Starting the Process Upon the death of an individual, the first step in the Probate process is known as “opening of the estate.” This happens when the personal representative named in the decedent’s will or one of the decedent’s beneficiaries notifies the court of the need to open and administer the estate.
When preparing for the opening of an estate, several steps must be taken in order to ensure that the Probate administration proceeds as smoothly as possible. Firstly, the personal representative must assess the nature of the estate to identify its size, what assets are to be included, and all outstanding debts. During the Probate administration process, all assets must be accounted for, which is why it is crucial to create a detailed list of these assets.
Additionally, the personal representative should hire a Florida Probate Attorney.
In Florida, the personal representative of an estate is required by law to hire an attorney unless:
- The personal representative is an admitted Florida attorney, or
- The personal representative is the only interested party to the decedent’s estate.
Working with a qualified attorney is crucial, as it will help guide the administration of the estate as well as anticipate any issues that may arise down the road and potentially lead to litigation. Opening the Estate After the personal representative begins a preliminary identification of the assets included in the estate and hires a Probate Attorney, the formal paperwork for the opening of the estate must be filed with a Florida Probate court.
The process of opening an estate must proceed as follows:
- Filing a petition to open the estate for Probate with the court.
- Filing proof of death for the decedent.
- Serving notice of forthcoming estate administration to all interested parties including family members, beneficiaries, and trustees.
- Serving notice to all known creditors.
- Publishing notice for any potential unknown creditors.
Once these steps are taken, the court and personal representative will move forward with the administration of the decedent’s estate.
If creditors or interested parties notified of the Probate administration take issue with its proceedings or any will be related to the decedent’s estate, they may raise these issues through an objection and may even proceed to litigation. For this reason, in the context of a highly contested estate, the Probate process can sometimes take years before completion. Closing the Estate Once all claims filed against an estate have been properly addressed and all debts have been paid, the assets must be prepared for distribution. After that, the Florida probate court may conclude that the administration of the estate is complete. At this point, the Probate Attorney handling the case may file a petition to close the estate.
In order to ensure that future issues related to the estate do not arise, the Probate Attorney may request signed “waiver and consent” forms from all interested parties, consenting to the filing of a petition to close the estate. If, however, the parties do not agree to sign such forms, the personal representative will need to provide a formal accounting of all actions taken during the administration of the estate that includes details of how all assets were distributed. The Probate court will then approve this accounting and, once the distribution is complete, discharge the personal representative and finally close the estate. Hiring a Probate Attorney Our Miami Law Firm, Jurado & Farshchian, P.L. has several years of experience assisting clients through the Probate process all over Florida. Our lawyers handle probate administration cases, issues regarding will contests, Probate litigation, and much more. When it comes to Probate in Florida, our lawyers are the best you can find.