Dealing with grief is not easy in itself, so when you also have to deal with the probate process after a loved one passes, it can be doubly stressful. The probate process involves identifying a deceased loved one’s assets, paying off their outstanding debts (if applicable), and distributing the rest of the assets to the beneficiaries of their estate. All this is done under the supervision of a probate court. This process can take a different form and order from one state to another but if your loved one was a Florida resident or left real property in Florida probate, a Florida probate will likely be required. Here is what you need to know.
1) Assets That Must Go Through Probate
In identifying the assets that must go through probate, as the personal representative or heir of the estate, you must check if the deceased left real estate, investment accounts, life insurance policies, vehicles, retirement accounts, and bank accounts. As long as these assets are either payable to the person’s estate or solely owned by the deceased owner, they must go through the probate process. On the contrary, jointly owned property such as a shared bank account or house will likely not need to go through the probate process. Accounts and life insurance policies that have a payable on death beneficiary also avoid probate.
2) What Are The Types of Probate in Florida
Factors like the type of assets and debts left behind, whether the deceased left a will, and how many heirs the estate has made each probate case unique. Though the facts of each probate estate vary, in Florida, there are two main types of probate processes. The first one is formal administration and the second one is summary administration.
The summary probate administration is the shorter and less expensive form of probate. When the probate estate is valued at $75,000 or less or when the deceased passed more than two years ago, an heir of the estate can petition the court for a summary administration. When this petition is approved and after other court pleadings and affidavits are filed, the personal representative process can be skipped, and the petitioner of the estate can go straight to the distribution stage of the probate.
The formal administration process involves the court appointing a personal representative or executor of the estate. Once his or her appointment is acknowledged and recognized by the court, the personal representative must gather the assets of the estate, assist with their liquidation and distribution, and help to pay off the debts of the estate. A notice to creditors filing is often required as well to determine whether the estate has any creditors.
3) Is Probate Possible Without Involving the Court?
There is a process called Disposition of Personal Property Without Administration. This is a non-court supervised probate proceeding that only involves filing certain documents with the clerk of the court. Typically, this process is only available when the deceased person has a small amount of personal property left behind, and no real estate.
4) What is the Role of the Personal Representative?
According to Florida probate law, this is the term that is applied to the administrator or executor of the deceased owner’s estate. A personal representative can be a person, which is often the case, or it can also be a bank or a trust company that is appointed by the probate court. The personal representative is tasked to identify the assets of the deceased owner as well as value them and protect their interest by keeping them safe. Other responsibilities include paying any valid creditor claims of the estate, filing tax returns (if needed), handling the sale of real property during the probate, and handling the final distribution of the assets to the beneficiaries.
5) What Is the Typical Timeline for Probate?
With each probate case being unique, the length of time a probate takes can vary greatly. For a summary administration that does not involve a large number of assets or heirs, a typical timeline is from 1 to 3 months. Formal administration typically take at least 4-6 months to complete. Extraneous tasks such as selling real estate, settling a lawsuit, or resolving heir disputes can also prolong the probate timeline. Complex formal administration cases may take over a year or even a few years to resolve.
6) Why You Need Legal Assistance for Probate Matters
The Florida probate process is no simple matter, and it is ideal to have a probate attorney by your side to complete the process as quickly and efficiently as possible. Formal administrations always require that a probate attorney be involved. With a summary administration, it is highly recommended to hire an attorney since the court pleadings that have to be drafted require legal knowledge, and delays often result due to pleadings having to be corrected and refiled.
How a Farshchian Law Probate Attorney Can Help
Our probate legal team can guide you through the probate process from start to finish. Probate need not be a complicated and difficult experience if you have the right attorneys to assist and help make the process as smooth and expeditious as possible.
Regardless of the size or complexity of the estate, we have the experience, knowledge, and track record you need to help ensure that the estate’s assets are distributed with maximum efficiency. Please call us at (800) 604-1871 or email us at Probate@JFRealEstateLaw.com to learn more about our probate and estate planning services.