Losing a loved one can be an extremely difficult experience. That’s why our team of attorneys are dedicated to making the process as stress-free as possible so you can have peace of mind during this life transition. We stay on top of all probate cases, speeding up the completion of the process to as quick as 30 days depending on the complexity and the cooperation of the parties in each case. For more complex and high-value estates, the entire probate process can take about six months to a year to complete.
What is probate?
The definition of probate is the official proving of a will. In Florida, the process of handling a loved one’s assets and liabilities upon their death is what is called administering the probate of their estate. This process is used both when a person dies with a Last Will and Testament or without having a will in place.
If a Florida resident passes away owning assets, the probate process is mandatory before those assets can be transferred to anyone else, regardless of if the person is family.
You can’t do it on your own
Unfortunately, although this is a sensitive time for friends and family members, probate cannot be handled without an attorney in Florida. Florida Probate Rule 5.030 states an attorney is required to assist with the probate process unless the estate of the deceased qualifies for a Disposition of Property without Administration. The only exception is if the party is the sole heir/beneficiary of an estate.
The state of Florida also has legislated attorney’s fees for handling the probate estate of the deceased that are set by statute (Florida Statute 733.6171). This means, regardless of how much or how little experience the attorney has, the fees have a base cost that is enforced by the state.
Since an attorney is required for the probate process and the fees are already set, it is imperative that you do your research and find an attorney who not only specializes in probate, but also has ample experience in the area to make the probate process as smooth as possible during this challenging time.
What to expect
Generally, the probate proceeding takes place in the county where the deceased person was living at the time of death. At the hearing, beneficiaries and heirs, or those who would inherit assets in the absence of a valid will, are given notice so that they are able to object or agree.
The court then issues Letters of Administration, which is a document that gives the probate attorney authority to settle the estate. If there is a will in place, it must be filed with the court to be proven valid.
The probate attorney, under the court’s supervision, will then gather and inventory assets of the estate, pay debts and taxes, and finally distribute what’s left to the people who inherit it. The attorney must submit a final accounting to the court, showing all the estate contained, how the assets have been dispersed, and the plan for distribution. Anyone who objects can do so in court.
After everything has been allocated, the probate attorney files evidence, or receipts, with the court, and asks that the estate be closed. The court then issues an order closing the estate.
At Edwards and Edwards, P.A., we know this can be a confusing process and we’re happy to answer any probate questions you may have. Please feel free to email questions to RDezern@edwardsedwardslaw.com.
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