The probate process can be simplified into three steps, which are supervised by an estate lawyer and a probate court judge after someone passes away. Per the Florida Courts, these steps entail:
- A representative is appointed to gather the decedent’s assets.
- The representative will pay off any valid debts and expenses. They will also manage any legal obligations that the decedent had before their passing or incapacitation.
- The representative will distribute the decedent’s assets to their heirs.
The Florida probate process is the mechanism by which a person’s lifetime accumulation of assets and expenses is distributed.
Explaining the Probate Process in Florida
When a case goes to probate court in Florida, one can expect the following three things to take place:
A Representative will Gather the Decedent’s Assets
The most common assets are bank accounts, brokerage accounts, and real estate, per the Florida Bar. In some instances, assets can be distributed without going to probate court.
The Representative will Settle Any Debts or Legal Matters
After the assets are identified, the probate process includes the consideration of creditors. A creditor to a Florida estate is someone who was owed something, typically money, by the deceased person during his or her life. Since the debtor is now deceased, in order to get paid, the creditor must file a claim in the probate estate.
A known creditor must receive written notice directly, and unknown creditors are informed through a notice published in a local newspaper. There are strict deadlines for a creditor to file a claim with the probate court, but generally, the creditor claim period is three months. Florida does not let creditors make a claim more than two years after a person’s death.
The Assets are Distributed
Once the decedent’s creditors have been paid off or notified of the decedent’s passing, the representative will distribute assets to their rightful heirs. The distribution of property can include money, property, personal possessions, and other assets. If there are any disputes with the distribution of property, the case may be filed in court.
To consult with an experienced estate planning / probate lawyer today, call 855-780-9986
What Does and Doesn’t Count as “Assets”?
A Last Will and Testament usually does not govern the following assets:
Florida homestead, for example, may not be considered a probate asset because spouses and minor children have a right to homestead free and clear of estate creditors – except for a mortgage secured by the property. Still, some type of court proceeding will be required to recognize homestead rights and transfer ownership of the homestead.
Joint Accounts, Among Others
Joint accounts, accounts with a “pay on death” designation, or a right of survivorship account, generally pass outside of probate. Assets titled in the name of a revocable trust also will avoid the probate process.
Will You Have to Go to Probate?
Whether you will go to probate court ultimately depends on your situation. The probate process provides a venue to let people raise objections to a Will or to the probate of a Will. Will challenges and contests, and petitions to revoke Florida probate are heard in probate court.
Probate litigation in Florida is growing because disinherited family members, former beneficiaries, second or third spouses, and adult step-children often hire an attorney to make a claim, try to overturn a Will, or just get a share of an inheritance.
By connecting with our team, we can evaluate your situation and determine whether probate is required in your case.
You Can Avoid Probate Court with Solid Estate Planning
Estate planning isn’t just for the elderly or wealthy; it’s for people who want to have a plan in place upon their passing. We have been assisting with estate planning matters since 1979. We can assist with the following:
- Assigning a pre-need guardian for any minor children
- Authorizing someone to make decisions for you in the event of your incapacitation
- Allowing others to view your medical records
- Writing your end-of-life decisions
- Assigning assets to your heirs
After you pass away, your family should focus on celebrating your life – not fighting over your assets. Clarity is one of the most important aspects of estate planning. Any decision that you do not explicitly make in writing could be left to the state to decide.
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What Our Firm Can Do for You
We understand that the probate process in Florida can get confusing. When you call our team, we can answer any questions you have about the legal process. We can also give you insight into how our team can manage your estate planning affairs. We can:
- Determine the value of your assets
- Help you put your wishes in writing
- Determine how state and federal laws apply to your estate planning
- Mediate any possible issues
- Review any necessary documents for completion and accuracy
Call Bogin, Munns & Munns Today
To begin a case review with our team, dial (407) 578-1334.