Understanding Probate: An Overview of the Florida Probate System

For many people, probate is an intimidating concept that they need to deal with at one of the worst times in their life, just after a loved one has passed away.  The probate process is set up to identify assets of a person after they have died so that they can be used to pay debts and then be distributed to beneficiaries.  This court-supervised process typically takes 6-12 months to complete, but the process can be delayed if there is no will already in place. In this blog entry, we provide an overview of the process. Please contact us today if you’d like to learn more!

Determining Assets

One of the most important tasks of the probate process is to identify probate assets. These are assets that the deceased person owned in his or her name only.  This would not include things like joint accounts or properties.  The probate court will need to make a full list of all of these assets before moving forward with settling debts and distributing the assets.

Distributing Assets

Once all the assets are identified, claims must be reviewed and valid claims paid in order of priority, as set forth by Florida law. Claims could include, for example,  taxes due, medical bills, credit cards, mortgages and personal loans.  Finally, once all the valid claims are settled, the Personal Representative must distribute remaining assets to the proper beneficiaries.

Avoiding Probate

There are various ways to partially or completely avoid probate that can be implemented with the advice of a Florida estate planning attorney.  For those who choose to plan without the advice of an attorney, extreme caution should be exercised.  While avoiding probate can save significant money for beneficiaries, if done improperly, the results can be catastrophic.  And there are benefits to allowing some assets to pass through probate.

For example, improper planning for probate can result in the loss of assets to the creditors of beneficiaries.  Improper planning may also lengthen and delay the period of time it takes for beneficiaries to receive their inheritances due to creditor claims statutes.

One of the best ways to minimize the probate process is to have a revocable living trust in place.  When properly utilized, a revocable living trust enables assets owned in trust to completely bypass probate.

If you have any questions regarding Florida probate, revocable living trusts, or wills, please contact us today.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES:

Does Your Estate Plan Need An Annual Checkup? 
No Will? There’s A Way: Florida Intestate Proceedings
Probate & Trust Administration
What Is Probate? 
Advantages And Disadvantages Of Probate 
Is Probate An Expensive Process?
Should I Try To Avoid Probate If Possible?
Estate Planning Basics: Why Avoiding Probate Is Preferable
How Can I Avoid A Long, Complex Probate Process?
Are There Any Assets That Are Not Required To Pass Through Probate?
Executing An Estate: 8 Key Duties Of The Executor  
A Brief Overview Of Portability
Hollow Testaments: Understanding Florida Holographic Wills
Rule 41f And The Continuing Importance Of Gun Trusts

Written by John Mangan, Esq.

John Mangan, Esq.

I’m an attorney in Palm City, FL, and I serve clients throughout Martin County, including Stuart, Palm City, Hobe Sound, and Indiantown, as well as those in St. Lucie County, the Treasure Coast, Palm Beach County, and other parts of Florida. The Law Offices of John Mangan, P.A., is an innovative firm providing estate planning services to clients in Florida. We focus primarily on wills, trusts, asset protection, guardianship, and probate administration.