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Property in Probate & Intestacy

When you lose a loved one, your life immediately changes. You suddenly have a thousand things to do, chief among them disposing of property and ensuring that all their bequests are honored. Submitting their estate to probate is one of the things that needs doing fastest, and yet can take the most time. Most people are unaware of the difference between assets that need to go through probate and those that do not, but if you are in the position of having to have dealings with probate court, it is important that you do.

Is Probate Required?

Generally, under Florida law, probate is not required unless there are specific types of assets within the estate that require it. Essentially, certain assets can go directly to designated beneficiaries, while others need to be evaluated by the court before disbursement.

The difference between the two categories is that usually, probate assets are those owned solely by the individual – examples include real property owned in fee simple, luxury items like automobiles or fine art, and personal savings accounts. Sometimes assets owned by multiple people will be included in probate if there is no clear plan for that asset to pass on – for example, a joint account with no right of survivorship – but generally, probate assets will be those owned solely by the deceased. Non-probate assets have an additional owner or tenant, such as property held in joint tenancy or retirement accounts with a stated beneficiary.

If The Deceased Left No Will

There are two forms of probate administration in Florida, and which one to pursue depends on whether the deceased left a will or not. If your loved one left a will, and they were a resident of Florida, domiciliary probate may proceed according to the will. However, even if your loved one was not a resident, they might conceivably have assets that require probating in Florida (such as a vacation home in their name, for example). If this is the case, Florida law allows for what is referred to as ancillary probate, which is a modified and limited form that only deals with the assets that fall under the state’s jurisdiction. So, continuing the example, if a loved one passes away while a resident of South Carolina, but they own a vacation home in Florida, you would still have to go through Florida probate, but only involving the vacation home (and any other assets based there).

If the deceased left no will, Florida’s statutes, most notably Sec. 732.103, set out the method in which intestate property will be disposed of. As with most states, there is a hierarchy in which family members will receive shares in the deceased’s estate. The only real difference between intestate and testate probate (that is, without a will or with a will) is that the extra step of determining the beneficiaries must be taken. After that, the court is petitioned to accept the list, and probate continues in the same manner as it would have with a will.

A Probate Attorney Can Smooth The Process

The last thing you want when you have had a loved one pass is to endure a complex and confusing process to dispose of their estate. Hiring a Fort Lauderdale probate attorney can make the difference between everything being handled appropriately and information overload. The law offices of Steven A. Mason, P.A. can boast years of experience in probate and estate planning cases, and we are happy to answer any questions you may have while assisting in your case. Contact the Fort Lauderdale and Hollywood Law Offices of Steven A. Mason, P.A. for legal advice at 954-963-5900 or leave a message online.

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