assets prior to distribution.
Payment of Debts and Taxes
The personal representative of an estate must also settle with creditors, pay all debts owed, file the final income tax return of the deceased individual, and pay all required federal and state estate taxes. An accounting of all payments must be reported to the probate court.
Accounting and Distribution
Finally, the personal representative must ensure that all assets are properly distributed. Following the payment of taxes and debts but prior to the distribution of assets to beneficiaries and heirs, the estate’s personal representative is required to provide the court with a final accounting.
The probate process can be complicated, so it’s important to consult with expert Florida legal counsel prior to filing a petition. At The Law Offices of Jeffrey A. Herzog, P.A., our experienced probate and estate administration attorneys provide individuals in Florida with sophisticated probate guidance. Our Florida attorneys, relying on years of probate experience, support our clients through each step of the estate administration process in order to achieve the most desirable results possible. So don’t wait until complications arise in the probate process to speak with an attorney. Contact the Law Offices of Jeffrey A. Herzog, P.A. today for a consultation.