Probate is the process by which a court oversees the distribution of a deceased person’s assets and deals with any other legal issues that may arise during the administration of a person’s estate. While every will is required to be filed with the court upon death, not every estate requires formal probate administration.  Florida probate for a small estate is usually a straightforward process. Even so, it is important to understand what this involves and how to proceed once probate begins. Depending on your role as a personal representative, a potential heir, or another interested party, opening an estate in probate may create legal duties. Reach out to an experienced probate lawyer who could help you.

When is Probate Necessary?

In the strictest sense, probate is always necessary after a death when the decedent died owning assets in that person’s individual name without any beneficiary designation or co-owner. However, in some cases, a person’s estate may have few assets and, as a result, the court may allow administration to proceed via an abbreviated process called summary administration. Alternatives to formal administration may also be available if the decedent’s estate contains only personal property, there are no creditor claims, and the estate does not contain any value in excess of the costs for the funeral or medical care.

In all other instances, the estate must be processed through formal probate. Probate will typically include the validation of a will, the discovery of any legal claims to an estate, and the personal representative producing an estate accounting and taking the necessary steps to close the estate. However, none of these steps matter until the probate estate has been opened.

How to Open an Estate in Stuart

While probate courts have broad powers to oversee the probate process, a court cannot open an estate without action by an interested party. If a will exists, the process begins when any person who is in possession of the will files it with the court within ten days of the death of the testator. According to Fla. Stat. §733.202, any interested party can submit an estate to a probate court for administration. An interested party may include:

  • A personal representative named in a will
  • An heir who stands to inherit in the will
  • A person who stands to inherit but for the terms of a will

To accomplish this request for formal administration, an interested party must file a petition for administration. There is no specific court-provided form for this process, but the petition must contain:

  • Personal information about the petitioner
  • Personal information concerning the decedent
  • Information about the beneficiaries of the estate
  • The reason for choosing the county in which the court is located
  • Information about the personal representative and their qualifications to serve in this role
  • Information about the value of the decedent’s assets
  • A statement concerning the presence of a will
  • A certification that there are no additional wills to the best of the petitioner’s knowledge

As a result, opening an estate in Stuart probate can be a complex undertaking. An attorney can help to gather the necessary information.

Opening Florida probate for a small estate is an Essential First Step

The wishes of the decedent carry the full weight of the law. However, a court can only make those wishes a reality if an interested party submits a formal request for a court to rule on the matter.

Opening an estate in Stuart through probate begins with submitting a request to the probate court. However, this request must contain detailed information about the petitioner, the deceased person, and all potential heirs. A lawyer in Stuart may be able to help you with this process and begin the necessary steps to resolve an estate.

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