The Probate process in Florida is very similar to most other states. If a person passes away with a will or they pass away intestate, an estate is opened up in probate court. What goes on in probate court is, typically, a personal representative is appointed based upon who is named in the will. If not, the court will appoint one based upon a tree of the closest living relatives. If you have a spouse, your spouse will usually be named. If your spouse has predeceased you, it will be one of your children. If they’re not there, it will then go to one of your siblings. The probate court determines who the heirs are in the estate, who will be receiving your assets.
Whether or not probate is necessary, Florida law requires that someone who has possession of a will must file it within 10 days of learning of the person’s death. If a probate proceeding is necessary, the court will determine whether or not the will is valid. It is always wise to consult a probate attorney when dealing with a loved one’s will in Sarasota, FL.
Many assets of a deceased person can go to their new owner without getting probate court approval. A Sarasota probate attorney can help you arrange your assets in ways that will avoid probate. The most common types of non-probate property are:
- Property held in joint tenancy
- Assets for which the person designated a beneficiary
- Assets held in a trust
Disposition Without Administration
Probate may not be necessary if certain final expenses are greater than the value of the property that would be going through probate. Final expenses include any funeral expenses and reasonable medical expenses within the last 60 days of the final illness. Which expenses count as final can be advised by your Sarasota, FL probate attorney.
This process can be used only when:
- The deceased person did not leave any real estate
- The assets are either exempt from creditors or don’t exceed the amount of the final expenses
This probate shortcut is an option if:
- The death occurred more than two years ago
- All property that would have to go through probate equals not more than $75,000
To start this process, the executor or anyone who inherits property must file a document called a Petition for Summary Administration.
If the estate doesn’t qualify for a simple method of administration, formal probate may be necessary. These proceedings begin when the executor or another interested party asks the circuit court to be appointed as the personal representative of the estate. Beneficiaries and heirs, meaning people who would inherit in the absence of a valid will, are given notice, so that they will have a chance to object.
The court issues a document called Letters of Administration, which gives the personal representative the authority to settle the estate. If there is a will, it must be filed with the court and proven to be valid. This can be done by having the witnesses to the will give sworn statements about its validity. If will is self-proving, then it’s enough to submit the document itself. Under Florida law, a will is considered self-proving if the witnesses signed a statement in front of a notary public when the will was created.
Under the court’s supervision, the personal representative will gather and inventory assets, pay debts and taxes, and distribute what is left to the people who will inherit it. The personal representative must submit a final accounting to the court to show what the estate contained, how the assets were managed, and the plan for distributing them to the beneficiaries. Anyone who objects can do so in court, after speaking with a probate attorney in Sarasota, FL.
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