When it comes to the settlement of an estate, there are three ways to do so in the state of Florida. According to the law of Florida, anyone in possession of a will has to file it with the local circuit court within ten days of learning about the person’s death. However, if a probate court proceeding is required, the court would determine whether the will is valid or not.
Assets That Do Not Go Through Probate
There are certain assets of the deceased person which can go directly to the new owner without a probate court approval. The following are some of the most common kinds of non-probate property.
- Assets that are held in a living trust.
- Property that is held by more than one person in joint tenancy. For instance, a house or bank account that is shared between a couple or more than one person.
- Assets for which one has been designated as the beneficiary. It includes life insurance proceeds, a retirement account or a POD bank account.
Disposition Without Administration (No Probate)
When certain final expenses are far greater than the actual value of the property which would go through probate, probate might not be necessary. Some of the final expenses include reasonable medical expenses of the deceased person and funeral expenses. The property would not need to go through probate in such a case. This process will only be used in the following circumstances.
- The assets either do not exceed the final expenses or are exempt from claims by creditors.
- There was no real estate left by the deceased person.
A form called Disposition of Personal Property Without Administration needs to be filed to request payment of what has been left for you in the will or for what you are entitled to under the law. The court clerk should provide you this form or it can be found on any of the Florida circuit court websites. You will need to list all of the deceased person’s property and its value. There is also a filing fee that needs to be paid. The court website can be checked to know the exact amount.
A certified copy of the death certificate must also be attached to the request. If there is a will, then it should be filed with the local circuit court. Additional documents might be required such as medical bills, funeral bills and other documents that relate to the account from which the funds are sought like a bank account or a stock certificate.
Summary administration is a probate shortcut. It can be used for many Florida estates. The option can be sought in the following situations.
- When all the property would need to go through probate, it would exclude all non-probate assets as mentioned above which should not be over $75,000.
- The death must have occurred over two years ago.
To begin the process, a person who had been nominated in the will as the executor or someone who has inherited the property will need to file a document known as a Petition for Summary Administration.
The petition should be signed by the surviving spouse if any for verification. If any beneficiary does not sign the petition, then you need to formally deliver (serve) them with the notice stating that you have filed the petition.
In the petition, one has to state the estate is qualified for summary administration. The deceased person’s assets and their values should be listed, and the inheritors of the assets should be stated. A personal representative would not be appointed by the court for the estate. Instead, it would be determined whether the estate qualified for summary administration by the court. An order will be issued which would release the property to the people that inherit it.
Formal Administration (Regular Probate)
Formal probate would be necessary if the estate does not qualify for a simple administration method. The proceedings would start when the nominated executor of the will or another interested party asks to be appointed as a personal representative of the estate to the circuit court.
Usually, the probate proceeding would take place in the county where the deceased person used to live at the time of death. Heirs and beneficiaries (people that inherit the estate in the absence of a valid will) would be given the notice to provide them with an opportunity to object.
Letters of Administration is a document that would be issued by the court. It provides the personal representative with the authority to settle the estate. If there is a will, then it would have to be filed with the court and proven that it is valid. The witnesses to the will are required to give statements to prove its validity on oath. However, if the will is self-proving, documents will need to be submitted. According to Florida law, the will is considered self-proving when the witnesses watched the will-maker sign it and signed a statement in front of the notary public.
The personal representatives would gather and take assets into inventory, and pay off taxes and debts under the supervision of the court. Eventually, what is left will be given to the people that inherit it. A final account will be submitted by the personal representative to the court to show what the estate contained and how the assets were managed, along with a plan for their distribution to the beneficiaries.
The evidence will be filed with the court once everything has been distributed by the personal representative and the estate will be asked to be closed. An order will be issued by the court closing the estate and it would relieve the representatives of any further responsibilities. The entire process takes anywhere from six months to a year depending on the complexity of the case. It is advised to hire a probate attorney such as one from Lee County FL Probate Attorney to get the best results. Having an attorney present will ensure that your best interests are protected.