Probate is the process in which a court will supervise the distribution of a deceased person’s estate upon death. Also, this process will ensure the validity of the decedent’s will, pay any outstanding debt(s), and guarantee the rightful heirs receive their fair share of the estate.
Generally, all assets titled solely in the decedent’s name must go through probate (except for a few exemptions granted by state law). In this article, you will discover the basic steps for probate in Florida.
Explaining the Steps for Probate in Florida – An Overview
Filing the Decedent’s Last Will with the Court
Before determining whether the decedent’s estate must go through summary or formal administration, the person in control of the last will must submit it to court with a petition for probate.
Summary administration is an expedited version of probate, generally concluded in up to three weeks. Nonetheless, as most cases cannot qualify for summary administration, the traditional form of probate in Florida is formal administration.
If the decedent’s last will is valid and the estate qualifies for formal administration, then the court will appoint a personal representative. Typically, the personal representative is designated in the last will.
Receipt of Letters of Administration
The judge adjudicating the case will sign an order admitting the decedent’s estate for probate and will issue Letters of Administration. Despite the name, the term does not refer to actual letters, but to a court order granting the personal representative authority to execute the estate subject to probate.
Yet, the personal representative may receive certified copies of the Letters as feasible evidence of the authority given by the court.
Notification of All Interested Beneficiaries
Florida Statutes §733.212 (1) provides that “the personal representative shall promptly serve a copy of the notice of administration on the following persons who are known to the personal representative:
- The decedent’s surviving spouse
- The decedent’s beneficiaries
- The trustee of any trust (as described by Fla. Stat. §733.707(3))
- Each qualified beneficiary of a trust (as described by Fla. Stat. 736.0103), if each trustee is also a personal representative of the estate, and
- Persons who may be entitled to exempt property”
Notice to Creditors
After identifying and collecting all the decedent’s assets subject to probate, the personal representative must notify all the creditors that may have claims against the decedent’s estate.
Then, the personal representative must either pay or object to any claims placed by creditors within the legal period. Once all claims are settled, the personal representative must prepare a full inventory and accounting.
Settling Tax Liabilities
One of the most important steps of probate is paying any taxes owed to the state, as well as filing tax returns, and settling any other tax liabilities associated with the probate process.
Distribution of Assets to Beneficiaries
After the settlement of claims and resolving any existing disputes (if any), the personal representative can distribute the remaining probate assets to the heirs named in the decedent’s last will.
After the distribution is complete, the personal representative must proceed with the final accounting and formally close the estate.