Florida Probate Overview

Probate refers to the legal process of administering the estate of a deceased person. When a person passes away, their assets, debts, and property need to be managed and distributed according to their will, or if there is no will then according to Florida state laws. When faced with settling an estate, probate can be a stressful topic. However, if one is familiar with the process, probate can actually be a tool that provides a structured settlement of a person’s financial affairs.

Settling an Estate in Florida

In the state of Florida, there are several ways to settle an estate. There are some instances when probate is not necessary, and other circumstances where it will be considered mandatory.

Assets that Bypass Probate

There are several types of assets that pass directly to a new owner and bypass probate. The most common kinds of non-probate property are property held in joint tenancy, usually houses and bank accounts, and 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 there are no other creditors, probate can be avoided. Final expenses include funeral expenses and medical expenses within the last two months of life. Be sure to research Florida law for more information.

Summary Administration

If either the death occurred more than two years ago or the value of all property is less than $75,000, a summary administration 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.

Formal Administration

If the estate doesn’t qualify for one of the simpler methods of administration, 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.

Florida probate laws and procedures can be complex, and it’s often advisable to seek guidance from an attorney experienced in probate matters to navigate the process effectively.

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 administration, feel free to contact us with any questions you may have.

The Law Office of Donna Hearne-Gousse
(561) 582-5670

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