A quick Q&A on Florida probate demystifies the probate process for you and your family members. When a loved one has passed away, it can be difficult to navigate the complex probate process on your own. Probate generally means identifying a deceased person or decedent’s assets, using them to pay off any debts they may have left behind, and distributing the rest to that person’s beneficiaries — all under court supervision. The process can vary from state to state, so below we offer a quick Q&A on Florida probate so you are prepared if you or a family member is going through the process.
What assets go through probate?
Probate assets could include bank accounts, investment accounts, real estate, an individual retirement account, or a life insurance policy — as long as they are either owned solely by the decedent or are payable to the person’s estate. Jointly owned property, like a shared house or bank account, does not go through probate.
What are the basic steps of probate?
Because it depends on the types of assets and debts left behind by the decedent, probate will look different for everyone. That said, Florida law divides probate into two basic categories: formal administration and summary administration. Our free resource has some great information on this.
Typical cases will go through formal probate administration. In brief, the process involves a party coming forward to be appointed as a personal representative (executor or administrator) of the estate; notifying the decedent’s beneficiaries and heirs; filing a will with the court and proving its validity; taking inventory of the decedent’s assets; and distributing the assets to pay the appropriate debts, taxes, and beneficiaries.
Summary probate administration is considered a shortcut. If the death happened more than two years ago, or the probate estate is valued at $75,000 or less, you can petition the court to start summary administration. A successful petition means skipping the personal representative step and releasing the property to the rightful inheritors.
Is there an option to do probate without court supervision?
Sometimes. In limited circumstances, you may be able to petition for Disposition of Personal Property Without Administration, which is a non-court-supervised probate proceeding. This typically is only used when a decedent leaves very little behind. Whatever assets are left after paying creditors can be used to reimburse you for paying the person’s final expenses.
What exactly is a personal representative?
Under Florida law, the term refers to an executor or administrator of the decedent’s estate. It can be a person, a bank, or a trust company appointed by the courts. The personal representative has a whole host of rights and responsibilities to the estate, such as identifying assets, valuing them, keeping them safe, paying valid claims, paying tax returns and expenses, and so on.
How long does probate take?
It depends on the complexity of the estate. Because of the creditor claim period, you can expect to wait a minimum of three months before probate ends. Scenarios like selling real estate, resolving a disputed claim, or settling a lawsuit can also complicate matters and extend the time span. With formal administration, a simple estate might take five or six months, while a complex case could take several months to over a year. Summary administration can often be done in two to three months.
Why do I need a probate lawyer?
A qualified attorney can make the probate process go smoothly. That means making sure legal documents are valid, verifying claims on the estate, and taking care of paperwork — all while protecting your deceased loved one’s wishes.
At Stivers Law, we aim to streamline the probate process for you and your family. Contact our experienced team to discuss your legal needs.