Handling the death of a loved one can be very challenging – both emotionally and throughout the legal process. You may have some initial concerns about your loved one’s will or estate being probated. The term probate is sometimes ambiguous and may leave you confused, especially during a difficult time.
The process does not need to be overwhelming. Here’s what you should know about the probate process in Florida.
Probate in a nutshell
Probate is often used as a catch-all phrase for the legal process used to identify, gather and ultimately distribute assets in a person’s estate to the appropriate beneficiaries/heirs. The process also ensures that your loved one’s valid debts and obligations are satisfied, and the ultimate distribution of assets is handled according to the law and the intent of the person who passed away.
Who gets what?
The probate process could take six to nine months on average to reach completion, and more than a year depending on various factors.
It is important to give notice to all named persons in the will, among others. Florida law has provisions in place to ensure that beneficiaries and heirs receive their proper shares of an estate. Probate laws also allow legally-defined “interested persons” who might disagree with the administration of the estate and proposed distribution of assets to file objections in probate cases. Separate lawsuits may also be filed in particular situations.
Before beneficiaries and/or heirs receive what a loved one intended, the court confirms that the estate paid all taxes and valid debts. Some debts may not be considered collectible after a person’s death, such as certain types of student loan debt, but other valid debts will likely have to be paid from estate assets.
Once the costs of administration and creditor claims are paid, the attorney for the personal representative and the probate court will continue to oversee distribution of remaining assets. Even in the year following the court’s discharge of a personal representative from his/her duties and obligations which were performed on behalf of the estate, legal actions can be filed in certain instances.
Understanding probate can be difficult. Talk to a skilled attorney to help you navigate the intricate process of probate.