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The death of a parent can be devastating. But while you are working through the emotions of this new chapter in your life, the last thing that you feel like doing is dealing with the confusion of their estate – especially if it goes to probate.

Probate is a legal process that settles an individual’s estate by a court-appointed executor. Probate can prove to be a lengthy and expensive process, sometimes even lasting years at a time. 

Can you avoid probate?

If an executor can prove that all of your parent’s debts have been paid by their estate and there are no significant debts that remain, probate may possibly be avoidable. In situations such as these, the court will likely decide whether to settle the estate – sometimes using an affidavit. 

If your parents pass without a Will and/or a clear, legal estate plan, or if Medicaid or other social services are involved, it is likely that the court will find probate is necessary. 

How long is the probate process?

Regardless of whether or not someone has a Will, when they pass the probate process will still usually take many months to complete. First, the individual must file the Will with the probate court. This may be the executor, widow/er, family lawyer, etc. You can file this along with a death certificate.

How does the process work?

Generally, the probate process will follow the following steps:

  1. A hepring will take place at which a judge will decide whether or not the Will is valid. When there is no Will, the heirs of the estate will be summoned to attend the hearing. At the hearing, the heirs can voice any concerns they have about the estate.
  2. Next, the judge will appoint an executor. The judge will choose among the individual designated in the Will, a legal heir, or a surviving spouse. However, those who have been offered the executor position have the right to decline it. The heirs and the executor will then sign the documents, making their positions official. 
  3. Once the positions have been established and confirmed, the executor must ensure that all creditors have been notified as to the individual’s death and must prepare tax returns for the deceased. 

When all of the debts have been paid off, the executor will then file the correct paperwork necessary to begin distributing assets to the correct beneficiaries. If no Will exists, the court will decide who the correct heirs should be. 

The Law Offices of Jeffrey A. Herzog, P.A. Help Those in Florida with Estate Planning Needs

Despite its oft-complex nature, the probate process can be used to assuage any concerns. The relevant laws serve to protect the estate of any everyone involved. Regardless, the most important thing that you can do is to remain patient and call an experienced Estate Planning Attorney. At the Law Office of Jeffrey A. Herzog, P.A., we understand the importance of getting your loved one’s Will through probate as soon as possible. To learn more about the probate process and estate planning, or to schedule a free consultation, visit us online or contact us today!