The Florida Office of the State Courts Administrator reported 152,337 probate filings in 2020 and 2021. Navigating the Florida probate process can be a challenging and complex task.
Probate is the legal process to manage the assets and liabilities of a deceased person’s estate. Understanding the key aspects of the Florida probate process is helpful to heirs.
Initiating the probate process
The probate process in Florida typically begins when an interested party, often a family member, files a petition in the local circuit court where the deceased person resided. The court will appoint a personal representative to manage the estate.
Assets subject to probate
Not all assets go through the probate process. Assets that have a designated beneficiary, like life insurance policies, retirement accounts and those held jointly with rights of survivorship, are generally not included in probate. However, assets solely owned by the deceased, like real estate or personal property, are subject to probate.
Inventory and appraisal
The personal representative must create an inventory of the estate’s assets and get an appraisal of these assets.
Notice to creditors
Florida law requires the personal representative to publish a notice to creditors in a local newspaper. Creditors have a specific time frame to file claims against the estate to seek repayment of debts.
Payment of debts and expenses
The personal representative is responsible for paying the deceased person’s debts, including funeral expenses, medical bills and outstanding loans. These debt payments come from the estate’s assets.
Distribution of assets
After paying debts and expenses, the executor distributes the remaining assets to the beneficiaries or heirs according to the deceased person’s will. If there is no will, the executor will follow Florida’s intestate succession laws.
The personal representative must prepare a final accounting detailing all financial transactions related to the estate. Beneficiaries or heirs have the opportunity to review and approve this accounting.
Closure of probate
Once the court approves the administration of the estate, it issues a final order. This closes the probate case. The personal representative’s role concludes, and the beneficiaries or heirs receive their respective inheritances.
It is important to be aware that the Florida probate process can vary in complexity based on factors such as the size of the estate, the presence of disputes among heirs and the thoroughness of the estate planning. Understanding these fundamental aspects can provide clarity and guidance.