When faced with settling an estate, probate can be a stressful topic.
However, if one is familiar with the processes, probate can actually be a tool that provides a structured settlement of a person’s financial affairs.
In the state of Florida, there are three ways to settle an estate:
Assets That Bypass Probate
The most common kinds of non-probate property that pass directly to a new owner are property held in joint tenancy, usually houses and bank accounts, assets for which the person designated a beneficiary such as a POD bank account, a retirement account or a life insurance policy.
Probate Disposition Without Administration
When final expenses are greater than the value of the property that would go through probate, and their are no other creditors, probate can be avoided. Final expenses include funeral expenses and medical expenses within the last two months of life. See FLORIDA STATUTE 735.301 for more detail.
If either the death occurred more than two years ago or the value of all property is less than $75,000, a summary adminitration may be utilized. To start this process, any executor or beneficiary files a document called a Petition for Summary Administration. In the petition, the filer states that the estate qualifies for summary administration, lists the deceased person’s assets and who is willed to inherit which assets. If the court determines that the estate qualifies for summary administration, it will issue an order releasing the property to its rightful beneficiaries.
If the estate doesn’t qualify for one of the simpler methods of administration above, then formal probate may be necessary. These proceedings begin with the executor nominated in the will asking the court to be appointed as personal representative of the estate. Beneficiaries and/or heirs are given notice and the court issues a document called the Letter of Administration, which gives the personal representative authority to settle the estate. If there’s a will, it must be filed with the court and proven valid. Under the court’s supervision, the personal representative pays final debts and taxes, settles/liquidates/values all assets, and distributes to beneficiaries and/or heirs. Once completed, and if no objections are filed, the estate is officially closed.
The Law Office of Donna Hearne-Gousse is located in Royal Palm Beach and serves all of Palm Beach County. For more information regarding probate settlement, feel free to contact us with any questions you may have.
The Law Office of Donna Hearne-Gousse