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Probate Attorneys

When a person dies and leaves assets to heirs or beneficiaries through a will or another instrument, it may be necessary to go through probate. The probate process is governed by the Florida Probate Code and requires specific steps depending upon the details of the estate and the way in which it will be probated. While the probate process can be extremely complex depending upon the assets and debts of the deceased’s estate, it is important to understand that it may be necessary and required under Florida law. If you have questions about probate or need assistance, an experienced probate at our firm can speak with you today.

What is Probate?

Probate is a legal term that is used to describe the process through which a court authenticates a deceased person’s will, identifies and values the deceased’s assets and debts, ensures that the deceased’s debts and taxes are paid, and distributes assets to heirs or beneficiaries based on the specifics in the deceased’s will or other instruments.

Not all assets must go through probate, and there are ways that a person can take steps during his or her lifetime so that heirs or beneficiaries can avoid probate in some circumstances. For example, assets passed through trusts do not need to go through probate, and assets that are held in joint tenancy or for which an individual has been designated as a beneficiary will not need to go through the probate process. Accordingly, if a person names an heir as a joint owner of a bank account, or designates a beneficiary on a retirement account or life insurance policy, those assets will not need to go through probate. However, most other assets left through a will ultimately will require probate unless other conditions apply.

Small Estates and Alternatives to Formal Probate

While determining whether an estate must go through probate often depends upon the types of assets and how they have been left to heirs or beneficiaries, sometimes probate is not necessary if a deceased person has final expenses that outweigh the value of the assets that would be probated. This process is known under Florida law as “disposition without administration.” It can apply if the following are true:

  • Deceased’s assets are valued at an amount less than the deceased’s final expenses, or the deceased’s assets are exempt from claims of creditors; and
  • Deceased’s property does not include any real estate.

In other situations, a shortened probate process can occur known as “summary administration” when a deceased’s death occurred more than two years ago or when the deceased’s assets that would need to go through probate are valued at $75,000 or less.

Formal Probate Process

When assets must be probated through a formal probate process, you should anticipate the following steps:

  • Executor of the will is appointed as the personal representative of the deceased’s estate;
  • Personal representative gets authority to settle the estate with Letters of Administration;
  • Personal representative analyzes the estate and pays the deceased’s debts and taxes;
  • Personal representative distributes remaining assets, files receipts with the court, and asks the court to close the estate; and
  • Court closes the estate.

Contact a Probate Attorney

If you need assistance with probate in Florida, our probate lawyers can assist you. Contact Gilbert Garcia Group, P.A. for more information.

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