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Are you trying to navigate the complexities of Florida probate law after losing someone you love?
At Elder Needs Law, our law firm understands that the death of family members is challenging and stressful. In addition to grieving your loss, you may also be required to take care of the final needs of the deceased, including settling any remaining debts and distributing assets to heirs and beneficiaries.
A trusted Florida probate lawyer can help you to honor your loved one's legacy and final wishes.
Florida Probate Process: Key Definitions
Here are some key definitions to know when dealing with the estate administration process. If this is your first time, an experienced probate lawyer can answer all your questions and help you to navigate this challenging time.
What is a Will?
A will is a written document formally signed and witnessed and meets specific requirements under Florida law. More formally known as a Last Will and Testament, this document outlines the deceased's final wishes. This includes the distribution of assets and can also name guardians for children and outline funeral preferences. Handwritten wills are valid in probate court but may pose certain challenges.
Who is the Testator?
The person who makes and signs a will is known as the "testator." This is often done with the assistance of an estate planning attorney.
Who is the Executor?
The person elected by the testator to deal with the administration of the estate is often called the estate's executor. However, “executor” is actualy a term used in other states. In Florida, we call the estate’s administrator: “Personal Representative.” A testator may nominate multiple personal representatives in their will.
Who is a Beneficiary?
A beneficiary is a person named as the intended recipient of the deceased's assets. Beneficiaries often include a surviving spouse,close family members, and charities;but this is not always the case. There can be multiple beneficiaries named for various assets in a will.
What is the Meaning of "Intestacy"?
When it is said that someone died "intestate," this means they died without a will in place. When someone dies intestate, Florida Statutes determine who gets what.
What is Probate?
Probate refers to the legal process used to gather information about the deceased's assets, pay any remaining valid debts, and is often necessary to enable the transfer of assets to surviving beneficiaries and heirs of the decedent's estate.
According to Florida intestate laws, if your loved one died without a will or the original will was lost or destroyed, Florida probate courts must determine who the personal representative should be and who will inherit the decedent's remaining assets.
Whether your loved one died with or without a will, you can benefit from the support of a probate lawyer. Probate administration is a sophisticated endeavor that requires understanding complex Florida law and detail-oriented service throughout the process. An experienced Florida probate attorney can also handle this complex process more efficiently.
What is the Probate Process in Florida?
Probate is the legal process of administering someone's estate following their death.
This process can involve:
- Retrieving and reviewing the deceased's Last Will and Testament, if they made one
- Taking care of funeral expenses
- Notifying creditors that probate has opened on the estate and settling outstanding debts
- Locating and valuing assets, including real estate, motor vehicles, valuable personal property, bank accounts, and other financial instruments
- Distributing money to heirs and beneficiaries
- Transferring real estate to heirs and beneficiaries
Because of how complex probate can be, many people opt to put detailed estate plans in place to avoid probate altogether on their estate. This is an essential element of the estate planning process.
What Does a Probate Lawyer Do?
It's important to note that Florida law requires that you hire a Florida probate attorney to help with this process. Probate administration is complex and requires specialized knowledge and attention to detail.
If you have been nominated as an executor (personal representative) in your loved one's will, a Florida probate attorney can guide you through the complex probate proceedings.
If your loved one dies without a will, a probate attorney can assist in naming personal representatives and determining the rightful heirs to the deceased's estate.
Sometimes, the probate process can become contentious, leading to legal disputes that require the court's intervention. In these instances, a probate lawyer becomes even more of a necessity.
Here are some scenarios that can stall the probate process in the state of Florida:
- Doubts arise about the validity of the decedent's will
- The decedent did not properly sign and have their will witnessed under Florida law
- The original Will has been lost or destroyed
- An unexpected or unplanned asset is added to the estate
- There are no ascertainable beneficiaries or heirs
Court intervention and supervision are required if the decedent had multiple seemingly valid Wills or Trusts or if someone wants to invalidate or challenge the decedent's Will or Trust.
With the support of a trusted and experienced probate attorney, you can navigate this difficult time and honor the wishes of your loved one.
Who Needs a Probate Lawyer in Florida?
When a loved one passes away with assets, settling their estate typically requires the expertise of a Florida Bar-licensed attorney. Probate administration is a complicated endeavor that requires familiarity with complex Florida law and detail-oriented service throughout the process.
If your family member left a will and you were named as an executor, you would need a probate lawyer to assist in settling their estate. While some assets may pass to their rightful beneficiaries outside of any formal process, other assets must be distributed through one of the Florida court-supervised processes known as "probate."
Types of Probate Processes in Florida
Generally, there are three main types of probate administration in Florida:
Formal administration is primarily utilized for larger estates consisting of probate assets valued at more than $75,000.
Summary administration is a simplified court-supervised process for smaller estates. Most assets can pass to the beneficiaries without probate or estates where the decedent passed away more than two years ago.
Disposition of Personal Property Without Administration
This type of probate applies only in limited circumstances. It is a non-court-supervised administration and is the only type of estate administration that does not legally require the assistance of an attorney. Due to the complexity of this process, it's still recommended to consult with a probate lawyer.
What Happens if Someone Passes Away Without a Will in Florida?
When someone passes away without a Will, this is known as "intestacy," and that person's estate must go through probate. The probate court must determine who the personal representative should be and decide the rightful beneficiaries and creditors.
In an intestate estate, the probate court usually directs distributions and payments of the estate, and Florida's intestacy laws must determine who will inherit the decedent's remaining assets. Intestacy can be particularly complicated and legally requires the assistance of a probate lawyer in the state of Florida.
Experienced Probate Lawyers in Florida Can Help You
Here at Elder Needs Law, our law firm is filled with Florida probate lawyers that provide individualized probate services designed to meet the needs of each unique family. Our staff of dedicated professionals is available to assist you in discussing the estate of your family members or help you navigate probate matters.
We invite you to contact us with your questions 24 hours a day, seven days a week.