A Guide to Probate: Everything You Need to Know
Mar 09, 2021 11:07 AM EST
Losing a loved one is not only hard emotionally; planning a funeral is time-consuming, expensive, and very frustrating. Your frustrations will be compounded if you are the executor of an estate. You will be responsible for filing paperwork and making sure that everyone gets with the decedent left to them. You will also be in charge of making sure the decedent's bills are paid.
If the decedent had a certain amount of assets, their will must go through probate. Although it may seem complex, probate law is designed to make sure that the final wishes of the decedent are carried out and that the distribution of their wealth is legal so that nobody will have a reason to sue the estate in the future.
The Definition of Probate
Initially, "probate" was a term that meant making sure that a will is valid and that assets are distributed according to what the document said. Nowadays, there is a probate court, and the term probate refers to the process by which the decedent's assets are distributed as well as the way that their liabilities are paid.
Unfortunately, few people properly prepare for their own death. Even if they do plan fairly well, someone will have to see that their final taxes and their leftover debts are paid. If a person did leave a will, there might be discrepancies over how it was written. This is why an executor is appointed.
Is everything a person owned part of their estate?
All property of the estate goes through probate. Property that was in the name of both the decedent and another party, will generally go to the person with whom they own the property and will not be considered the part of the estate.
What if there is no will?
In the state of Florida, if a person dies without a will, their assets will be distributed according to intestate succession.
If a person is married and their spouse survives them, they will normally inherit all of the assets. The only exception to this is if both parties have children from different relationships. If a person is survived by a spouse and children that they did not have with that spouse, half of the money will go to the spouse, and half will go to their children.
If a person's spouse is no longer alive, the money will go to their children first. If they have no spouse and no children and their parents are still alive, the parents will inherit the money. If the parents are deceased and they have siblings, those brothers and sisters will inherit the money. You can read about probate law here.
What are the steps to probate?
If you are the executor of the estate, you will take six basic steps for probate.
File a probate petition with the court and wait for a notice authorizing you to be the executor of the estate.
Send notices out to all creditors and beneficiaries. In the state of Florida, you must put a notice in the newspaper. Anyone who feels they have a claim to the estate has three months to contact you.
Begin the process of paying taxes and debts owed.
Pay the beneficiaries.
Get a discharge releasing you from the responsibilities of executorship.
It is important to go through these steps with a trained probate attorney. Be sure you shop around for a lawyer who has plenty of experience in the State of Florida and can offer you a good rate.