When a loved one passes, their estate typically has to go through the probate process. Probate is the process of identifying assets that belong to an estate, using those assets to pay any outstanding debts and distributing the remaining assets to the beneficiaries identified in a will or by intestacy.
An individual who dies with a will is said to die testate and the probate property is therefore distributed in accordance with the terms of the individuals will. In contrast, an individual who dies without a will or valid will is said to die intestate. When a person dies intestate, the distribution of the property is governed according to the laws of Florida. In intestate cases, the closest living blood relatives inherit the decedent's assets. If there are no surviving relatives as specified in the laws of Florida, the decedent’s property escheats (reverts) to the State of Florida.
Usually, family members contact an attorney in order to initiate the probate process. A probate attorney can evaluate whether a court proceeding is required, assist in determining who should be in charge, determine and prioritize which debts and expenses should be paid and prepare the appropriate documents to administer the estate.
After the death of an individual, an executor identified in a will, or an intended beneficiary of the estate, has to notify the court of the need to open and administer the estate. The court will then appoint a personal representative to collect the assets if the estate, pay the debts and expenses of the estate, and then distribute the remainder of the estate to the beneficiaries.
A personal representative is responsible for gathering the estate assets, collecting all debts, managing the assets, determining all ascertainable creditors, ensuring creditors are served with a Notice to Creditors, serving Notice of Administration, paying valid claims, filing tax returns, paying taxes that are due, paying probate expenses, distributing assets to the beneficiaries, and eventually close the estate.
This process can become difficult to manage. In the state of Florida, this process should be done with the assistance of an attorney. If you are in need of a qualified Probate attorney, contact the law offices of Hertz • Sager, online through this website, or at 305.444.3323.