What Exactly Is Probate?
Probate is a multi-layered, court-supervised administrative process, that takes place after someone has died. It involves identifying and collecting that person's assets, notifying the decedent's creditor's and beneficiaries of the death, and then systematically paying any outstanding debts and expenses, and distributing monies, property, and other assets to said beneficiaries. In a best-case scenario, the probate process will take place in accordance the terms prescribed in a last will and testament. (As we explained on our Trusts Page, a revocable living trust is not subject to the probate process, and there are methods that can be utilized to avoid probate, or minimize it). When the decedent has not drafted a valid will, the probate process will rely on the State of Florida's laws of intestacy, which often results in assets going to heirs that the deceased would not have wanted to inherit, or not to inherit at this time. For example, if you die without a will and have assets in your name alone, and leave a spouse and a child, the spouse only receives half of the assets, the other half by law going to the child. Many people would prefer the spouse to inherit all of the assets, and the child inheriting only after both parents have died. To avoid this often unintended result, a Will is necessary.
How Long Does Probate Take?
Every case, naturally, is different. But with no obstacles to overcome, such as a friend or family member contested the will in question, or the need to pay federal tax on the estate, the probate process could take as little as five or six months. Often times, in an attempt to acquire a greater share of the assets at stake, a friend or family member will retain legal counsel and contend the will in question was either made under duress or that the decedent was incapacitated at the time the will was drafted. This can prolong the probate process for years.
Summary Probate Administration
This is a special, abbreviate probate procedure available under certain circumstances under Florida law that can greatly expedite the probate process. In order to take advantage of the lower filing fee, and quick process, the assets in question must not exceed $75,000, or the decedent must have been deceased for more than two years (Note there are exceptions to this monetary threshold whereby title to assets can pass by this simple, abbreviated probate procedure, without regard to value, such as the homestead property). While there are several other conditions that must be met in order for a summary probate administration to take place, the potential for its use should always be evaluated.
The Formal Probate Process
In most cases, a great number of steps must be completed as part of a "formal" probate administration, some of which include: identification, valuation, and safeguard of assets, notification of creditors and beneficiaries, assessment of validity of claims against the estate in question, publication of legally required notices, payment of federal and state income taxes, objection to the filing of improper claims, payment to creditors, and payment of administrative expenses. Of course, this is not a complete list, but merely is intended to provide you with an overview of just how thorough the probate process is, and why it requires such a longer period of time to complete.
An Advocate On Your Side
We understand that the weeks and months after the loss of loved one can be emotional and harried enough. At such times, it's comforting to know you have a qualified and caring advocate on your side to answer your questions and guide you through the process of healing. We hope you will call The Law Office of Jamie B. Greusel today for a consultation to see how we can become of source of knowledge and confidence for you and your family.