A Comprehensive Guide to Navigating the Florida Probate Process

Navigating the Florida probate process can feel overwhelming. We’ve outlined everything you need to know in this comprehensive guide.

Dealing With the Florida Probate Process

 

Even when a person makes the responsible decision and ensures they handle their estate planning with a reputable law firm while they are of sound mind, occasionally their property goes through the Florida probate process.

Dealing with estate issues of the deceased in Florida can be complex. A few of the most complicated matters include paying financial obligations like the estate tax and distributing the financial resources, assets, and other property to the deceased’s beneficiaries.

When a Florida citizen or someone who owns property in that state dies, any number of processes could occur. In addition, since states and counties have different regulations, it can make probate court difficult.

 

Hiring a Florida Probate Lawyer

Lehn Law, P.A. is a probate law firm serving the Sarasota, Port Charlotte, and Englewood areas.

End-of-life issues can be fraught with emotion, making your choice of attorney of utmost importance. We can help you and your loved ones navigate the complexities of this process. 

When someone you love passes away, many considerations must be made, including how their assets should be distributed following their death and what their final wishes are. In addition, personal property without administration requires an understanding of the Florida probate code.

Understanding the Probate Process in Florida

The probate process is the legal method by which assets belonging to a deceased person’s estate are redistributed or retitled.

There are two types of probate in Florida: summary administration and formal administration, both of which are administered by the Florida court system. The time frame to complete the average probate case in Florida is 6-9 months, depending on the difficulty of the estate.

Often assets that go through probate are automatically bequeathed to the surviving spouse. If there is no surviving spouse or children, the disposition of personal property becomes more complicated. A reputable law office will offer outstanding advice and representation during your time of need.

The Importance of Writing Wills to Protect Your Assets and Family

Writing a valid will can determine the type of probate required and shorten the time necessary to complete the probate process, and whether letters of administration are required.

  • If a valid and current Florida will exist, the language and details contained within the document control default provisions under Florida probate law.
  • With or without a valid will, probate will be necessary to facilitate the distribution of assets from the deceased person to their beneficiaries.

In addition to certain will formalities, Florida law dictates that a will must be signed by the person making the will and two witnesses. If no valid will exists, the probate process must still take place, and the assets are distributed according to the state of Florida’s intestacy laws.

Hire a probate attorney experienced with the court in the county the decedent’s estate existed. This enables you to navigate the Florida probate system with ease.

Obtaining a Personal Representative for Dealing with Probate

 

In Florida probate cases, a “personal representative” is the person assigned by the court to administer the deceased person’s estate. In other states, this person may be called an administrator or executor.

The personal representative is accountable for will and trust issues like obtaining and distributing the death certificate, as well as the following:

  • Managing the deceased’s bank account
  • Contacting creditors
  • Paying bills on outstanding debts
  • Distributing property
  • Filing income tax return
  • Funeral expenses
  • Communicating with the probate court
  • Living trust
  • Handling notice to creditors
  • Hiring an attorney
  • Managing life insurance policies

To qualify as a personal representative, an individual must be a close relative of the deceased or otherwise be a Florida resident.

In some cases, a bank or trust company can serve as a personal representative in probate court. In some instances, the personal representative may be required to post a bond to ensure and protect the proper administration of the estate.

Filing Probate in Court to Protect Your Family’s Assets

Florida probate in court begins with filing the will and any other applicable paperwork with the Clerk of the Circuit Court. Probate assets are easily at risk.

A petition to open up a probate case is filed with the Probate Court. This filing requires the payment of a fee, which is necessary to complete the process. The clerk will assign a probate case number and continue to oversee the process as it proceeds through the court.

Florida law dictates that any probate documentation containing financial information about the deceased person’s estate be kept private and not available for public viewing.

 

The Florida Probate Time Frame

The formal probate time frame in Florida cases average 6-9 months to close, with more complicated estates extending past this time frame.

According to Florida statutes, there are final accounting issues that can lengthen this time frame. These may include:

  • The sale of real estate or other tangible assets
  • Creditor lawsuits
  • Disputes over the will
  • Final expenses
  • Liquidation of assets such as stocks or bonds
  • Court scheduling delays

Taxable estates cannot close probate until the Internal Revenue Service approves the Estate Tax Return 706, which must be filed within nine months after the date of death. Contact your local estate planning & probate counselors for legal advice.

Understanding the Summary Administration in the State of FL

As an alternative to formal probate for asset protection, Florida law allows for an abbreviated probate filing, known as a “summary administration.” A personal representative must provide proof they are capable of handling probate administration.

To be eligible, the estate’s value must contain less than $75,000 worth of assets, or the deceased must have been dead for at least two years. Other rules and details that determine the filing of a summary administration can be found in the state’s probate rules.

 

Hiring an Attorney for the Close of Probate After Claims Are Made

To close family probate in Florida, the personal legal representative must file the correct forms and provide the court with proof that the following has been accomplished:

  • All estate debts have been paid.
  • Property assets and real property have been retitled or sold.
  • Proper income taxes and property taxes have been filed.

Once the judge is convinced that the estate has been properly administered and all creditors have been paid, he or she will order the closing of the case.

Call Lehn Law, P.A. today at (941) 255-5346 or (941) 487-7100 for a consultation to discuss your case, make your estate plan or consult the will of a loved one after their death. Let our top-rated attorney be your personal representative when dealing with probate in Florida.

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