Losing a loved one is never easy. Unfortunately, in certain circumstances it is necessary to involve a lawyer to walk you through the legal process of probate. Probate is the legal process of administering the estate of a deceased person, resolving all claims and distributing the deceased person’s property under a will.
In Florida, there are three ways to administer a probate estate. Here’s an overview of each one, from the simplest to the most complicated.
Assets That Don’t Go Through Probate
Many assets of the deceased person may be able to go to their new owner without probate court approval. The most common kinds of non-probate property are:
- property held in joint tenancy by more than one person—for example, a house owned by a couple, or a bank account shared by more than one person
- assets for which the person designated a beneficiary—for example, a POD bank account, a retirement account, or life insurance proceeds
- assets held in a living trust
No Probate (Disposition Without Administration)
When the decedent leaves very little behind, this process lets someone who paid for the person’s final expenses—the funeral and expenses of the last illness—be reimbursed from the assets of the estate.
It can be used only when:
- the deceased person did not leave any real estate, and
- the only assets are either exempt from creditors’ claims or don’t exceed the amount of final expenses.
It’s an option if either:
- the death occurred more than two years ago, OR
- the value of the probate estate—that’s all the property that would have to go through probate, is not more than $75,000.
The court doesn’t appoint a personal representative for the estate. If the Court determines that the estate qualifies for summary administration it, issues an order, releasing the property to the people who inherit it. You might use this court order to show a bank, for example, that you are the rightful inheritor of the funds in an account it holds.
Formal Administration (‘Standard’ Probate)
If the estate doesn’t qualify for the above simpler methods of administration, formal probate may be necessary. These proceedings begin when the Personal Representative nominated in the will, or another interested party, asks the court to be appointed as personal representative of the estate. Generally, the probate proceeding takes place in the county where the deceased person was living at the time of death. If there’s a will, it must be filed with the court and proven valid.
Under the court’s supervision, and with the help of an attorney, the personal representative gathers and inventories assets, pays debts and taxes, and (eventually) distributes what’s left to the people who inherit it.
The lawyers at Scarlett & Hirsch, P.A. are well versed in all areas of probate and understand the difficulties facing a family after they have lost a loved one. We will walk you through the entire process with compassion and dedication ensuring that you have the best representation possible.