If you have lost a loved one in Florida, then you need to familiarize yourself with Florida probate, which is a legal process that involves transferring the property and assets of a deceased person to their heirs or beneficiaries.
Here are five things you need to know about Florida probate:
- Probate is not always necessary.
Not all assets go through probate in Florida. Some assets are considered non-probate assets, which means they can be transferred without court supervision.
Examples of non-probate assets include:
- Life insurance policies, annuities, or retirement accounts that have a designated beneficiary other than the estate.
- Bank accounts or investment accounts that are payable on death (POD) or transferable on death (TOD) to another person.
- Real estate or other property that is owned jointly with rights of survivorship or as tenants by the entirety with a spouse.
- Property that is held in a trust.
If the deceased person only owned non-probate assets, then probate may not be required. However, if the deceased person owned any probate assets, such as property in their sole name or as tenants in common with another person, then probate may be necessary to transfer those assets to the rightful heirs or beneficiaries.
- Probate can be either formal or summary.
There are two types of probate administration under Florida law: formal administration and summary administration.
Formal administration is the most common and comprehensive type of probate, which applies to estates that are worth more than $75,000 or have creditor claims.
Summary administration is a simplified and expedited type of probate, which applies to estates that are worth less than $75,000 and have no creditor claims, or estates where the decedent has been dead for more than two years.
The main difference between formal and summary administration is the level of court involvement and oversight.
Formal administration requires the appointment of a personal representative (also known as an executor or administrator), who is responsible for managing the estate, paying debts and taxes, and distributing the assets according to the will or the law, if there is no will.
Summary administration, on the other hand, does not require a personal representative, but rather a petition signed by all the heirs or beneficiaries.
In essence, a will is a legal document that specifies who will inherit the property and assets of the person who creates it, who will be in charge of administering their estate, and who will be the guardian of any minor children.
However, a will can also include other provisions, such as funeral arrangements, charitable donations, or specific bequests.
In a probate case, if the deceased person had a valid will, the instructions and wishes expressed in it will be followed.
If, on the other hand, the deceased person did not have a valid will, then probate will follow Florida’s laws of intestacy to determine who will inherit the assets based on family relationships. In general, the spouse and children have priority over other relatives, but there are exceptions and variations depending on the situation.
For example, if the deceased person had a spouse and children from a previous marriage, then the spouse may inherit half of the estate and the children may inherit the other half.
- Probate has costs and fees.
Probate is not free. There are various costs and fees associated with the process. The amount and type of costs and fees depend on several factors, such as:
- The size and complexity of the estate,
- The type of probate administration,
- The existence of a will or creditor claims, and
- The need for professional services.
The costs and fees of probate are usually paid from the estate’s assets before they are distributed to the heirs or beneficiaries. However, some costs and fees may be waived or reduced by agreement or by court order.
- Probate can be avoided or minimized.
Florida probate can be a lengthy and expensive process. However, there are ways to avoid or minimize it.
Some of these ways include:
- Creating a living trust: A living trust is a legal entity that holds your assets while you are alive and transfers them to your chosen beneficiaries when you die without going through probate.
- Adding beneficiaries or co-owners: You can add beneficiaries or co-owners to your bank accounts, investment accounts, life insurance policies, retirement accounts, or real estate deeds so that they can receive your assets directly upon your death without going through probate.
- Making gifts or donations: You can reduce the size and value of your estate by making gifts or donations to your family, friends, or charities while you are alive.
If you need help with Florida probate, contact Jurado & Associates, P.A. We have the experience and expertise to handle any type of probate case, whether it is formal or summary, contested or uncontested, with or without a will.