If a loved one has passed away and you’re left with the will, how do the Florida probate rules affect the process? The answer to this question depends on a number of factors, which we will get to in a minute.
The first thing you should know is that if you possess a decedent’s will, within 10 days of learning of their death, you must file the will with the local circuit court. Once you file the will, you will learn whether the will is valid and whether probate is necessary.
What Doesn’t Go Through Probate
The first factor to consider is whether any assets that the deceased left behind are exempt from probate. According to Florida probate rules, more than a few types of assets qualify, including:
- Assets in living trusts
- Assets and property held jointly—joint bank accounts, houses owned by more than one person
- Assets with a designated beneficiary—retirement accounts, life insurance, POD bank accounts
As you can see, there are more than a few courses of action you can take to avoid probate outright.
Disposition without Administration
If the deceased did not own much property during life, probate may not be necessary. Aside from reimbursement for the person’s final expenses, such as final treatment for an illness or funeral expenses (as stated in Fla. Stat. 735.301.), there is not much need for the courts to be involved. Disposition without administration is only applicable if the deceased left no real estate or if the assets’ value does not exceed the cost of final expenses and/or the assets were exempt from creditor collection.
To request reimbursement for such expenses, you must fill out a form (Disposition of Personal Property without Administration) and pay the filing fee. You can find the form at the clerk of the court’s office or online.
Summary administration is one option that the Florida probate rules allows under certain circumstances. It is a sped up version of probate. Summary administration can be used if the death occurred two or more years prior to filing or if the value of the estate does not exceed $75,000, non-probate assets excluded.
When an estate does not qualify for any of the above options, formal probate may proceed. Under Florida probate rules, the process runs as follows:
The executor who was named in the will asks the courts to be named the personal representative to the estate. The court notifies those who would have inherited in the absence of a will so they can object. The court then issues the Letters of Administration, a document that gives the executor authority over the estate. The executor must then file the will with the court so that it can be validated. This can happen one of two ways: either the will is “self-proving” (i.e. it was signed with witnesses in front of a notary public); or witnesses to the will’s signing must give sworn statements under oath about the will’s validity.
Once the court validates the will, the executor will then assess the estate, pay its debts, and distribute the remainder among those named in the will. The executor must submit documents explaining the process to the courts, during which any beneficiaries can object. After everything has been distributed, the executor must then provide the courts with receipts detailing the distribution and ask that the estate be closed.
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