The Probate Process
in St. Pete and Pinellas Park
The Probate Process
Probate is a court process by which the assets of a deceased person are identified and gathered, debts are paid, and assets and distributed to beneficiaries. There are two types in Florida: formal administration and summary administration. Summary administration is for small estates where the decedent had a will and the value of the entire estate (minus exempt property) is $75,000 or less or the decedent has been dead for more than two years. Formal administration is required if the decedent has been dead for two years or less and when the value of the probate estate (minus exempt property) is over $75,000.
Probate is necessary to pass ownership of assets to the beneficiaries. If the decedent had a valid will, it is admitted to the court as a guiding document. If not, the assets will pass as the Florida Statutes designate.
The process can be initiated quickly after a person passes away and the majority of tasks can be handled by a probate attorney if one is retained. The average timeline for the formal process is 4-6 months up to years depending on the circumstances.
Below the probate process is summarized in three general phases to help you understand some of the main actions which take place during the proceeding.
1) Initial Actions: First, the personal representative designated in the will should deposit a copy of the will and file other documents with the clerk of court. Once these documents ate filed, the personal representative must notify the beneficiaries. Then, the probate court will issue letters of administration. This allows the personal representative to open an estate account for assets.
2) Probate Underway: At this point, Notice to Creditors should be provided by the personal representative. This enables creditors to be aware of and file claims with the probate court for the decedents debts. With court approval, assets and accounts in the decedents name may be liquidated and property sold, with proceeds going to the estate.
3) Wrapping Up: The personal representative or a chosen account should prepare a final income tax return and handle other tax matters. A final estate accounting is made and distributed to each beneficiary, listing estate assets, distributions, and costs. A plan for asset distribution is prepared for beneficiaries to agree on and once aged on, assets are distributed. Once complete, the probate court discharges the personal representative and closes the proceeding.
The above description offers a simplified timeline of events during probate. Depending on the assets involved and number of beneficiaries, availability of a valid will, ability to notify beneficiaries and creditors, and consent to the final distribution, among other factors, there may be more steps involved.
The probate process can be very complex to administer as a personal representative, especially if you were also a family member or friend of the decedent. There is a significant amount of responsibility associated with this role and serious consequences if errors are made. You do not have to handle it alone – the attorneys of Oldham & Delcamp are available to assist.
If you are the potential beneficiary of an estate which is currently in probate you need an experienced attorney by your side to represent your interest in the assets or proceeds you may be entitled to. The attorneys of Oldham & Delcamp regularly handle probate matters for clients – call us today to discuss your matter.