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How does probate work in Florida?

On Behalf of | Feb 11, 2024 | Probate

When someone dies, whatever property they have solely in their name becomes the property of their estate. Their estate also assumes responsibility for their financial obligations. Someone’s debts and taxes become the responsibility of their estate after their death.

Numerous parties may have an interest in a Florida estate. The family members and chosen beneficiaries of the decedent, as well as their creditors, may hope to secure resources from their estate. Oftentimes, the estate must pass through the Florida probate courts before people or creditors receive anything from the estate.

There are two types of probate proceedings

The first step in the probate process is opening or initiating probate proceedings. Often, the personal representative or executor chosen by the decedent takes the step. However, family members with an interest in the estate or creditors can also ask the courts to initiate probate proceedings. Florida offers standard probate oversight and summary probate proceedings. Summary administration is generally only available to estates worth less than $75,000 and which do not contain any real property.

Communication is part of the probate process

The probate courts in Florida are not the only party that must know that someone has died and that their estate requires administration. Numerous other parties require official notice as well. The personal representative of the estate typically needs to send written notice of someone’s passing and upcoming probate proceedings to known creditors. The personal representative typically publishes notice about probate proceedings in a local newspaper.

They also need to file a final tax return with the IRS to fulfill any outstanding income tax obligations and notify the agency of someone’s passing. Additionally, they typically need to communicate with each of the beneficiaries included in the estate planning documents.

Obligations come before inheritances

Creditors and others with an interest in the estate have an opportunity to make a claim in probate court. The personal representative typically needs to pay debts and taxes, as well as probate costs, before they distribute estate resources to someone’s beneficiaries.

In some cases, the obligations of the decedent may be so significant that there are no assets left for their beneficiaries. Personal representatives typically need to keep careful track of how they fulfill someone’s obligations, as they could have personal liability if they make mistakes during that process. Only after resolving financial obligations does the personal representative distribute the remaining assets in the estate. They then inform the courts of the completion of the probate process, which may have required a year or more if there were disputes.

Oftentimes, the person administering an estate requires support during probate proceedings. Having guidance and advice can make it easier to navigate the probate courts in Florida efficiently and effectively.