1. What is the Florida Probate System?
Probate is the Court process of a identifying and distributing a person’s assets either by the terms of their wishes as detailed in their estate planning documents or alternatively through Florida’s rules of intestate succession. The appropriate Court for Florida probate is typically either (1) the county where the decedent (person who passed) was domiciled; (2) where their property is located; or (3) where any debtor of the decedent resides. Pursuant to Florida Stat. 733.101.
2. Florida Probates will be Handled as Summary or Formal Administration Depending on the Estate
Florida Probate Courts typically run in two tracks with different procedures. The first such procedure is known as Summary Administration. This process is available if (1) a person dies with a will that does not direct formal administration or without a will (intestate) and (2) the value of the entire estate is less than $75,000.00 or the person passed away more than 2 years ago.
Alternatively, if your estate doesn’t qualify for a summary administration, it will need to be distributed in Probate by Formal Administration. This process can be very complicated and detailed but generally it involves providing notice to the Clerk of Court of the decedent’s death, followed by notice to creditors & beneficiaries. Then outstanding debts are paid out of the estate and an accounting is made of the total assets. Finally, a Court will be petitioned to approve the final dissolution of an estate and the assets will be distributed either pursuant to the terms of Florida’s intestate succession or pursuant to the decedent’s wishes pursuant to a will. This process typically takes many months and will require the opening of separate bank accounts, notices to creditors and potentially dealing with disputed claims of creditors and beneficiaries.
3. Probating the Estate
A Personal Representative will be appointed by the Court or nominated in your will. That person will have the responsibility to oversee the probate process in conjunction with an attorney that he or she engages. The Personal Representative will be responsible for:
- Determining creditors
- Locating assets
- Preparing and filing income tax returns for the estate.
- Paying bills related to your estate while it is being wrapped up.
- Finding documents required by Probate.
If you are a personal representative, you may find these tasks daunting. Having the right Florida Probate attorney help you through the process can provide you the information you need. Give us a call if you have any questions or need help with your Florida probate.