What to Expect During A Florida Probate Administration
In this article, we will go over what to expect during probate in Florida.
1. What is probate? How does itwork?
2. Opening probate
3. Authenticating or Admittingthe Last Will & Testament to Probate
4. Sending Notices
5. Taking Inventory
6. Distributing the Assets
7. Closing the Estate
8. Free probate consultation
What is probate? How does it work?
Probate is the judicial process of handling a deceased person’s estate.
It involves administering the will, if any, settling any of the decedent’s debts, if necessary, and distributing assets to the heirs.
Three main “steps” in the administration process are opening the estate, administering the estate, and closing the estate.
The probate process can be complicated. There are a couple different types of probate to consider opening and they are whether to open a summary administration or a formal administration. Which type of administration to open may depend upon several considerations, such as the value of the estate assets, what assets are exempt assets, the specific issues of each case, what Florida county the case is filed, whether appointment of a personal representative is necessary, when the decedent died, and if there are any creditors. Opening a probate administration often involves appointing a personal representative to act on behalf of the estate. The Last Will & Testament may have nominated someone to serve the role of the personal representative. If a personal representative is appointed, the Judge will issue Florida “Letters of Administration”.
Leggett Law Offices can help guide you through the probate process and discuss what documents are necessary to get the process started and what county to file.
Authenticating or Admitting the Last Will & Testament
The decedent’s Last Will & Testament must be deposited with the proper county clerk of courts which is typically where the decedent resided or sometimes may be the county where property is located.
Once the probate case is open, the court will need to “admit the Will to probate”, for it to “take affect”.
If there is no Will, the estate is known as “intestate”. In that case, Florida’s Probate Intestate Statutes sets forth the details of who can act as the personal representative and who the heirs are that will receive the assets.
Typically, for probate without a Will, the surviving spouse, if any, and closest heirs may receive the assets.
It’s important to notify beneficiaries when probate documents have been filed. The surviving spouse, beneficiaries, trustee, and any others who may be entitled to inheritance should receive notice of the probate administration.
Known creditors of the decedent’s estate should receive notice of the probate. Creditors who timely file valid claims may need to have their claim settled before proceeding to distribution of the assets to the heirs or receive notice that there are no available assets to pay their claim(s). In Florida, publication of a “Notice to Creditors” in the local newspaper is typically required in most cases, but not all, as a way to notify unknown creditors of the decedent. The publication runs once a week for two consecutive weeks and the unknown creditor(s) has 90 days to file a claim in the probate case from the date of the first publication.
In some cases, if the estate does not have enough funds on hand, the personal representative may need to sell or liquidate estate assets to satisfy or settle creditors’ claims. In some instances, the claim may be objected to in good faith if the claim is believed to be inaccurate or not valid.
In Florida, all creditor claims are barred once 2 years passes from the decedent’s date of death.
Inventory of the Estate
A probate “formal administration” process requires filing an inventory of the estate assets. The personal representative will use their “Letters of Administration” to marshal the estate assets and list them on an Inventory reflecting what estate assets exist and their value. An estate account will likely be necessary to hold any estate funds marshaled by the personal representative.
Estate assets may include:
- Real estate
- Bank accounts
- Retirement accounts
- Mutual funds
- Other countable estate assets
The Inventory is due within 60 days of being appointed as the personal representative. This time may be extended by court order if there are issues that need to be resolved such as appraising an asset or still in the process of discovering the estate assets to list.
- Distribution of the Estate Assets
Once any creditor claims and any other outstanding issues are resolved, the personal representative can distribute the assets to the heirs. If a summary administration with no personal representative, the proposed orders transferring the assets to the heirs and closing the case may be discussed with the court. The beneficiaries who are named in the Will are able to receive their inheritance according to the terms of the will or according to Florida’s intestate statutes if no Will.
Closing the Estate
During the probate process, each step or document needs to be properly filed with the court accurately and timely. The last step is to get the personal representative discharged and relieved of their duties and/or get the orders necessary to transfer the assets to the heirs and close the case. The court may withhold its approval of the personal representative’s discharge or enter the orders necessary to transfer the assets to the heirs and close the case if all necessary documents are not properly filed.
Free Phone Probate Consultation
Having experienced guidance on your side makes a big difference. Leggett Law Offices is here to provide you with experienced counsel and walk you through the process so you don’t have to face the probate administration alone.
Get a free phone probate consultation today to see how we can help you!