Overview Of The Probate Process In Florida
Generally, probate is a court-supervised process for identifying and distributing the deceased’s assets to their beneficiaries. This also involves identifying debts or creditors and paying those claims if they exist. Probate can be confusing, stressful, and time-consuming for those involved, especially if the deceased has no estate planning in place.
Some of the main issues in a Florida probate case include:
- Identifying all assets, which can consist of real estate, bank accounts, annuities, life insurance, 401K plans, IRAs, and items of personal property;
- Conducting an inventory of the estate and identifying what, if any of it, is covered within a will;
- Holding an estate sale;
- Notifying creditors and paying bills;
- Managing or selling real estate;
- Paying taxes owed by the estate;
- Distributing property and assets to heirs and beneficiaries.
Probate assets are typically assets or accounts that the decedent owned solely at death or were owned by the decedent and at least one other individual but lacked a provision for automatic succession.
While the process occurs under the supervision of a local probate court, most of the actual work is carried out by a personal representative or “executor” of the estate working in conjunction with a attorney. The duties of a personal representative are set out within Chapter 733 of the Florida Probate Code, which explains the executor’s responsibilities from start to finish. These tasks involve a lot of work – and time – which can be tough to foist upon an overwhelmed family member. When discussing an estate plan, you will want to discuss all options with a Florida probate attorney that can explain these responsibilities and whom you would trust to carry them out.
The court’s role in a probate case is usually minimal if a carefully-planned will is involved. A valid and carefully planned out will sets out how property is distributed to identified beneficiaries. This can reduce the time that probate drags out – usually 9-12 months – for a grieving family.
If the decedent passes without a will – otherwise known as “intestate” – and owned assets, the court becomes more prominently involved. It must pass ownership of the decedent’s assets to the heirs according to law. Disputes over how an asset is distributed often arise more frequently when there is no will to guide the probate court and can lead to bitter arguments, hurt feelings, and potentially unfair and unintended results.
An active and extended probate process can also drive up costs and sap resources from the estate over time. Everyone hopes to avoid this, whether they are making an estate plan or whether they are an intended beneficiary.
Fortunately, there are many techniques available to simplify the probate process and design an estate plan that avoids many of the pitfalls involved for your family. For optimal results, you should discuss all estate planning options with an attorney who knows Florida probate law’s ins and outs.
Our Tampa Probate Attorneys Can Discuss Estate Planning Techniques for the Benefit of Your Family
Probate can be a challenging process, filled with complications and delays. With skilled planning, many of these challenges can be confronted or avoided before the probate opens. The experienced Tampa estate planning attorneys at Strategic Counsel Law Group will carefully review your situation, including all assets and potential liabilities that could be involved in probate. Call our attorneys at 813-286-1700 or schedule a consultation online today to put your plan in motion.