It doesn't matter whether it's somewhat expected or a complete surprise, when someone close to you passes away, it can understandably be incredibly difficult to focus on anything outside of dealing with the loss.
However, it's important to understand that once these powerful emotions subside, certain legal matters, namely the managing of the person's estate, will need to proceed through the necessary channels.
In today's post, the first in an ongoing series, we'll start exploring the probate process here in Florida in an attempt to help clarify what can prove to be a rather perplexing and even frustrating legal process to the uninitiated.
The purpose of probate
In the probate process, a deceased person's assets are gathered and identified in order to ensure that any outstanding debts are resolved and, perhaps more importantly, to ensure that the remaining assets are properly distributed among beneficiaries.
In the event the deceased person took the time to execute a will, the probate process will help ensure that their assets are distributed in accordance with their exact wishes. Conversely, if the person did not execute a will prior to their passing (i.e., died intestate), the probate process will help ensure that their assets are distributed in accordance with state law.
It's important to understand that only those assets owned solely by the person at the time of their death, or were owned by the person and other co-owners but lacking a succession plan are covered in the probate process.
By way of illustration, consider a bank account held solely in the name of the deceased person, a life insurance policy made payable to the deceased person's estate, and real property titled in the deceased person's name and another person's name as tenants in common.
We will continue this discussion in future posts. In the meantime, please consider speaking with an experienced legal professional if you have any questions about the probate process, probate litigation or general estate planning.