The death of a family member is a devastating and emotional time for anyone. Besides grieving your loved one’s death and celebrating their life, you may also have to consider what happens to their assets and estate. Enduring a complicated legal and financial process is likely the last thing you want to navigate when you’re grieving, but participating in the probate process after losing a loved one is an important step.
Probate is the legal process of proving a last will and testament, which means verifying that the will is legal and the deceased person’s intentions are carried out. Probate also occurs when there’s no will and a probate court must decide how to distribute the assets of the deceased’s estate to their loved ones. Understanding the probate process can help you avoid getting caught off-guard. Likewise, partnering with an experienced lawyer can make for a much easier transition.
Understanding Probate in Florida
Probate is the procedure of administering a person’s estate after their death. If your deceased loved one had a will and testament, probate will involve proving that their will is legally valid, executing their instructions, distributing the remainder of the estate to their rightful beneficiaries, and paying applicable taxes.
Under Florida law, there are three main types of probate: formal administration, summary administration, and disposition without administration.
Also referred to as “formal probate,” formal administration is the standard form of probate. It takes place in the local circuit court of the county where the decedent resided at the time of their death. The process starts once an individual passes away and the executor of the will asks to be appointed as a personal representative of the decedent’s estate. The beneficiaries named in the estate are then provided notice and given a chance to raise any formal objections.
Summary administration is a shortened form of Florida probate that doesn’t require the appointment of a Florida personal representative. Florida summary administration usually requires less time, effort, and expense than formal administration.
There are two ways in which an estate can qualify for summary administration in Florida. For summary administration to be available, the decedent must have been dead for more than two years or the value of the entire estate must not exceed $75,000.
Disposition without Administration
As the name suggests, disposition without administration involves skipping the probate hearing entirely due to a specific set of circumstances. Probate may not be necessary when certain final expenses are greater than the value of the property that would go through probate. Final expenses may include funeral expenses or reasonable medical expenses within the last 60 days of the deceased person’s final illness. No property has to go through probate with this process.
What Does a Probate Lawyer Do?
When a person passes away, their assets must be disbursed in a manner consistent with state laws and following the directions they put forth when they were alive, as stated in their will. If you’re left with the task of admitting a last will and testament to probate and managing a loved one’s estate, you may have questions about what to expect from a probate lawyer.
A probate lawyer—also known as an estate lawyer—is a state-licensed attorney who advises personal representatives, also called executors, and the beneficiaries of an estate on how to settle the final affairs of a deceased person. A probate lawyer is also often responsible for walking a personal representative through the entire probate process from start to finish.
The experienced Orlando probate lawyers at Patriot Legal Group will work closely with you to accomplish the following objectives, if needed:
- Publish the estate
- Bond the estate
- Protect the assets during the probate process
- Collect and inventory the assets
- Help provide a value for the assets
- Pay debts, taxes, and expenses of the estate
- Address beneficiary questions and concerns
- Resolve disputes
- Give notice to creditors
- Resolve creditor claims
- Sell real property
- File an accounting with the court
- Make final distribution of the assets
Regardless of whether your loved one died with or without a will, a probate lawyer can assist with a variety of responsibilities throughout the probate process. This might include identifying and securing probate assets, helping to obtain appraisals for any of the deceased party’s property, and ensuring that any documents required by the probate court are filed in a timely manner.
Types of Assets Subject to Probate
When someone dies, their money, property, and possessions—otherwise known as assets—fall into two broad groups for probate purposes. The first group of assets passes directly to a co-owner or beneficiary upon the original owner’s death. These assets generally don’t go through probate. This may include retirement and pension accounts or proceeds of life insurance policies.
The second group of assets doesn’t go directly to a beneficiary or co-owner. They may be passed down through a will or state laws of intestacy if there is no will. This may include money in bank accounts and real estate.
What If the Decedent Had a Trust?
If your loved one properly drafted a trust during their lifetime, they may have avoided the need to go through the probate process. The successor trustee of the decedent’s trust would distribute the trust assets as spelled out in the trust. The amount of time required to properly distribute the assets from a trust varies depending on the complexity and size of the trust estate.
Contact an Expert Orlando Probate Lawyer Today
If you’re handling the distribution of an estate for someone who died or if you were named an executor in an estate, it may be in your best interest to speak with an experienced Orlando probate attorney to help you throughout the process. At Patriot Legal Group, our team of expert lawyers has assisted hundreds of clients with their probate or trust administration and is dedicated to guiding you and your family with sensitivity and compassion.
At Patriot Legal Group, we intimately understand how difficult and confusing this procedure can be, which is why we’re committed to standing by your side and protecting your legal rights. Our personal approach removes the guesswork and creates a smooth and pain-free process for you and your family. For help ensuring that you comply with the legal probate requirements and avoiding common mistakes that often plague individuals in your shoes, give us a call at (407) 737-7222 or complete our online contact form today!