In most instances we have to do what’s called a probate administration. The first question I’m going to ask is whether or not she had a will. If she had a will, we look at the will, we see what it says, and then we follow that as closely as we can. If she did not have a will, then she was what is called ‘intestate,” and we look at the statutes to figure out who the beneficiaries of the estate are going to be.
When we go to an estate administration, we have 2 choices:
One is called the summary administration. And that’s available if the person had less than $75,000 in assets, or if they’d been deceased for more than two years. Or if they have more than $75,000, or have not been deceased for at least 2 years we have to do what’s called a formal administration.
Summary administration is nice because if you know that there’s just a small number of assets, and you just need to get to those, we can get to those fairly quickly. Still takes several months, but, fairly quickly. The problem with the summary administration is, there’s no personal representative who’s ever appointed, and so if you don’t know about all the assets, you won’t have any way to go ask about them. Because banks and other institutions won’t talk to somebody unless they have proof that they can speak for the estate. So you have to be very sure that you know exactly what you’re going after, and then we can do the summary administration.
In a formal administration, we have much more flexibility in that a personal representative is appointed. They can go to the banks, the investment houses, they can ask questions, they can get all this information, put it together, and then they can administer the estate. In a formal administer we have to publish what is called a notice to creditors. That’s usually put in a local newspaper. It gives creditors 3 months wherein they can come and make claims against the estate. So if somebody owes a credit card bill, even a water bill, cable bill, something like that, the creditors can bring that and be paid *if* there are enough assets to pay them.
The first question I’m going to ask is whether or not she had a will.
In some instances the estate does not have enough liquid assets to pay them. We still go through the processes, we let everybody know, “You’re not going to get paid.” Now if there are assets that are discovered later, maybe they would, but it makes it so that property — and there are certain properties that are exempt and those can go to the beneficiaries even though there are creditors. Those properties include the homestead, two vehicles, and certain other things, household belongings up to $20,000. A number of different items can be administered as exempt assets.
So, what we need to do in your particular situation again is going to depend on your particular facts, but no matter what needs to be done, we can handle those things and make sure it’s done in an efficient way. And we can do it anywhere in the state of Florida. In most instances probate can be done either using the e-filing system which is our way of filing things with the courts, or with very limited court appearances. I’ve represented clients in a number of different counties in Florida, and I’ve represented a number of clients who I never meet. Their parent died here in Florida, they’re up in Pennsylvania or someplace else, we simply deal over the phone and I can still make sure that everything happens.
– David Pilcher is an experienced estate planning and probate attorney with Bogin, Munns & Munns, a full service law firm with offices in Orlando, Clermont, Kissimmee, St. Cloud, The Villages, Orange City, Titusville, Daytona Beach, Ocala, Melbourne, Gainesville, and Leesburg, Florida. Mr. Pilcher welcomes questions and comments regarding the above and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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