Probate is a court-supervised process for identifying and gathering the assets of a deceased person (decedent), paying the decedent’s debts and distributing the decedent’s assets to his or her beneficiaries.
Some of the common reasons individuals wish to avoid probate include:
- Protection of assets and creditor protection
- Privacy (probate proceedings are a part of the public record)
- Control over ones assets and delegation of assets to beneficiaries
- Charitable causes
- many more
Upon death, if the decedent did not leave a will it is considered to have died "intestate." In Florida, if someone dies intestate (meaning, without a will), the decedent’s probate assets will be distributed to the decedent’s heirs following the order of priority provided in Chapter 732 of Florida Statutes. Generally, the order of priority will depend on whether the decedent was married, had children, and other specific factors.
The personal representative is the person, bank or trust company appointed by the judge to be in charge of the administration of the decedent’s Probate Estate.
The personal representative has a legal duty to administer the probate estate pursuant to Florida law. The personal representative must:
- Identify, gather, value and safeguard the decedent’s probate assets.
- Publish a “Notice to Creditors” in a local newspaper in order to give notice to potential claimants to file claims in the manner required by law.
- Serve a “Notice of Administration” to provide information about the probate estate administration and notice of the procedures required to be followed by those having any objection to the administration of the decedent’s probate estate.
- Conduct a diligent search to locate “known or reasonably ascertainable” creditors, and notify these creditors of the time by which their claims must be filed.
- Object to improper claims, and defend suits brought on such claims.
- Pay valid claims.
- File tax returns and pay any taxes properly due.
- Employ professionals to assist in the administration of the probate estate (for example, attorneys, certified public accountants, appraisers and investment advisers)
- Pay expenses of administering the probate estate.
- Pay statutory amounts to the decedent’s surviving spouse or family.
- Distribute probate assets to beneficiaries,
- and other important responsibilities.
Our experienced attorneys can help personal representatives navigate the Probate Administration process. Contact us today for more information or to schedule your consultation!
The first important step is to evaluate the estate with a qualified attorney to determine the best Probate Administration approach. Second, you should be ready to compile important documents such as the Will (if any), certified copy of the death certificate, list of creditors or debts, and information pertaining to beneficiaries.
Our experienced attorneys can help you navigate the Probate Administration process, and can provide you with a list of the information you will need to gather in order to be thoroughly prepared and help expedite the process. Contact us today to get started!