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The Florida Probate Process

Probate is a court supervised process for the distribution of assets to beneficiaries and creditors of a deceased person. Persons that have died without a will are referred to as intestate and the assets of their estate are distributed by the court according to intestate succession laws. This is a list of family heirs that have the right to inherit, with the spouse and the children being primary. Without a spouse or children, the assets are distributed to the parents and siblings. If there are no familial descendants, it is possible that the state will keep the assets. Oftentimes, those that have executed a Will believe their estate does not have to go through probate. But a Will is ineffective to pass ownership of assets without court supervised probate. If the Will is deemed valid, the assets of the estate will pay a descendant’s outstanding debts and the remainders of the assets are distributed according to the deceased instructions.

What are the types of Probate?

There are 4 types of probate proceedings;

  • Formal Administration is the most common and the most extensive type of probate. The process begins with a petition to the court to designate a personal representative (executor). If there is a Will and the court deems that the Will is valid, any interested party may challenge its contents. The personal representative has a fiduciary duty to pay any debts or taxes owed by the estate. The remainder is distributed according to the instructions of the Will. If there is no Will, the assets are distributed according to intestate succession laws.
  • Summary Administration is a shortened probate process, if the value of the estate is $75,000 or less, not including exempt assets such as homestead property or furnishings. This type of probate is also appropriate if the person has been deceased for two years, with no prior court administration. There is no personal representative appointed but the petitioner for the Summary Administration is responsible to search for any creditors. The court will release the decedent’s property and assets to the estate’s beneficiaries, by instructions of the Will or the intestate succession laws.
  • Ancillary Administration is appropriate for those persons that owned property in Florida as a non-resident of the State of Florida. The primary probate proceeding will be in the State where the person was a resident and the personal representative at that proceeding will be appointed to handle the affairs in Florida. The same process will then be followed as the Formal Administration probate.
  • Disposition of Personal Property Without Administration occurs for a person that has a very limited estate, that is, a net value of $20,000 or less and up to 2 motor vehicles. This type of probate is used to reimburse a person who has paid the final expenses of the deceased.

A Florida Living Trust avoids the probate process, making it an easier and more expedient transition for the descendants and the debtors to receive their portion of the assets. A Florida Living Trust will distribute your estate privately, as it is not a public record. The person making the trust is called the Grantor. The Grantor appoints a Successor Trustee, who will manage the affairs after death or incapacitation, without court intervention. Other examples of assets that can be transferred without going through probate are property with joint tenancy, payable on death bank accounts or named beneficiaries in life insurance policies and retirement accounts.

Contact a Florida Probate Attorney Today

It is in your best interest to hire the experienced probate attorneys at the Law Office of Lisa M. Dawson, P.A., when going through the loss of a loved one. This is an emotional time and family disputes can become complicated and costly. Whether you are a personal representative in need of advice or a family member with a probate litigation matter, we can advise you and represent your interests. Call today for a free consultation