What You Need To Know About The Probate Process In Florida
The Florida Bar Association defines Probate as a court-supervised process during which a Personal Representative finds and collects the assets of someone who has passed away, uses the decedent’s estate to pay all valid debts, and distributes the remaining assets to the decedent’s beneficiaries.
The Definition of ProbateSome examples of Probate assets include:
- A life insurance policy or retirement account payable to the decedent’s estate instead of a specific individual;
- Bank accounts in the sole name of the decedent; and
- Real estate in the sole name of the decedent.
Understanding IntestacyIntestacy is the condition of the estate of an individual who passes away without having made a valid will. When an individual dies without a valid will, the State of Florida distributes that person’s assets to “heirs,” which are defined as people related to the decedent as described in the Florida statute governing the distribution of Probate assets of individuals who die without a will, or “intestate.”
First, the assets in the decedent’s estate are used to pay the cost of the Probate proceedings as well as any outstanding debts the decedent had. Once all debts are settled, the remaining assets are then distributed to the decedent’s heirs.
When it comes to who inherits what under which circumstances, Florida has very specific rules. Generally, the decedent’s assets are first distributed to his or her surviving spouse, if there is one. However, if there is no surviving spouse, the assets typically go to the decedent’s children. In cases where there is no surviving spouse or children, the decedent’s assets will go to his or her parents, siblings, or other distant relatives, in that order.
Making Sure Your Wishes are Carried OutMany people prefer to leave clear instructions on how their assets should be distributed once they are no longer around; obviously, this is done by writing a will. As you may know, a will is a legal document, signed by the decedent and selected witnesses, in which the decedent can name beneficiaries of various Probate assets. In his or her will, the decedent can also name a “personal representative” (also known as “executor”) of his or her choosing, who will be in charge of administering the estate through the Florida Probate process.
When it comes to making a will, writing it yourself may work in simple situations—in case you are leaving everything you own to one person, for example. However, in most cases, wills are more complicated and difficult to write, as there are several requirements under Florida law you will need to meet when drafting a will. This is why hiring a Florida Probate Attorney is the best way to approach the making of your will. An experienced Probate Attorney can help make sure you do not forget anything important and even help you avoid potential issues for your beneficiaries.
Meeting with a Florida Probate AttorneyWhen you meet with your Florida Probate Attorney, you should have a comprehensive list of your assets as well as a list of names of your beneficiaries, showing who gets what. Your attorney will go over your notes with you and will ask any pertinent questions. If you have any questions or concerns about your will, you should make a list of those as well to make it easier for your Probate Attorney to address your concerns.
During the will drafting process, your Probate Attorney may remind you of assets you did not include in your list because you forgot about them or perhaps did not even consider them as assets. Often, your Probate Attorney’s thoroughness can help put your mind at ease that, when you are no longer around, all your wishes will be carried out properly. In some situations, leaving a well-planned will can save your beneficiaries from a costly and lengthy Florida Probate process.