Probate is the judicial process of passing the property of a deceased person to the beneficiaries of that deceased person. The process is started usually by an immediate relative of the deceased person by filing that person’s last will and testament with the Probate Court. If the deceased person doesn’t have a will (referred to as dying “intestate”), then the deceased persons property is distributed according to the Florida Statutes.
Probate must be handled by an attorney and the fees are typically 3% of the total gross value of all of the property going through probate, including houses, bank accounts, and insurance policies paid to the estate. Creating a revocable living trust can help you avoid probate if all of your assets are titled in the name of the trust.
An estate will typically fall under one of two categories: summary administration, or formal administration.
Summary administration is quicker than formal administration and is for small estates where there are less than $75,000 in non-exempt assets, or at least 2 years have passed since the date of death.
Formal administration involves court supervision of the collection and distribution of property. There are 3 phases of formal administration: opening the estate, administering the estate and closing the estate. During this process, the attorney and personal representative will work together to notify all creditors, collect all assets, inventory the assets, collect all debts, windup a decedent’s business, invest and maintain assets, identify the rights of the beneficiaries, process or object to claims from creditors, handle all claims and lawsuits, determine fees, apportion estate taxes, and prepare an accounting. The whole process can last well over a year.
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