My Loved One Passed Away. What Do I Do Now?
The probate process can vary from state to state, and this means that Florida has its own set of laws and rules to follow when someone dies owning property. Whether probate will be necessary in the case of your loved one depends on whether they had a will and how much their estate was worth.
When someone dies, anyone who has possession of their will must file it with the local court within ten days of learning of their death. The court will then decide whether the will is valid and if their estate will need to go through the probate process.
Ways to Settle an Estate
In Florida, there are three ways to settle an estate. They range from fairly simple and inexpensive to complicated and costly. In almost all cases it is recommended that you have a Florida estate planning lawyer help guide you through the process.
- No Probate (Disposition Without Administration) – This type of probate occurs only when the deceased person leaves very little behind. This lets whoever paid for the person’s final expenses be reimbursed from the assets of the estate. It can only be used when the person didn’t have any real estate and when their only assets are either exempt from creditors’ claims or don’t exceed the amount of the final expenses.
- Summary Administration – This probate can be used by many Florida estates and is an option if either the death occurred more than two years ago, or the value of the estate is not more than $75,000. The person who was nominated in the will as executor, or whoever inherits the property, files a Petition for Summary Administration to start the process of summary administration.
- Formal Administration (‘Regular’ Probate) – If the estate doesn’t qualify for one of the above methods, formal probate may be needed. Generally, the probate proceedings take place in the county where the deceased person was living at the time of their death. The executor nominated in the will, or another interested party, asks the court to begin proceedings and requests to be appointed as a personal representative of the estate. Under the supervision of the court, the personal representative inventories assets, pays debts, and eventually distributes what is remaining to the people who will inherit it. The process typically one year or longer to complete.
What Are Probate Assets?
Probate administration handles probate assets. Those are assets that the deceased person owned in their sole name at the time of their death. Those assets may include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Bank and investment accounts that are in the sole name of the deceased.
- Life insurance policies, annuity contracts, or individual retirement accounts payable to the deceased person’s estate.
- Real estate titled in the sole name of the deceased, or in the name of the deceased and another person as tenants in common (unless it is homestead property).
Probate is necessary to pass the ownership from the deceased person’s estate to their beneficiaries, especially if the deceased person didn’t have a will. Probate is also necessary to complete the financial affairs of the person after their death. This ensures that their creditors are paid if certain procedures are followed correctly.
Why Do I Need an Attorney?
Handling a probate matter while going through the grief process of a loved one can be emotional and extremely frustrating. No one should have to deal with these challenging legal issues on their own at such a difficult time. Except for estates that can be disposed without administration, Florida law requires the assistance of an attorney, and you deserve one that has experience handling these matters every single day. Having an experienced, knowledgeable attorney like David Toback will give you the peace of mind for your future that you and your family deserve.