No one wants to think about the death of a loved one. However, if you’ve been appointed as the executor of their Will or their estate administrator, you want to ensure that you understand how the probate process works in Florida.
Probate is the legal process of transferring assets from a deceased person to their named beneficiaries under a Last Will and Testament, to their trust, or through intestacy laws which dictate who beneficiaries may be. It also involves a creditor’s period wherein known or potential creditors must be noticed of the estate and given an opportunity to file a claim in the estate. At Denise Jomarron Legal Group, we help grieving families settle the affairs of their loved one after their passing and assist them with transferring assets by guiding them through the probate process. Read below to learn more about how probate works from an experienced probate law attorney, then contact us to schedule a free 20-minute strategy session at (305) 402-4494.
Understanding the Purpose of the Probate Process
Each step in the probate process ensures that the individual’s wishes regarding their assets are followed. Following a decedent’s death, the estate’s personal representative will be responsible for locating, securing, and managing the estate’s assets.
The personal representative will also compile a list of the decedent’s debts, which may necessitate the sale of portions of the estate to generate the cash necessary to pay creditors and then heirs. Any assets remaining after paying debts and taxes will be divided according to the terms of the Will, if there is one. Without a Will, Florida law governs who beneficiaries will be and the Court will have to approve of the distribution of assets to creditors, if any, and beneficiaries.
Identifying Probate Assets
Probate assets include any property that belonged to the decedent, such as their home, personal valuables, vehicle, businesses, and any investment or bank account with no designated beneficiaries. Non-probate assets include jointly-owned property (such as with a surviving spouse or other family members), trust assets, bank accounts with named beneficiaries, and IRAs with beneficiaries.
A probate lawyer can assist you in learning about the necessary documentation for the probate process, such as the decedent’s Will, death certificate, bank and brokerage account statements, and other relevant documents.
Filing Petition for Probate with Court
You must file a probate petition with the Florida circuit court clerk in the decedent’s county of residence, and the Will must be admitted to probate before the probate process begins. The court oversees the process to ensure that the estate is administered correctly. Next, all estate legal heirs and beneficiaries are notified in writing that the decedent’s estate is open for probate.
The court issues Letters of Administration when it grants the petition, naming the decedent’s personal representative and authorizing that person to access the decedent’s assets and perform estate administration tasks.
Notifying the Decedent’s Creditors
According to Florida probate law, the personal representative must notify the decedent’s creditors that the estate is open. Creditors are notified directly by publishing a formal Notice to Creditors in a local newspaper at least once a week for two weeks in a row, so anyone owed money is aware of the death. Creditors typically have three months from the date of notice to file claims against the estate. Creditors who are specifically served with Notice to Creditors have one month to file a claim in the estate.
Inventorying the Decedent’s Estate
Before concluding probate, it is necessary to determine the total net worth of the decedent’s estate. These assets might include real estate and vehicle titles, bank accounts, stock and bond certificates, and other valuable property. Then, the personal representative’s attorney files the inventory list with the probate court.
Paying Valid Debts and Estate Taxes
Using available funds from the decedent’s estate account, the personal representative pays all valid debts on the decedent’s behalf. The personal representative has the right to contest claims that are not deemed valid in the probate court. A court can dismiss claims received more than three months after the expired creditor’s period.
Most estates fall below the threshold for paying federal estate taxes, but you must file an estate tax return if the estate’s value exceeds this threshold. In addition, the personal representative is responsible for ensuring that the decedent’s tax returns are completed and paid for the year in question.
Distributing Remaining Assets and Closing the Estate
After completing these steps, the personal representative can distribute the remaining assets to the decedent’s beneficiaries in accordance with the decedent’s Willl. According to Florida state law, any remaining assets will be distributed to heirs at law if there is no Will.
After distributing the inheritance, the personal representative petitions the probate court to discharge them of their duties. This action brings the probate case to a close.
Contact Denise Jomarron Legal Group to Speak with an Experienced Florida Probate Attorney
Probate is a massive responsibility to try to handle on your own. If you are looking for a Florida probate attorney, contact Denise Jomarron Legal Group. Book a free, 20-minute strategy session by calling us at (305) 402-4494 or completing our online form.
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The information in this blog post (“post”) is provided for general informational purposes only and may not reflect the current law in your jurisdiction. No information in this post should be construed as legal advice from the individual author or the law firm, nor is it intended to be a substitute for legal counsel on any subject matter. No reader of this post should act or refrain from acting based on any information included in or accessible through this post without seeking the appropriate legal or other professional advice on the particular facts and circumstances at issue from a lawyer licensed in the recipient’s state, country, or other appropriate licensing jurisdiction.
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