What You Need to Know About Florida Probate

If your family member passes away and you are mentioned in his or her Will as a beneficiary, or if you are one of his or her legally established heirs, you may find yourself involved in a legal process called probate. This term usually refers to court-supervised proceedings whose goal is to gather the assets of a deceased person and distribute them among the person’s heirs and beneficiaries of their Will. In this article, we will provide an overview of the process and laws governing it in the state of Florida.

Testate vs. Intestate

In the legal jargon, a deceased person’s estate can be either testate or intestate. A testate estate means that the deceased prepared a legally valid Will before their passing. In such case, the division of the estate and the distribution of the assets will proceed according to the person’s wishes explicitly stated in the Will. Intestate, on the other hand, means that a person who died left no Will behind. In this scenario, the division of his or her assets will follow the laws of intestate succession that determine who the heirs of the deceased are and what part of the estate they will inherit.

The Role of an Executor

An executor is one of the key players in the probate proceedings. The executor is a person designated in a Will to execute the instructions found therein. In order to do so, he or she must file a petition with a probate court to be officially recognized as the executor of the Will. After reviewing the petition and after the Will has been proven authentic and valid before the court, the judge will order a letter of testamentary (also called letters testamentary) to be issued. This is an official document appointing the executor and granting him or her the permission to manage the deceased person’s estate and distribute their assets.

In the case of an intestate estate, or if the person appointed in the testament is not able or willing to assume the responsibilities of the executor, the court will appoint a person to distribute the deceased person’s estate. That person is then called a personal representative.

Overview of the Probate Proceedings

After the initial paperwork that allows the probate process to begin is filed and approved by the court, the first step the executor will take is to gather, list, and appraise all of the assets pertaining to the estate. Usually, an independent, professional appraiser must be hired to ensure that a proper, fair-market value is placed on all the tangible possessions belonging to the estate.

Next, the executor will make arrangements to pay all the estate’s debts and financial obligations. In order to do so, the executor must give notice of the probate proceedings to all “known or reasonably ascertainable” creditors. The creditors have up to three months to file a claim with the court in order to be able to recover the money owed. The distribution of the deceased person’s assets can only begin once all legitimate claims, as well as estate taxes, are settled.

The final part of the probate process involves distributing the assets to the heirs and beneficiaries of the estate mentioned in the Will. Before that’s done, however, the executor must present an account to the court detailing the distribution. After the formal distribution of assets, the executor is obliged to present the receipts and file a petition to close the estate.

Do All Estates Go Through Probate?

In Florida, both testate and intestate estate must go through probate. This means that a Will doesn’t protect one’s assets from going through probate even though preparing one is an important part of the estate planning process. However, a person may preclude some – or even most – of his or her assets from the probate proceedings by using a variety of estate planning tools such as a living trust.

In order to obtain more information about such tools and decide whether some of them may be useful for your estate, contact the law offices of Schlegel Livingston, LLC. We are trusted probate attorneys practicing in Florida and we will gladly answer your questions about the probate process in our state. Contact us today to schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys to learn what estate planning tools will be most suitable for your estate.

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Schlegel Livingston LLC

Schlegel Livingston, LLC is an established real estate and probate/estate planning law firm in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. We pride ourselves on being a very hands-on law office who will help our clients by any means necessary.

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