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Many people plan their estate succession by creating a Last Will and Testament that specifies how they want their assets distributed after they die. Unfortunately, it’s a common misconception that creating a Will takes care of everything and avoids the requirement for the estate to go through the Florida probate process. While certain assets don’t require probate, others do, and if the heirs are not aware of this, they may be in for a surprise. Making effective plans for your estate in advance can spare your family a lot of stress and potential expense later.

What A Will Does

A Last Will and Testament is a legal document that, among other things, names the parties you wish to distribute your assets to after your death. In most cases, the Will also names a personal representative who will oversee the estate until the terms of the Will are satisfied and all other legal requirements for settling the estate are met.

What Assets Can Transfer Without Florida Probate?

In general terms, assets that have a named beneficiary or a pay-upon-death designation, like life insurance or bank account, won’t require probate process. Assets jointly owned with right of survivorship can also be transferred or liquidated without probate. Determining which assets can be transferred without going through the probate process can depend largely on the way the asset is titled and any applicable laws governing the specific asset type, e.g. retirement accounts.

What Happens In Probate Court?

The Florida probate process, in short, has the court overseeing the verification and distribution of estate assets. The Will, if there is one, is legally validated; heirs and creditors are identified and located; debts are paid, and remaining assets are liquidated or distributed to the beneficiaries, either according to the terms of the Will, or according to Florida law pertaining to intestate succession.

Estate Planning To Avoid Complications 

Creating a valid Will is an essential part of ensuring your assets are distributed to the intended heirs. Some don’t make it as far as leaving a Will, and when they die intestate, the legal process of determining their heirs becomes more complicated. Others attempt to create a D.I.Y. Will which may later be found invalid by the Florida probate court. Working with an experienced estate planning attorney now can help lighten the load for your heirs after you’re gone.

Florida Probate & Estate Planning Attorneys Can Help

The Probate, Wills, Trust, and Estate attorneys at Overstreet, Miles, Cumbie & Finkenbinder are here to help you create or review your will, and make sound decisions regarding estate planning. Setting up a legally valid will and estate can help your heirs through the difficult time after you pass, and gives you the assurance that your assets will be distributed as you intend. Call or contact us online for a confidential consultation and learn more about protecting your estate assets and your heirs from unnecessary complications and expenses. Effective estate planning today helps your family’s future and removes a significant set of worries from the picture.

Whether you are named as a Personal Representative in a Will or a beneficiary of an intestate estate, you may find yourself in the Florida probate process after the death of a loved one. Families often wonder what steps are involved in the probate process and how long it will take. There are many factors that determine how long the process. In many cases, it takes six months or longer. In some cases, where there are no disputes among the beneficiaries and no creditors, the process may move more quickly. Your Florida probate attorney can give you a timeline based on the simplicity or complexity of your loved one’s estate.

The following table gives an overview of the Florida probate administration process:

Stage Personal Representative Probate Attorney
1. Initial Conference Gather documents like the will and death certificate; statements for bank accounts and insurance policies; and other pertinent information like outstanding bills; and names and addresses of beneficiaries.

 

Meet with Personal Representative; review documents and answer questions regarding probate process.

Prepare client engagement letter and schedule follow up time to sign initial filings.

 

2. Initial Filing Execute initial documents to be filed with the Probate Court. Wait for letters of Administration to be issued by the Court. Generally, it takes 4 to 6 weeks after filing. File initial documents with Probate Court. Send Notice of Administration to interested parties and/or obtain consents and waivers of beneficiaries.

 

3. Letters of Administration Once the Letters of Administration are received, open estate bank account. Contact banks and life insurance companies to issue checks to the Estate. List real estate for sale, if appropriate.

 

Receive Letters of Administration from Court, and distribute certified copies to the Personal Representative.

 

4. Inventory Provide a list of estate assets; sign inventory to be filed with the Probate Court. Notify beneficiaries who will be receiving non-probate assets, like joint accounts or insurance policies with beneficiary designation.

 

File Inventory of estate assets with 60 days of issuance of the Letters of Administration.

Prepare Notice to Creditors for publication.

4. Creditor Period Sign Notice to Creditors to be published in local newspaper. Provide a list of known creditors to your probate attorney. Wait for 3 month creditor period to end. Pay valid creditor claims & dispute claims that may not be valid (within 30 days). Sign Proof of Claim.

 

Publish notice to creditors in county where the estate is administered; creditors have 3 months after first publication to file claims against the estate. Serve known creditors with Notice and file releases for paid claims.
5. Final Accounting Prepare and sign final accounting of estate assets.

 

 

File final accounting and obtain any necessary waivers.
6. Distribute Assets Distribute assets to beneficiaries and close estate bank account. Prepare Distribution Agreement, if necessary, and obtain receipts & waivers.

 

7. Discharge of Estate Sign Petition for Discharge to close the estate with the Probate Court. Wait for Order of Discharge. File Petition for discharge and distribute Order of discharge to Personal Representative.

 

Hurry Up And Wait 

For nearly every filing or notice you’re required to send as part of the Florida probate administration process, there’s an associated waiting time (called a notice period) required, so that another involved party has time to respond. So, while you may find your deadlines weighing heavily on you, you may also find that the notice periods seem endless, and feel like the process is at a standstill. Focus on the tasks at hand (you’ll never lack for those!), and trust that your Florida probate attorney will help you stay on top of everything that needs to be done.

Experienced Florida Probate Attorneys Ease The Tension

The formal Florida probate administration process is complicated and makes most people feel overwhelmed and stressed out. The probate attorneys at Overstreet, Miles, Cumbie & Finkenbinder are here to help families like yours through these confusing proceedings, keeping things moving as quickly as possible and communicating with you every step of the way. Call or contact us online for a confidential consultation, and we’ll work with you to develop a plan to move forward through the Florida probate process as efficiently as possible.