Whether expected or unexpected, the death of a loved can be a traumatic and trying experience for the whole family. It may be difficult to learn how to move forward with a life without your beloved family member, let alone deal with confusing and time-consuming legal issues that arise. This can be especially true for the Florida probate process, which settles the estate of the deceased. While it is possible to efficiently and effectively navigate probate, the process can drain resources and take up valuable to time for families if not properly managed, adding more stress to already emotional and overwrought situation. This can be true regardless of the size of the estate.
What is the Probate Process in Florida?
Probate is the legal process that takes place after a person dies to settle any matters associated with the decedent's estate. This process is typically a court-supervised series of events that:
- Formally recognizes a will and its validity
- Identifies all assets to be distributed and the recipients
- Identifies and pays any debts associated with the estate, including taxes
- Distributes the property as directed by a will or according to the laws of intestacy
Probate is typically handled by the personal representative (sometimes called the executor), who can be named by the deceased before death or can be appointed by the court. It is the job of the personal representative to manage the paperwork, filings, and financial responsibilities of the estate. The personal representative is a fiduciary and is held to the highest standards of honesty and fair dealing with the creditors and the heirs. Having excellent legal advice with experienced probate and trust attorneys will make the personal representative's job easier, reducing stress and saving the family time and money.
Why is Probate So Difficult?
Probate does not always have to be time-consuming and difficult, but it often ends this way when not properly managed. Probate was created as a means to ensure that an estate is properly settled before the correct heirs receive their inheritance. Unfortunately, the process can become complex without the correct legal guidance.
The probate and trust attorneys are here to help facilitate a quick and efficient probate process. We offer practical advice and believe it is part of our job to make things as easy as possible for the personal representative (also known as the "executor"). If you and your family are dealing with probate issues after the death of a loved one, please do not hesitate to call us for a free initial consultation.
Different Types of Probate
When someone dies in Florida, how do we know if probate will be necessary? The answer is if someone had an asset in their own, individual name. The size of the asset does not matter for Florida purposes, just the titling. So if the decedent dies with a bank account worth only $2,000 in their own name, the family/heirs will need some type of help from probate and the court system. Depending on the size of the estate, the probate process differs greatly. Florida generally has four probate processes to consider:
Disposition without Administration: This process is available some very small estates and technically does not involve the probate process. It does, however, involve the Florida Court system. It is available for someone who is seeking to get reimbursed a funeral bill or for medical expenses within 60 days of death. Here is a link to the Disposition without Administration process in the Pinellas County Clerk of Court's website.
Example: Mom dies with $2,000 in a bank account in her own name. The bank will not let anyone access the funds and tells people they need to get "letters from the court." If someone paid for mom's funeral out of their own pocket, that person can go to the Clerk of Court where mom passed and get a court order directing the bank to pay them the $2,000.
Summary Administration: This is a more simple probate process that is available only when: 1) the assets are worth less than $75,000; 2) all the heirs consent; 3) all bills are paid (a big issue with summary administrations); and 4) all of the decedent's assets are known. The family would still need to see an attorney for assistance but the process is generally cheaper and easier under most circumstances. An attorney is not necessary for a Summary Administration but, practically speaking, an attorney will make this process so much easier for you when a Summary Administration is needed.
Formal Probate Administration: This is the full probate process of appointing the personal representative, dealing with creditors, publishing in the newspaper, etc. This is done when assets exceed $75,000, the estate has debts, heirs do not agree, there are unknown assets, and more.
Ancillary Probate Administration: This type of probate is for when the decedent owned Florida real property in his or her own, individual name. We have more on ancillary probate administrations here.
How Do I Know When an Asset Goes Through Probate?
Assets need to be probated when assets are in the decedent's own, individual name. We have more on probate assets here.
Do I Need an Attorney to Probate and Asset?
You (or your family) will need an attorney in formal Florida probates and you will likely want one for Summary probate administrations due to their complexity. We always say that there is no such thing as an easy probate! You can more about needing an attorney for a Florida probate here.
How Long Does Probate Take?
Probate has a well-deserved reputation for being long and arduous, which is not always the case.
- A summary administration usually takes less than a month once the paperwork is submitted to the court. Of course, if the paperwork is incomplete, the probate can take longer.
- A formal probate administration generally takes about 6 months from start to finish, unless there is litigation or some other matter that causes delays. Much of the time for a formal probate process is for the 3-month creditors’ claim period which provides for notice to known and unknown creditors of the decedent to make claims in the estate.
Download our Free Book on Florida Probates
If you are having questions on Probate in Florida or if you are the nominated personal representative (i.e., "executor") of the decedent's last will and testament, our free book, Navigating the Florida Probate Process, will be invaluable help in this difficult time. Follow this link to your free book today.
Call Today to For Immediate Help
At DeLoach, Hofstra & Cavonis, P.A., we understand that a lack of direction during probate can add undue strain to a family already facing a difficult time. We are here to protect you and your family’s assets and help you navigate the probate process as quickly and smoothly as possible. With decades of experience in the probate process, we will make the probate process as easy as possible possible during this difficult time.