Basics of the Probate Process
Probate is the process of identifying, gathering and distributing a decedent’s (deceased persons) to their beneficiaries after their death.
A person’s estate comprised of their personal property, real property, money, and possessions and is typically devised to a person’s family and friends through the execution of a will (with a few exceptions). Not all assets are considered assets for probate administration. Exceptions include property held in joint tenancy, assets held in trust, life insurance proceeds, and Transfer on Death (TOD) bank accounts. These assets have specific beneficiaries and can be distributed without permission from the Court.
Probate assets are those assets owned solely in the decedent’s name at death, or that were owned by the decedent and one or more co-owners and lacked a provision for automatic succession of ownership at death. Please note, unless there is an automatic succession of ownership, such as right of survivorship, the ownership of real property MUST be transferred in probate administration.
Florida statutes use the term personal representative instead of such terms as “executor, executrix, administrator and administratrix.” The personal representative can be a person, bank, or trust company appointed by the judge. Most times the personal representative is named in the will of the decedent. If there is no will an interested party must apply to the Court to be appointed as the personal representative of the deceased’s estate probate process. Beneficiaries and heirs are then given notice of the probate proceeding so they can raise objection.
Without objection, in a Formal Administration, the Court will issue Letters of Administration to the personal representative which gives them the authority to settle the estate under the Court’s supervision. The representative will gather and inventory assets, pay taxes and debts, distribute the assets to beneficiaries.
In a Formal Administration, after distribution, the personal representative must file a Final Accounting with the Court, provide notice to the beneficiaries and ask that the case be closed. The Court will then order the estate closed and relieve the personal representative of their responsibilities.
Florida law provides several alternate abbreviated probate procedures other Formal Administration. Selecting the best procedure involves an analysis of the assets and facts surrounding the decedent’s assets.
The probate process can be both daunting and complex. The Kendrick Law Group can help you achieve the closure you and your family deserve in the aftermath of a loved one’s passing. Contact us today for more information or to schedule a complimentary consultation.
Co-written by Spenser Nampon, Law Clerk