A probate attorney in Florida leads the way for the decedent’s family during probate proceedings. Probate procedure in Florida is meant for the identification and distribution of the assets of the decedent to the concerned beneficiaries or heirs of the decedent. It also involves the debt payments of the deceased person as well as the costs incurred for the probate proceedings and funeral expenses. From the rules regarding asset distribution to the procedural remedies, everything is prescribed in the Florida Probate Code (Chapter 731 to 735 of the Florida Statutes).
Probate administration can be classified under two categories, namely formal administration and summary administration. A third option, mainly consisting of non-supervised process, is the Disposition of Personal Property without Administration which is applicable only in certain cases.
1.WHAT MAKES PROBATE SO IMPORTANT?
Probate is needed for transferring the ownership of the probate assets belonging to the decedent to the allotted beneficiaries. In case the decedent has left behind a legitimate will, the Court admits such a Will as per the procedures to duly execute the relevant transfer of probate assets. If the decedent did not leave a Will behind, probate process in Florida becomes even more important for transferring the ownership of the decedent’s assets to the entitled ones as given under the Law of Florida. There are also a few kinds of assets which do not require probate proceedings. Hence, you should consider getting in touch with a Florida probate attorney.
Another reason behind probate’s significance is the possibility to settle the decedent’s financial liabilities by paying up the creditors, if any.
2.WHAT ARE PROBATE ASSETS?
The assets wholly or partly owned by the decedent which are not governed by any automatic pathway of succession are known as probate assets. Here are a few illustrations to serve the concept of probate assets:
- A solely owned bank account or an investment account is considered as a probate asset, given that it isn’t jointly owned with another person who has survivorship rights, or payable or transferable to another person on the death of the decedent.
- Even an annuity contract, an individual retirement account or a life insurance policy is counted as a probate asset if it’s payable to the estate of the decedent.
- A common example of probate asset is real estate where the title completely lies with the decedent itself or even if the title is in the name of a person who’s a tenant along with the decedent.
3.WHAT HAPPENS IF THERE IS NO WILL?
A decedent is said to have died ‘intestate’ when he or she leaves no will behind. Even in such a case, the probate assets are awarded to the legal heirs of the decedent by the state. As per the chapter 732 of Florida Statutes, here’s how the distribution of the decedent’s probate assets would take place if there is no will left behind –
- If the decedent has a surviving spouse but doesn’t have any living descendants, the surviving spouse is eligible to claim the decedent’s probate estate.
- If the decedent is survived by a spouse and one or more living descendants belonging only to the spouse and the decedent, then the spouse is legally entitled to receive the decedent’s probate estate.
- In case the decedent was unmarried but had one or more surviving descendants, then these descendants will be given the ownership of the probate estate. The probate estate is divided amongst the total number of eligible descendants in accordance with the Florida Law.
- Where the unmarried decedent is without any living descendants, the entire probate estate will be handed over to his or her surviving parents, or to the decedent’s siblings if the parents aren’t alive.
- If there are no close relatives of the decedent, Florida’s intestate regulations take over and pass on the ownership of the probate estate to the most remotely eligible heirs.
However, in case of transfer of the decedent’s probate assets, there are many technical exceptions. For instance, in cases where the decedent solely owned the homestead property, and was survived by living spouse and descendants, the spouse would get a life estate in the concerned property. The descendants only receive the ownership after the death of the surviving spouse. Hence, because of complex permutations and combinations regarding the transfer of probate assets, it’s always recommended that the decedent’s immediate family consults a professional Florida probate attorney for the same.
4.WHERE CAN YOU FILE THE PROBATE PAPERS?
Within 10 days from the date of knowing about the testator’s death, the custodian of a will is supposed to submit the original copy of the will, having the venue of the decedent’s estate, to the court’s clerk. Depositing the will does not incur any fee but a filing fee has to be paid to the clerk when the probate matter commences. The clerk is in charge of assigning a file number and maintaining a record of all the documents submitted.
There’s an additional privacy clause under the Florida probate code where it’s stated that the documents which have financial data of the decedent’s probate estate can’t be publicly inspected. This is to ensure sure-shot privacy of the concerned beneficiaries of the decedent. All such relevant statutes, procedural codes, rules and regulations are conveyed to you by your Florida probate attorney.
5.WHO’S IN CHARGE OF SUPERVISING THE PROBATE ADMINISTRATION?
The probate administration proceedings are presided over by the judge of the circuit court. The judge is responsible for assessing and permitting evidence pertaining to the identities of the beneficiaries or the heirs of the decedent, who’re eligible to receive the decedent’s probate estate.
The judge also has the power to decide the eligibility of the person or institution appointed as a personal representative in the decedent’s will. If the nominated personal representative is deemed to be qualified and eligible, the judge issues letters of administration for authorizing the personal representative to administer the decedent’s probate estate.
In matters where disputes or discrepancies arise, the judge holds hearings for the same. The final decision of the judge is known as an ‘order’, which is passed in the form of a written directive.
For smooth and streamlined probate proceedings, get in touch with a proficient Florida probate attorney TODAY!