You’ve lost a loved one, what now?
The loss of a loved one is an extremely emotional time. If you have found yourself responsible for a loved one’s affairs, the prospect of having to probate an estate can be very stressful. Fortunately, you don’t have to do this alone. At Messina Law Group, our lawyers have the resources to represent those involved in the estate. Whether you’re just trying to figure out what to do next or you’re dealing with quite a bit of family conflict after the death of a loved one, we can help.
Let our office provide you and your family with the comfort of a clear path forward for your Probate.
What is Probate?
In short, Probate is the legal process performed, after a person dies (the “Decedent”), that identifies, assesses and distributes the Decedent’s Estate – the assets and debts.
During the Probate process, any outstanding debts are paid and any remaining assets are given to the beneficiaries. This often includes paying the costs of the probate process, the Decedent’s funeral expenses, any outstanding debts the Decedent has, and then disbursing the remainder to the beneficiaries.
The Probate proceedings are supervised by a judge and administered by a personal representative. Florida law requires a licensed Florida lawyer to probate the Estate except in very rare circumstances.
Does the Estate Need to be Probated?
Not every asset left behind after a death will need to go through the probate process. However, probate is required anytime a person dies with assets in his or her name only, whether or not the Decedent had a Will directing how those assets should be distributed.
If there is a valid Will in place, the court manages the process of “probating the Will” where the Estate’s personal representative pays the Estate’s expenses and distributes the Estate’s assets to the beneficiaries according to the terms of the Will.
If the Decedent passes without a Will, the probate court will determine the appropriate heirs through a process called intestate succession. Once all appropriate heirs are determined, the assets will be distributed to the Decedent’s heirs according to the Florida’s Intestate statutes. While the statutes provide the framework, unless your loved one’s Estate falls into one of the rare exceptions, you’ll need a skilled probate lawyer to guide you through the process.
Formal Administration v. Summary Administration
Depending on a number of factors including the size of your loved one’s estate and the type of assets and debts involved at the time of death, there are two primary ways your loved one’s estate can go through probate: Formal Administration or Summary Administration.
Most estates in the Florida probate courts go through the longer, and more complicated formal administration which has no eligibility requirements.
This process includes:
- Appointing a Personal Representative
- Issuing Letters of Administration
- Notifying creditors
- Objecting to creditor claims or paying the creditor’s claims that survive the Decedent’s death
- Taking possession of the Estate’s assets
- Inventorying the Decedent’s assets and determining their value
- Collecting on debts owed to the Decedent
- Paying taxes and the Decedent’s final expenses
- Distributing the assets to appropriate beneficiaries.
Summary Administration, on the other hand, offers a quicker option for estates with fewer assets to distribute. In exchange for this efficiency, Summary Administration limits the power of those involved in distributing the estate.
Probating the Estate
A Personal Representative will be appointed by the Court or nominated in your loved one’s Will. It is the Personal Representative’s responsibility to oversee the probate process in conjunction with an attorney the retained.
The Personal Representative will be responsible for:
- Locating documents relevant to the Probate
- Identifying the assets
- Determining creditors
- Paying bills related to the estate while it is Probated
- Preparing and filing income tax returns for the estate
Messina Law Group can help
Let our office provide you and your family with the comfort of a clear path forward for your Probate. We’ll help you get the process started, explain your role, and help you make an informed decision about how to move forward.
Our goal is to make the legal process a smooth one. Our experienced staff knows that every situation is unique. However, we have handled thousands of similar cases throughout Florida.