The Basics of Florida Probate

Quite a few famous people, such as Jimi Hendrix and Bob Marley, have died without wills. In fact, a dispute over Jimi Hendrix’s estate was resolved only last month. When a person dies without a will, the person dies “intestate.” “Intestate” is the legal term for lack of a will. Chapter 732, Part I of the Florida Statutes covers what happens when a person dies intestate.

But, when a person has a will when they die, then the estate is submitted to probate. “Probate” is the legal process whereby the decedent’s (the person who died) assets are determined and dispersed. Chapter 732, Part V of the Florida Statutes covers what happens when a person dies with a will.

Florida Probate Process

Under Florida law, a person who possesses a will of another person must lodge the will with the clerk of court within 10 days of the decedent’s death. The lodging of the will starts the probate process.

When the decedent’s estate goes into probate, generally the decedent’s assets are determined and assessed. Generally, the decedent’s assets are used first to pay the costs of the probate process, and then to pay debts, including any federal and/or state taxes owed. Then, the remainder of the assets is distributed to the decedent’s beneficiaries, as outlined in the will.

Two Types of Probate

In Florida there are two types of probate: summary administration and formal administration.

Summary Administration

Summary administration is considered a type of short-cut and is a truncated probate process. Summary administration can only be used when the will does not call for formal administration and the death occurred over two years ago or the value of the estate is less than $75,000.

An interested person, usually a beneficiary or the executor as named in the will, files a petition for summary administration, listing the assets and their value and the people who inherit each asset.

If the court finds that the estate qualifies for summary administration, the court will not appoint a personal representative or executor, as is done in the case of a formal administration. Rather, the court will simply issue an order distributing the assets to the appropriate beneficiaries (as provided by the will and in the petition for summary administration).

Formal Administration

Formal administration begins when an interested party, usually either a beneficiary or the executor named in the will, files a petition to be appointed the personal representative or executor of the estate. If granted, the court issues a document called the Letters of Administration. The Letters of Administration gives the personal representative the power and authority to distribute the decedent’s assets. Generally, the personal representative is required to pay the decedent’s debts first and then distribute the remaining assets to the beneficiaries. The personal representative then provides proof to the court that all assets have been properly dispersed.

Speak with a Probate Law Attorney Now

If someone you love has died, with or without a will, and you have questions or concerns about your loved one’s estate, you should immediately contact an experienced Tampa probate law attorney such as Bubley & Bubley, P.A. We can help you get through this difficult time and process.

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