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While none of us like to consider our mortality, death is an inescapable truth. One day, we will pass on and leave behind a myriad of details for our heirs to reconcile. Easing your loved ones’ burden in their time of grief requires you to organize your affairs in keeping with your state’s probate guidelines.

In Florida, all decedents’ estates pass through a probate process. During probate, the debts and assets of the deceased are reviewed and reconciled to pay off debts and distribute assets While it is best to hire an experienced Florida probate attorney to navigate probate, it might help to know what to expect from the probate process in Florida.

What is Probate?

Probate is the process of reviewing a decedent’s estate and reconciling any debts against assets. After debts are paid, remaining assets are distributed through the probate court to beneficiaries of the estate.

Can I Avoid Florida Probate if I Have a Will or Estate Plan?

All estates in Florida are subject to court review through probate, regardless of the existence of a will or other estate plan provision.

How Long Does Probate Take in Florida?

Depending on the size of a decedent’s estate and the complexity of their affairs, the probate process could take a few months to several years. It is best to work with a Florida probate lawyer to evaluate the deceased individual’s overall estate and planning documents when estimating the duration of the probate process.

What Assets Does the Probate Court Review?

The Florida probate courts review all assets owned solely by the decedent, or held as joint tenants in common, at the time of their death. Generally, this includes all personal property, such as jewelry, art, antiques, cars, and real estate.

Financial accounts, pensions, retirement accounts, or life insurance policies with a named beneficiary are not subject to the Florida probate process.

3 Types of Probate in Florida

When a person dies in Florida, the Florida court is notified of the death by petition. The court then appoints an executor and determines if there is any will or estate planning document for review. Depending on the estate’s particulars, the matter will proceed through one of three probate administrative processes.

Regular Probate: Also called formal administration, regular probate, involves the named executor of the estate, a will review, and hearings to allow for beneficiaries’ challenges and objections. Assets are identified and valued, debts are paid from the assets, and final distributions are made to beneficiaries. There is a heavy burden on the executor of the estate to administer to debtors and beneficiaries and provide a thorough accounting to the probate court.

Summary Administration: Estates up to $75,000 in assets or where the decedent passes more than two years prior are subject to summary administration. In this process, a petition is put forth to the court detailing assets of the deceased, the value of the assets, and the estate’s beneficiaries.

Small Estate Disposition: Small estate administration is, as suggested by the name, applicable to small estates where a person petitions the court for reimbursement of final expenses paid for the decedent.

How Does the Florida Probate Court Decide Who Gets What?

Wills and other estate documents guide who will benefit from the decedent’s estate. If a will is challenged or does not exist, the probate court will make a final decision regarding distribution of assets.

Why Do I Need a Probate Lawyer in Florida?

Reconciling the loss of a loved one is an emotional time. The very thought of your loved one’s financial affairs being scrutinized in Florida probate courts can easily become overwhelming. Add to that the complexity of the probate process, and you need help.

The expertise of a skilled Florida probate attorney provides invaluable assistance to those trying to navigate Florida probate. During these stressful circumstances, hiring a trusted probate lawyer to defend your loved one’s wishes and protect your interests is a good decision.

Let our experience work for you. Reach out to one of our Florida probate attorneys today for a complete case review and consultation.