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Have you heard of probate? It is the court-supervised process that involves the gathering, management, and distribution of a deceased individual’s assets. As you may have heard that many people look for ways to try and avoid probate because it has come to be known as costly and time consuming, you may be curious as to what is actually involved in the probate process. We will talk about that in more detail here.

What Goes on During Probate

Florida has two main types of probate administration which are formal administration and summary administration. If the death of the decedent happened over two years ago or the total probate assets are $75,000 or less, than summary administration may be an option. Otherwise, the estate will have to go through formal administration.

It is important to note that probate administration only involves probate assets. Some assets, such as those owned jointly with other or those that have provisions for automatic succession of ownership at death (such as pay on death and transfer on death accounts), will fall outside of probate proceedings. When you hear talk of people estate planning to avoid probate, they are trying to structure assets so they fall outside of the probate estate.

To begin probate, the required documentation and forms, along with a filing fee, are submitted to the clerk of the circuit court, usually in the county where the decedent was residing at the time of death. The clerk of court will assign a file number as well as manage the paperwork that will be submitted during the administration of the estate. The proceedings are usually initiated by the personal representative named in the will, but sometimes other interested parties will do this instead.

When the probate process begins, beneficiaries and heirs are put on notice and given an opportunity to respond, such as raise any objections, to the administration process or the will. If the decedent had a will, it must be both filed with the court and found to be legally valid. Letters of Administration will be issued by the court which will grant the personal representative the power to start settling the estate.

The court’s role is to supervise the probate process. It is the personal representative of the estate that is tasked with gathering and managing the assets of the estate, paying any valid outstanding debts and taxes after putting creditors on notice of the probate proceedings. At the end of the probate process, the personal representative is tasked with distributing the assets of the estate to the appropriate beneficiaries. This will be according to the terms of the will, if there was a valid will. In the absence of a valid will, distribution of the assets will be in accordance with Florida’s intestacy laws.

The personal representative will also need to file a final accounting with the court which will detail the assets of the estate and how they have been managed as well as how the assets will be distributed to the beneficiaries. Once the assets have been transferred to the beneficiaries, the personal representative will file receipts and other evidence with the court and will then request that the estate be closed.

Estate Planning Attorney

Do you have questions about probate? Do you have questions about how to avoid probate? Verras Law is here with answers for you. Contact Verras Law today.