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At Elder Needs Law, we understand that the death of a loved one is an incredibly difficult and stressful time. 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.
WHAT IS THE PROBATE PROCESS IN FLORIDA?
Probate is the legal process of administering someone’s estate following their death. This can involve
- Retrieving and reviewing the deceased’s Last Will and Testament, if they made one
- Taking care of funeral expenses
- Notifying creditors and settling any 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
It’s important to note that the law requires that you hire a Florida probate attorney to help with this process. Probate administration is a complex endeavor that requires specialized knowledge and attention to detail.
FLORIDA PROBATE PROCESS: KEY DEFINITIONS TO KNOW
Here are some key definitions to know when dealing with the estate administration process. If this is your first time, an experienced Florida probate lawyer can answer all your questions and help you to navigate this challenging time.
Will - a written document, formally signed and witnessed, that meets specific requirements under Florida law. More formally known as a Last Will and Testament, this document outlines the deceased’s final wishes. This not only includes the distribution of assets, but can also name guardians for children and outline funeral preferences. Handwritten wills are valid in court, but may pose certain challenges.
Testator - the person who makes and signs a will. This is often done with the assistance of an estate planning attorney.
Executor - the person elected by the testator to deal with the administration of the estate. A testator may nominate multiple executors in their will.
Beneficiary - a person named as the intended recipient of the deceased’s assets.
Intestacy - the state of dying without a will.
WHAT DOES A FLORIDA PROBATE LAWYER DO?
In the state of Florida, it is a requirement that you hire an attorney to handle the administration of a deceased person’s estate. 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 procedure. If your loved one died without a will, a probate attorney can assist in naming a personal representative and determining the rightful heirs.
Sometimes, the probate process can become contentious and require the intervention of the court. In these instances, a Florida probate lawyer becomes even more of a necessity. Here are some scenarios that can stall the Florida probate process:
- Doubts arise about the validity of the decedent's Will
- The decedent did not properly sign and have witnessed their Will 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 certainly 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 FLORIDA PROBATE LAWYER?
When a loved one passes away with Florida assets, settling their estate will benefit from and usually requires a Florida Bar licensed attorney. Probate administration is a sophisticated endeavor that requires familiarity with complex Florida law and detail-oriented service throughout the process.
If your loved one left a will and you were named as an executor, you will need a Florida 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 a Florida court-supervised process known as “probate.” This is 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.
If your loved one died without a will, or if the original will is lost or destroyed, Florida courts must then determine who the personal representative should be, while deciding the rightful beneficiaries and creditors. Dying without a will is known as “intestacy.” Florida's intestacy laws will determine 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 Florida probate lawyer. Probate administration is a sophisticated endeavor that requires an understanding of complex Florida law and detail-oriented service throughout the process.
TYPES OF PROBATE PROCESSES IN FLORIDA
Generally, there are three main types of probate administration in Florida:
Formal Administration - primarily utilized for larger estates which consist of probatable assets valued at more than $75,000.00.
Summary Administration - a simplified court-supervised process for smaller estates, estates where 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 - 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 Florida 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.” The 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 Florida probate lawyer.
Here at Elder Needs Law, we provide individualized probate services designed to meet the needs of each family. Our staff of dedicated professionals is available to assist you in discussing your loved one’s estate matter. We invite you to contact us with your questions, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.