When a person passes, they often leave behind assets that need to be distributed to the rightful recipients. In addition, creditors may need to be paid, and property might have to be sold.
If you have been named the personal representative of an estate or if you have other probate concerns, it may be wise to retain an experienced trusts and estates attorney. A Stuart probate lawyer can help to smooth out the process of estate distribution during this time.
Probate is a court-supervised system of ensuring that a deceased person’s assets go to the correct people. The person who has passed away is often referred to as the decedent during probate proceedings, and the recipients of property are called beneficiaries.
A personal representative may be appointed by a judge to distribute the estate. This term is used in place of “executor” in Stuart courts. Once appointed, the personal representative generally has the responsibility of ensuring that the decedent’s assets are properly valued, debts and taxes are paid, and property is distributed appropriately to beneficiaries. A probate lawyer in Stuart may be able to help potential personal representatives understand their legal obligations.
There are two main types of probate proceedings in Stuart. Factors that influence the decision of which type to select include the value of estate assets, the length of time since the decedent’s death, and the existence of potential creditor claims. A seasoned Stuart probate attorney can provide guidance specific to a particular situation.
Formal administration is a somewhat lengthy process that involves many fiduciary obligations. First, the custodian of a will turns it over to the court clerk. Under the guidelines stated in Florida Statutes §732.901, the holder of a testamentary instrument must provide it to the court within ten days of hearing about the decedent’s passing.
After the court has received the decedent’s will and a petition has been filed, the court will typically appoint a personal representative. The personal representative has many fiduciary duties, including providing proper notice to all beneficiaries and creditors, valuing estate assets, paying estate expenses, valid claims, and taxes, accounting to the estate’s beneficiaries, and then ultimately distributing estate assets to the appropriate parties. If there is no will, the decedent’s assets are distributed to heirs at law, as determined by the Florida Probate Code, after payment of all expenses, valid claims, and taxes.
Summary administration of an estate is generally only available under limited circumstances. It may be an appropriate measure if the decedent has been dead for more than two years or if the decedent’s estate is valued at less than $75,000 and all creditors have been paid or failed to object to summary administration. If a beneficiary receives assets via summary administration, they may still become liable for valid claims against the decedent’s estate for up to two years from the decedent’s date of death, as per Fla. Stat. §735.206.
The Stuart probate process can be complicated, and an attorney is almost always required in formal administration. Make an appointment today to talk with a Stuart probate lawyer about your estate issues. Let an experienced legal professional help you.