Florida Probate Procedures – How It Works
Probate is a court-supervised process that is typically necessary when a person passes away in order for his or her property to be properly transferred to individuals or entities known as “beneficiaries.”
When it comes to assets co-owned by the decedent and another individual or group of individuals, they will generally automatically go to the surviving owners and a Probate process is not required. Similarly, assets such as life insurance benefits, annuities, IRAs, and pensions that have designated beneficiaries will not go through Probate.
On the other hand, when a decedent owns property in his or her name alone, it is necessary under Florida Law to “probate” the estate. During the Probate process, the court will appoint a personal representative, who will be in charge of identifying the decedent’s assets, paying all owed taxes and debts, and distributing the assets to all beneficiaries.
When it comes to probating an estate, it may be possible to do it using Summary Administration, a shortened form or Florida Probate, only under the following circumstances:
- The value of the Probate assets is not higher than $75,000; or
- It has been more than two years since the decedent passed away.
In Florida, the Summary Administration process involves filing a Petition for Summary Administration with the court requesting distribution of the assets either following the instructions in the decedent’s will or according to Florida Law. Generally, Summary Administration is a faster, simpler, and less expensive process; however, it is not available in all circumstances. In cases where, for example, a decedent has debts that have not been resolved, Summary Administration is not available and the estate will be required to go through a more complex, expensive, and time-consuming process known as Formal Administration.
In cases where an estate is not eligible for Summary Administration, it will be necessary to handle the estate through Formal Administration, which transfers the decedent’s assets to the designated beneficiaries once all creditor claims have been resolved and all administration costs have been paid. The Formal Administration process begins by filing a Petition for Formal Administration with the court requesting the appointment of a Personal Representative, who will be assigned a variety of tasks related to the administration of the estate, including:
- Collecting assets;
- Paying debts; and
- Filing paperwork.
Handling Creditor Claims
Once the estate has officially been opened and a Personal Representative has been elected, he or she is required to publish a Notice of Administration, which lets all potential creditors know that the estate is being administered. From the moment the notice of administration is published in a local newspaper, creditors will have exactly 90 days to file an official claim against the estate.
After the 90-day period, once all valid claims have been addressed and resolved, the Personal Representative may begin to close the estate. This part of the process involves preparing a Final Accounting and a Petition for Discharge, as well as notifying all beneficiaries. If none of the beneficiaries files any objections to the Final Accounting, the Petition for Discharge, or the proposed plan of asset distribution, then the Personal Representative can move on to distributing the assets to the beneficiaries in accordance with the plan.
The Legal Fees and Costs of Florida Probate
When it comes to the legal fees associated with a Probate case involving Formal Administration, they are typically three percent of the value of the Probate assets. However, there may be additional fees for extraordinary legal services, such as:
- Litigation for will contests;
- Tax audits;
- Determination of beneficiaries;
- Sale of real estate; or
- Tax return preparation.
In addition to legal fees, the estate must pay the Personal Representative for his or her services. In Florida, a Personal Representative handling a Probate case is entitled to a fee of three percent of the value of the probate assets.
Hire an Experienced Florida Probate Attorney
This article is meant to be a brief overview of how Florida Probate Procedures work, designed to give you a better idea of what you will need to do if you have been named Personal Representative of an estate. Keep in mind, however, that the above information is intended only as a guide. When handling a Probate case in Florida, hiring a qualified and experienced Florida Probate Attorney is crucial. Luckily, at Jurado & Farshchian, P.L., you will find some of the best Probate Attorneys in Florida, and they are only one phone call away.