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What Are The Steps For Probate in FL?

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What Are The Steps For Probate in FL?

January 15, 2023
Geoff Hoatson

Whether you are addressing your own estate planning concerns or anticipating the processes involved for a loved one’s estate, it is vital to understand the steps for probate in Florida. People often perceive probate as inconvenient because it can be time-consuming and expensive. However, if someone passed away without having a trust, probate is a critical process for taking an appropriate inventory of assets in an estate and addressing creditors’ concerns before the property is distributed.

Read below to gain familiarity with these steps to help you pursue and protect your interests and those of your loved ones when navigating the probate process in Florida. Contact Family First Firm’s legal team at (407) 574-8125 today to schedule a consultation.

Understanding Your Goals and Expectations for the Probate Process in Florida

The probate process will govern the appointment of an executor (called a “personal representative” in Florida), determine the validity of a Will, assess creditors’ claims, and then distribute the remaining property to heirs and beneficiaries according to the terms of the Will. What if the decedent does not have a Will? In that case, the Florida Statutes will divide the property in probate, where Florida’s intestacy laws will usually give preference to the decedent’s surviving spouse or closest heirs. However, you should never plan to rely on the probate process without preparing a Will to direct it.

Probate processes will follow the formal property distribution procedures unless the decedent’s estate assets qualify for abbreviated procedures such as Summary Administration, which is limited to estates in Florida below $75,000 in value. Ask your Orlando probate lawyer if you believe the estate may qualify for an abbreviated probate procedure.

The Personal Representative Nominated in the Will Remains Involved Throughout The Probate Process in Florida

The decedent’s Will should nominate a Personal Representative to serve throughout the probate process. If a Will does not specify a Personal Representative or circumstances do not allow the designated person to serve, the probate Judge will choose a Personal Representative.

The Personal Representative will meet with the Florida Probate Attorney in a conference to collect and organize essential documents in preparation for filing. These documents may include the decedent’s Last Will and Testament, financial statements, life insurance policies, real estate deeds, and evidence of debts the decedent may have owed.

Filing Documents With The Probate Court & Notifying Beneficiaries

The Personal Representative will file a petition for administration with the probate court, an order admitting the Will to probate, an acceptance as Personal Representative, and the collected documents. At this point, the probate process begins. The Personal Representative also sends notification that probate is underway to any surviving spouse, beneficiaries, the estate trust’s trustee and beneficiaries, and others who may inherit property.

Using Letters of Administration To Open An Estate Account in FL

Before the probate can proceed, the Florida probate court has to issue letters of administration. The Personal Representative then uses these documents to open an estate account with a bank to deposit estate assets until probate has determined how they will be distributed.

Issuing Notice To Creditors That They May File Claims With The Probate Court in FL

Next, the decedent’s creditors are given notice that a probate proceeding has begun for the estate. These creditors can file claims with the probate court, which the estate administrator may pay or dispute. Florida has a statute of limitations of two years following the decedent’s death, and new claims can be barred three months after creditors receive a notification.

Note that an effective estate plan should anticipate this step, and strategies exist to protect many types of assets from loss to creditors. Discuss any concerns regarding susceptible assets with your attorney.

Placing Proceeds Into The Estate Account & Paying Final Estate Taxes

Property in the decedent’s name can be sold. Assets or accounts in the name of the decedent can likewise be liquidated, and the money is placed into the estate account. Once the proceeds are deposited, the Personal Representative must prepare a final income tax return that accounts for estate taxes and all other applicable taxes.

Final Accounting of The Estate & Communication To Beneficiaries

After the above concerns are addressed, the Personal Representative has to uphold their fiduciary duty with a final accounting of the estate that provides details on the assets in the estate, distributions, the fee paid to the Personal Representative, and other probate costs. The Personal Representative can be subject to a lawsuit if they do not uphold their fiduciary duty to act in the interest of the beneficiaries.

Distribution of Assets, Discharge of The Personal Representative, and Close of the Estate Proceeding

Following the estate's final accounting, the beneficiaries must agree on a plan to distribute the assets according to the decedent’s Will. After the assets are distributed, the Personal Representative can be officially discharged by the Florida probate court, and the estate proceeding is closed.

Consult an Experienced Probate Legal Team in Orlando, FL, that has Your Family’s Interests as its First Priority

Probate in Florida is a complicated process with heavy implications for the decedent's heirs, beneficiaries, and other loved ones. It is essential to prepare for the costs and risks to assets that may be associated with creditors’ claims and the probate process itself, and nomination of a Personal Representative in coordination with the preparation of a Last Will and Testament is a task that should involve an experienced and knowledgeable estate planning and probate attorney.

Every estate and probate proceeding is different, and you should prepare by assessing the concerns about the estate in question. Don’t search for “probate law firms near me” in and around Orlando, Florida. Contact our team of probate attorneys at Family First Firm today to schedule a consultation by calling (407) 574-8125 or filling out our online form.

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Copyright © 2023. Family First Firm - Medicaid & Elder Law Attorneys. All rights reserved.

The information in this blog post (“post”) is provided for general informational purposes only and may not reflect the current law in your jurisdiction. No information in this post should be construed as legal advice from the individual author or the law firm, nor is it intended to be a substitute for legal counsel on any subject matter. No reader of this post should act or refrain from acting based on any information included in or accessible through this post without seeking the appropriate legal or other professional advice on the particular facts and circumstances at issue from a lawyer licensed in the recipient’s state, country, or other appropriate licensing jurisdiction.
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