When people engage in estate planning discussions, the subject of probate is probably going to come up. Many people actively try to avoid probate. Yet, many people have poor estate plans that don’t protect them from probate or, even worse, don’t even have an estate plan. If you find yourself in the middle of a probate proceeding, it will help to understand the Florida probate system.
Technically, probate means establishing the validity of a Will and admitting it to probate. Probate is a court-supervised process in which estate assets of the decedent are identified and gathered, debts of the decedent are paid, and remaining assets are distributed to beneficiaries or heirs. Probate courts also supervise some estates where no valid Will exists (intestate estates).
When someone passes away, they may leave behind real estate, financial accounts, personal property, and digital assets. Hopefully, they’ll also leave a valid Will that states who will receive their assets. The probate estate consists of assets that were not distributed in other ways, such as through beneficiary designations, joint ownership, or trusts.
Florida has two main types of probate administration: summary administration and formal administration.
This type of administration is appropriate under the following conditions:
Another method of simple administration – Disposition Without Administration – can be used in limited situations. For example, this process may be appropriate where the probate assets consist entirely of property that is classified as exempt from creditor claims. Also, funeral and final treatment expenses are considered.
Estates that do not qualify for summary administration are probated under a formal administration.
After being appointed by the court, the personal representative gathers the estate assets or information about the assets. A notice of administration will be published quickly so that creditors may submit their claims.
During administration, the personal representative is required to maintain and protect the estate’s assets. As soon as assets have been inventoried, debts to the estate collected, valid claims paid, and distributions made, the estate can be closed. Once the court is satisfied all requirements have been met, the judge will sign an Order of Discharge.
Through the entire process, which can be time-consuming for the personal representative, the court closely supervises the estate.
John Mangan is an experienced Florida estate planning attorney who has been board certified in Wills, Trusts & Estates by the Florida Bar. At Law Offices of John Mangan, P.A., we help clients develop an estate plan that’s appropriate for their circumstances. Call us at 772-324-9050 to set up an appointment or use our Contact Form. With our office located in Palm City, we also assist clients in surrounding communities like Stuart, Hobe Sound, Jupiter, and Port St. Lucie.