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When someone passes away, they often leave many of their assets to family members and close friends. Unfortunately, they also often leave debts and other obligations. How is this handled?

Probate is the legal process used for identifying the assets of a specific decedent’s estate and then using those to pay debts or obligations that are still owed at the time of death. Once these have been paid out, the remaining assets are distributed to the beneficiaries of the deceased’s will, or if they die without a valid will (intestate), then in accordance with Florida’s laws.

Opening the Estate in Florida Probate

The process of Probate begins when either the representative named in the deceased’s will or one of its beneficiaries notifies the court that there is a need to open and process the estate.

In order for the administration of the will to go smoothly, the personal representative has the responsibility of a preliminary identification of the estate’s size, assets, and outstanding debts. It is necessary to create a detailed, itemized list of each asset to ensure that everything is accounted for.

In Florida, the personal representative of an estate is required to hire an attorney unless:

  1. He or she is an admitted Florida attorney, or
  2. He or she is the only interested party to the decedent’s estate.

Once the preliminary assessment is completed and an attorney is hired, the necessary paperwork must be filed with a Florida Probate court. This means that the following requirements must be fulfilled:

  • File a petition to open the estate for Probate
  • File proof of the decedent’s death
  • Serve notice of upcoming estate administration to family members, beneficiaries, trustees, and any other interested parties
  • Serve notice to all known creditors
  • Publish notice for any potentially unknown creditors

Once any claims brought have been addressed and any debts have been paid out, the assets are then distributed to the correct recipients. Barring objection or litigation surrounding the estate, the estate must be closed.

Closing the Estate in Florida Probate

To close an estate, the attorney in charge may file a petition to close it. For the purpose of preventing and avoiding any potential future issues regarding the estate, the Probate Attorney may ask all interested parties to sign a “waiver and consent” form. If an interested party refuses to do so, the personal representative must then provide a formal accounting of the actions taken during the estate’s administration and detail how each asset was distributed. Once the Probate court approves of this accounting, the personal representative will be discharged and the estate will be closed.

The Law Offices of Jeffrey A. Herzog Help Those in Florida Who Are in Need of a Will or Other Estate Planning Tool

If you or a loved one is in need of a will or legal estate planning tool, or if you are in need of an attorney to assist in the administration of an estate, the Law Offices of Jeffrey A. Herzog, P.A. can help. To learn more or to schedule a free consultation, call us at 727-209-4632 today!