Florida Estate Planning Attorneys Assisting Families with Probate Court Matters

wealth preservationProbate in the state of Florida is different from other states. In Florida, an estate goes through probate with and without a will. Furthermore, probate proceedings are broken into two categories. Some estates, depending on value, might qualify for the streamlined process known as summary administration.

The Formal Administration Process (Regular Probate Court)

An estate with higher value assets might not qualify for a streamlined or simple probate process. The formal probate, regular probate, nominates an executor from the will and the circuit court oversees the administration. Beneficiaries and heirs receive notification of probate proceedings, giving them opportunities to object.

The court goes through a distinct process during regular probate, which includes:

  • Letter of Administration – The personal representative (executor) receives authority to settle the estate. The letter allows him or her to make decisions on behalf of the estate legally.
  • Gather and Inventory Assets – The executor collects, stocks, and values all assets associated with the estate.
  • Payments – Next, the agent must satisfy all debts and taxes from the estate.
  • Distribution – After paying all liabilities, the estate’s remaining assets distributed to the beneficiaries designated in the will.
  • Filing and Closing – After distribution, the executor files evidence of the payments and distributions, then requests that the court close the estate. The court issues their closing order and absolves the administrator of his or her duties.

Overall, the probate court process takes anywhere from six months to a year. It can take longer if anyone contests the will, or if there are complications locating assets and beneficiaries.

When Does an Estate Qualify for Summary Administration?

Summary administration is designed for low-value estates and quickens the process of the probate court. However, you must meet one of two requirements for the estate to go through the summary process:

  1. A respective value of less than $75,000. The total estate asset value cannot exceed $75,000. The amount does not include a homestead property. Therefore, you could have a home worth $100,000 and still receive summary administration.
  2. The decedent died more than two years ago. If the decedent has been dead for more than two years, regardless of asset value, the estate qualifies for a summary administration.

How Much Does Probate Court Cost?

Florida is one of the few states to issue standardized fees for attorneys’ costs in probate court. The fees are based on the particular value of the estate and under Florida Statute Section 733.6171. Based on the value range, the attorneys’ fees for probate are evaluated. The estate value does not include homestead value. For example, as of May 2017, an estate with a value of $40,000 or less provides a fee of $1,500 to the attorney handling probate.

Receiving Assistance with Probate is Best

While an executor might feel confident in the probate process, realize that the probate process is extremely complicated. Therefore, it is best to not only hire an attorney to draft your estate plan but assist with the probate process. Having an attorney there to help your executor ensures your loved ones do not worry about the common pitfalls associated with probate court – or endure unnecessary delays.

To explore your options or to start your estate planning process, meet with an estate attorney from Beller & Bustamante, P.L. today. Schedule your consultation with our lawyers at 904-288-4414 or request your appointment online.