Florida Probate 101
Dealing with the probate process is not something that the average person thinks about until they have a loved one pass away. However, the learning curve can be very steep if you are thrust into a position where you need to navigate probate on your own. Consulting an experienced probate attorney is important, but it is also a good idea to familiarize yourself with the most important details.
What Is The Purpose Of Probate?
The probate process is when a court grants permission to a named executor (in Florida, called a personal representative) to dispose of a deceased person’s assets in an appropriate manner. Some assets can pass to their beneficiaries without having to go through probate – for example, property that has a designated beneficiary such as a life insurance policy – but most do have to go through the process. This is so the court can effectively grant approval and ensure that nothing goes to the people who might not be entitled to these assets under the law (or under the deceased person’s will or other estate planning documents).
Some estates do not need to go through the entire probate process, especially if the value of the deceased person’s “final expenses” are greater than the amount of any assets that would go through probate. Other estates may be able to go through a process known as summary administration – the estate in your case may be eligible if (1) the deceased person passed more than two years ago; or (2) the total value of any property that would have to go through probate is less than $75,000. However, most estates that go through probate will go through what is known as regular administration.
An estate going through regular administration essentially begins when the personal representative named in the deceased’s will requests that they officially be appointed as such by the court – at this point, the beneficiaries named in the deceased’s will (if one exists) and any other potential heirs are given notice of this petition and given the chance to object. Assuming no objections, the personal representative is granted what are called Letters of Administration, which then give them the right to disburse assets after the deceased’s debts are taken care of and any taxes are paid.
Something to keep in mind is that a personal representative does not have a free hand, so to speak; they are accountable both to the court, and indirectly, to the deceased’s heirs. There is a standard of care that a personal representative must follow, and rules and goals that must be met. Perhaps the most important is to efficiently settle and distribute the estate as the decedent’s will requests (if possible; there may be some legal impediment), in the best interests of the estate in general. A personal representative can also be removed if just cause is shown.
Call A Hollywood Probate Attorney
When you have lost a loved one, it can be too much to deal with if you have to navigate the probate process alone. The Law Offices of Steven A. Mason, P.A. has handled countless probate cases and is ready and willing to help you with any questions you may have about the process. Contact our Hollywood probate attorneys today for help.