Probating an Estate in Florida
When a loved one passes away, the grieving process that follows can be a difficult time. It can be hard enough to focus on your daily life without also overseeing the administration of the decedent’s estate. If the decedent appointed you as the Executor of the estate, or if you volunteer to be the Personal Representative, you will have to be able to concentrate on the practical and legal steps involved in probating the estate. To give you an idea what that means, the Coral Gables probate attorneys at Stivers Law explain what is usually involved in probating an estate in Florida.
- Decide what type of probate is required. One of the first thing you should do is determine if the estate requires formal probate or qualifies for a small estate alternative. Consulting with an experienced probate attorney is the best way to do this. The attorney will need to review the decedent’s Last Will and Testament (if one exists) and other related estate planning documents.
- File a Petition to Initiate Probate. If the estate requires formal probate, you begin the process by filing a Petition for Administration and associated documents with the probate court in the decedent’s county of residence at the time of death. The person named as the Executor in the Will filed the Petition. If the decedent died intestate (without a Will), an adult relative usually files the Petition asking to be named as the Personal Representative (PR). Beneficiaries and legal heirs are then notified that probate has been started.
- Issuance of Letters of Administration. About a month after filing the Petition, the court should issue Letters of Administration that tell you the Petition for Administration has been granted. The Letters of Administration will formally grant you the authority to secure assets and proceed with estate administration tasks.
- Notifying Creditors. The PR or Executor must notify the decedent’s creditors that the estate is in probate. This may involve direct notification to known creditors as well as publishing a general Notice to Creditors in a newspaper at least once per week for two consecutive weeks. Creditors then have three months from the date of publication to file claims against the estate.
- Inventory and Value Assets. The PR/Executor identifies and values estate assets to determine a total net worth of the decedent’s estate. If the estate requires formal probate, you may be required to file the completed inventory with the court.
- Reviewing Creditor Claims. Once the time for filing claims has elapsed, you will need to review and approve or deny all claims. Claims filed after the 3-month window are not considered valid and may be successfully disputed. Approved claims are paid using available liquid assets first. Sometimes, estate assets must be sold to satisfy approved claims. Priority creditors are paid first when the estate lacks sufficient assets to pay all claims.
- Paying Estate Taxes. Federal gift and estate taxes may be due to the IRS. As the PR/Executor, you must determine if those taxes are due, file the appropriate return, and pay the taxes.
- Final Estate Accounting. The records you kept while probating the estate are used to create a final accounting if one is required. The accounting includes the estate’s assets, distributions made to creditors, probate fees, fees paid to accountants, attorneys, and other professionals, as well as the fee paid to you for acting as the PR/Executor.
- Distributing Assets. Distributions of any remaining assets are made to beneficiaries named in the decedent’s Will and/or to the decedent’s heirs according to the Florida intestate succession laws.
- Closing Probate. The PR/Executor files a Petition to Discharge the Personal Representative from his/her fiduciary position and to officially close the probate of the estate.
Contact Coral Gables Probate Attorneys
For more information, please join us for an upcoming FREE webinar. If you have additional questions or concerns about probating an estate in Florida, or if you need help acting as the Executor/Personal Representative, contact the experienced Coral Gables probate attorneys at Stivers Law by calling (305) 456-3255 to schedule an appointment.
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