What Is Probate?

Some of us have been involved in probate at some point in our lives. If probate is so common, why do we struggle to answer the question, “What is probate?” Read on to learn more about this common court proceeding.

What Is Probate? It’s a Court Proceeding

But there are many court proceedings: civil lawsuits, guardianships, criminal cases, and divorces just to name a few. What makes probate different? Probate is the “court supervised process for identifying and gathering the assets of a deceased person (decedent), paying the decedent’s debts and distributing the decedent’s assets to his or her beneficiaries.”

A probate proceeding begins when a deceased person’s Will (if any) is deposited with the probate court, and an application to serve as personal representative of an estate is filed.

As defined by Florida law, the term ‘probate of a Will’ refers to “all the steps necessary to establish the validity of a will and to admit the will to probate.” Once a Will is admitted to probate, the court issues Letters of Administration to the estate’s personal representative.

However, when the decedent did not leave a Will, the estate still goes through probate. An interested person files the application to serve as personal representative of the estate. An individual approved by the court then begins the process of probating the estate.

Is There Only Way to Probate an Estate in Florida?

Asking the question “what is probate?” may lead to another question: what type of probate do I need? The answer may be one of three different forms of probate.

  • Formal Administration. Courts more closely supervise an estate going through formal administration. This is the most common form of probate administration.
  • Summary Administration. This is an abbreviated probate proceeding available for smaller estates or estates where the decedent has been dead for at least 2 years.
  • Disposition of Property Without Administration. A very small estate that meets certain guidelines may be administered without formal oversight.

Probate can be fairly straightforward in some situations where the assets are minimal and there are no creditors, but often times probate cases last at least 6-12 months.  Issues such as missing heirs, Will contests, creditor claims, extensive assets, and disputes over who will serve as a personal representative can complicate the picture. An experienced Florida probate attorney can help you navigate the probate process.

Don’t Just Ask “What Is Probate?

Ask how it will affect your loved ones. A good estate plan can help avoid some of the pitfalls and frustrations of probate.

Attorney John Mangan is board certified in Wills, Trusts & Estates by the Florida Bar. Please call us at 772-324-9050 or use our Contact Form to set up an appointment. We help clients throughout Florida, including Stuart, Palm City, Hobe Sound, Jupiter, and Port St. Lucie.

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.