FAQs About Probate
What Is Probate?
Probate is the process by which the circuit court manages the estate of a decedent who passed away and owned property in that county. In Probate, the court will determine if the Last Will and Testament is valid. It will also determine how to use the decedent’s assets to pay final expenses, taxes, and debts to creditors on behalf of the decedent.
Because beneficiaries receive their inheritance after Probate, there is always the risk of those assets being used to pay the decedent’s debts. An experienced probate lawyer can help your family represent their interests to receive their inheritance.
What Is a Personal Representative?
According to Florida law, the court will appoint a personal representative (commonly called an executor or administrator) to administer the probate estate, including:
- Creating an inventory of the probate assets
- Publishing a notice to creditors in the local newspaper
- Serving the notice of administration
- Locating reasonable creditors to notify of the decedent’s passing
- Paying valid claims or objecting to improper creditor claims
- Filing final taxes
- Paying expenses associated with administering the estate
- Distributing remaining assets after probate to the decedent’s beneficiaries
- Closing the probate estate
If your loved one passes away without a Will, the court will follow intestate succession to distribute assets to assumed beneficiaries after Probate.
Why Should the Personal Representative Retain an Estate and Probate Attorney?
Probate is a complex legal process to manage a decedent’s estate. Beneficiaries receive their inheritances from assets left after Probate. The personal representative should hire an experienced estate and probate attorney to reduce the risk of a beneficiary bringing forward a probate litigation case against them.
Is There a Way to Avoid Probate?
Assets in trust bypass probate. Whether in a Revocable or Family Fortress Trust, these assets can skip Probate, and the trustee can administer these assets immediately to beneficiaries. Probate can take over a year to process, meaning that beneficiaries must wait for at least this long to receive their inheritances.
A trust and probate attorney can help you create a Family Fortress Trust to store assets you don’t want to go through Probate when your family member passes away. If your loved one passed away and had assets in a trust, the trustee can distribute those assets.