When someone dies in Florida, how do we know if there needs to be probate in order to distribute the descendant’s assets? Well, the answer to that question is a bit more complicated than a simple yes or no.
The probate process tends to differ from one case to another and depends on multiple factors altogether. In this article, we look over the different case categories you fall into and how to approach the situation in the best way possible. Let’s get started.
What is probate?
Before we even begin, it would be helpful to understand the legal process of probate, regardless of whether you already have some knowledge or none at all. So what is it?
Probate is the legal procedure of distributing an estate’s ownership to the next of kin. Property that is transferred through probate is subject to additional regulations, including the payment of taxes and obligations. You can always look for a professional attorney for probate.
The value of the property itself, any ongoing debts and obligations, and any income or assets that could be available to satisfy those debts and liabilities are all factors that must be taken into account in a probate proceeding.
An estate’s worth is typically determined by its fair market value at the time of death minus any unpaid debts and obligations.
How much does an estate need to be worth for probate?
In order to settle a dead person’s assets and possessions in Florida, it will require a probate process. After the person’s death, probate is legally required for non-exempt assets that are worth more than $75,000.
This means that if the person’s estate is worth less than $75,000, then there is no need for it to go through probate. As for the exempt assets, these generally consist of properties that have a survivorship right or a named beneficiary.
They can include assets such as bank accounts and life insurance. It is also worth mentioning that when an heir disputes a deceased estate, it also calls for probate.
What is an executioner?
An executioner is a personal representative appointed by the descendant before their death and is often mentioned in a will as the executioner. Their main role is to do everything that the descendant would have done if they were alive.
They make sure that all the estate is distributed to the heirs and beneficiaries fairly and according to the final documented wishes of the deceased. There are also other circumstances when an executioner might be needed.
For example, if there is a lawsuit on behalf of the estate or when there is an investigation into the descendant’s assets. In the event that the descendant left no will behind, then the Florida Statute 733.301 will decide who the executioner will be.
What happens once the probate is settled
The probate process in Florida was designed while keeping in mind the importance of a fair distribution among the heirs and beneficiaries. Not only that but it’s also meant to get the process completed as quickly and efficiently as possible.
Usually, probate is only required when the descendant has a will or when the heirs have not yet been identified. If there is no will, then it is left up to the court to decide who the heirs will be. And this depends on the relationships the descendant’s family members had with him/her.
As the probate process is complete, the court will then send out a final decree of distribution. In this document, the court has specified which heir gets which asset, and the value of the asset is also mentioned inside.
If you were named as a beneficiary and you did not receive all the estate you were legally entitled to, then you may file a claim to the court and demand your complete share.
Probate Jurisdiction in Florida
According to Florida Statute 733.103, the venue of the probate case is further explained. If the deceased person was a resident of Florida at the time of their death, then the probate case must be filed in the same county where they lived while they were still alive and at the time of their death.
On the other hand, if the deceased was not a resident of Florida, then the probate case can be filed in the county where they owned the property until their death. Florida courts can only transfer the rights of the property if it was located in Florida.
What are the steps for probate?
1. File a petition
The filing of a “Petition for Administration” is the first stage in the probate procedure. The decedent’s will is just one of the supporting papers that will be included in your petition. The petition must be submitted at the county’s circuit court, where the deceased was a resident when they passed away.
Approximately one month after filing, if all of your documents are in order, the court will issue a Letter of Administration confirming that your petition has been approved. The personal representative of the estate will also be mentioned in the letter.
2. Notify all creditors
All debts owed to creditors by the estate must be satisfied before assets are given to beneficiaries. However, in order to get payment, creditors must submit a claim to the estate. The estate may be released from its obligation to pay the debt if the creditors choose not to or fail to submit a claim.
However, it is the personal representative’s responsibility under the law to make sure that each creditor is informed that the estate has been submitted for the probate process. This contains both known and unidentified creditors. The personal representative must take all reasonable steps to find any possible creditors.
3. Inventorying the estate
The personal representative must create an inventory of all the estate’s assets as the next step in the probate procedure. This could be an easy, uncomplicated process in some circumstances. Other times, it might be difficult and time-consuming to find and identify the estate’s assets.
4. Paying the creditors
Once the statutory time for the submission of claims has gone, the personal representative may start paying any legitimate creditor claims, provided that creditors have already been duly notified.
After this date, claims may be ruled invalid, and the estate may be released from any payment obligations.
5. Accounting of the estate
The accounting must be submitted to the probate court, which is basically the final obstacle. The accounting, as its name implies, will include information on the worth of all assets, claims settled, and all estate expenses and liabilities. All records supporting the accounting must be produced by the personal representative.
6. Distribute the assets
The personal representative may then distribute the leftover assets in accordance with the terms of the will; this happens after the accounting is approved.
The probate process is nothing shy of many complex problems and time consumption. Fortunately, you always have the option of hiring a professional attorney for probate who will guide you through the entire process of probate. This will make the whole experience quicker and a lot less overwhelming.