Florida Experienced Probate Attorneys

estate planning paperworkIf you’re the executor of someone’s estate in Florida, you probably have questions about the probate process. You may be feeling overwhelmed. Facing the probate process can be intimidating, especially if you’ve never done it before, and even more so if you’re reeling from the loss of someone close to you.

Our Probate Attorneys Can Help

Understanding the probate process can be overwhelming. We’ve put together this guide to give you an idea of the basic steps of probate in Florida and to help executors navigate this financial and legal process without missteps. Here’s what you need to do.

File a Petition of Probate

The first thing you need to do to start the probate process is file a petition with the probate court. You’ll present the probate court with a copy of the death certificate, the deceased person’s will, and petition to admit the will to probate.

Usually, people name the executor of their estate in their will, and this person will represent the estate’s interests in Florida probate court and in the distribution of the estate after probate. However, if the deceased person didn’t leave a will, Florida’s intestate succession laws mean that his or her assets will go to his or her closest relatives, such as a surviving spouse or children.

In the case that someone dies without a will in Florida, the probate process will still need to begin by filing a petition with the probate court, and the court will assign an executor. If the person has left a will, the court will need to examine that will and determine its validity before it can be carried out.

Assign Authority to the Representative

Once probate has been opened and the court has found the will valid, the court will assign authority to the executor or personal representative named in the will to carry out its provisions. If there is no will, the court will still assign a personal representative to distribute the decedent’s assets according to laws of intestate succession in Florida.

Administer the Estate

Once an executor or representative has been established, and all of the necessary documents are in order, he or she will begin the work of administering the estate. This will involve notifying beneficiaries and heirs, gathering assets, paying creditors’ claims against the estate, and finally distributing assets.

Notify Beneficiaries and Heirs

Once ready to begin administering the estate, the representative or executor will need to locate beneficiaries and heirs and inform them of their potential to benefit from the estate.

Notify Creditors of the Estate

The next step in Florida probate is to notify creditors of the estate that their debtor has died. The court-appointed personal representative or the executor named in the will must give written notice of the decedent’s death to all creditors of his or her estate, and this written notice must include a deadline date for the submission of claims against the estate. The notice to creditors will also need to be published in the county where the person died, so that unknown creditors can have the chance to see that his or her estate is in probate.

Pay the Estate’s Debts

Next, creditor claims against the estate must be paid. Part of a personal representative or executor’s duty is to determine which of the creditor claims against the estate are legitimate, and then pay those debts. At this point, the personal representative or executor should pay the decedent’s final expenses, including final medical expenses, funeral expenses, and taxes, from the estate.

Distribute Assets to Beneficiaries and Heirs

Once creditors have been paid and the deadline for additional claims against the estate has expired, the representative or executor will petition the court for permission to distribute assets from the estate to the beneficiaries and heirs. Remaining assets will be distributed to beneficiaries and heirs according to the decedent’s will, or, if there is no will, according to Florida’s laws of intestate succession.

According to these laws, the deceased person’s estate goes to the closest living relatives, usually a spouse and children. If a person dies without a will and has no close family, the representative of the estate must track down his or her closest living relatives – whether aunts or uncles, nieces, nephews, cousins of any degree, siblings, grandparents, parents, or great aunts or uncles – and distribute the assets to them.

The court will go to great lengths to track down an heir when someone dies without a will in Florida, and the heir doesn’t need to live in Florida or even be a citizen of the United States in order to inherit. Half-relatives, relatives conceived but not born before the deceased passed away, and relatives who reside in other states or countries or who are in the U.S. illegally can inherit according to Florida’s intestate succession laws.

If someone dies in Florida without a will and doesn’t have any family at all, the estate will eventually go to the state of Florida itself. However, in most cases some relation can be found to inherit the property in question. The laws of intestate succession do not apply to assets with named beneficiaries, like 401(k)s, life insurance policies, IRAs, property transferred to a living trust, funds held in payable-on-death bank accounts, securities held in transfer-on-death accounts, or properties owned in joint tenancy or tenancy by the entirety. These assets will be transferred to the named beneficiaries, regardless of the existence of lack thereof of a will or of the provisions of any will that might exist.

Once all of the assets have been accounted for and distributed, the representative of the estate must present a final accounting of the distribution process to the probate court. The court will then give heirs and beneficiaries the chance to challenge the way the assets in the estate were handled or distributed.

The Case Is Closed

Once the assets have been distributed and the deadline for challenging the distribution of assets has passed, the representative will formally petition the court to end the probate process. Once probate has been closed, everyone moves on with their lives.

Contact the Attorneys of Beller & Bustamante, P.L., Today

These are the basic steps of probate in Florida, but they can be more or less complicated, depending on the specifics of your case. Our attorneys can help you navigate the probate process, so you can focus on healing from your loss.

The attorneys at Beller & Bustamante, P.L., have the knowledge and experience you need on your side to navigate situations like these. To schedule a consultation, call us today at 904-288-4414 or use our online contact form to set up an appointment.