Navigating Florida Probate
When most people lose a loved one, the last thing on their mind is legal proceedings. However, in order to be able to receive any bequest granted to you by the deceased person, it is necessary to submit their estate to probate. Probate is the legal process by which an estate is distributed, and any debts and taxes are paid off so that the remaining assets can be given to the beneficiaries. Trying to go through probate can be difficult and time-consuming, so most people engage an experienced attorney to help answer any questions.
Which Assets Are Included?
It is important to keep in mind that not every asset must go through Florida probate. For example, if an asset is held in a revocable living trust, it does not have to go through probate. This is also true for property held in joint tenancy with rights of survivorship (for example, a married couple’s joint bank account will simply pass into the surviving spouse’s ownership upon the death of the other), and for any asset where the deceased person could designate a beneficiary, such as a life insurance policy.
Most other assets will have to go through the probate process and be valued before being released to the chosen beneficiary. This is true even if the deceased person had no will or other estate planning documents – if no will exists, the court will distribute the assets according to Florida’s intestacy laws. For an intestate estate, the surviving spouse is entitled to their share, and then the remainder is distributed among surviving children, parents, siblings, and any other relations that are still living. If absolutely no family exists, the deceased person’s estate will escheat (essentially, revert) to the state of Florida, but this is extremely rare.
The Probate Process
When it comes time to go through the probate process, there are two ways that it can happen. If the estate’s property value (for those assets that would have to go through probate) is less than $75,000, or the person’s passing occurred more than two years ago, it may be possible to go through what is called summary administration. This is a simplified form of probate that can cut down on the time that the estate is tied up in court proceedings. Debts and taxes must still be paid, but fewer assets mean fewer creditors and future potential roadblocks.
Standard probate, by comparison, can unfortunately take much longer. A personal representative will be appointed for the estate, and both beneficiaries and creditors are given notice of the person’s passing so that they are able to make claims within the accepted window for doing so. The will must also be evaluated by the court and ruled valid (or invalid, which may open up a different proverbial can of worms). Eventually, however, the estate will be wound up with the personal representative’s accounting to the court, after which assets can be released to the beneficiaries of the deceased person’s will.
Call A Naples Probate Attorney Today
The probate process can seem confusing and insurmountable for the average person. If you have questions or concerns regarding your own estate, calling a Naples probate attorney from Nici Law Firm may be the first step toward ensuring all is how you want it to be going forward. Contact our offices today via our website, or on the telephone at 239-449-6150, to schedule a consultation.