When a person passes away (who is referred to as the decedent, in the context of estate law), it will likely trigger the start of the probate process. The decedent likely would have appointed a personal representative who will be in charge of administering their estate, which includes responsibilities such as taking inventory of their assets, paying off debts, and, ultimately, distributing their assets to beneficiaries. If you have been appointed as the administrator of an estate, you should strongly consider hiring a seasoned Florida probate lawyer who can help ensure you do everything by the book and that the process moves along as smoothly as possible.
Hiring a seasoned legal team to represent you during probate can drastically reduce the chances of disputes occurring and can help streamline the process. Our Pasco County lawyers have extensive experience guiding clients through probate, and we are prepared to put that experience to work for you in your case.
In some cases, a decedent’s estate may qualify for summary administration, which is essentially a simplified probate process that does not require the appointment of a Florida personal representative. That said, to qualify, the individual must have a small estate (worth less than $75,000) and have been dead for over two years.
During summary administration, you will petition the court to order the distribution of the decedent’s assets to their beneficiaries. As long as the court agrees that the estate qualifies, it will issue an Order of Summary Administration, thereby granting permission for the assets to be distributed to the appropriate beneficiaries. Even if your loved one’s estate qualifies for summary administration, however, you should strongly consider hiring a lawyer who can help ensure all documentation is properly completed and submitted.
The probate process, on the other hand, is a bit more involved than Summary Administration. The first step of the probate process in Florida is to file a Petition for Administration, which will include the decedent’s will and other important estate planning documents. Your attorney can help you file this Petition. From there, the court will issue a Letter of Administration, which will name the personal representative of the estate. If you are named as the personal representative, you and your attorney will have to set up an estate account. This account will be used at the end of the process to distribute the decedent’s assets to the appropriate beneficiaries.
Next, you will have to pay off any debts the decedent owed, as well as the relevant estate taxes, and take an inventory of assets held within the decedent’s estate. This inventory must be extensive; it will not only include things such as the decedent’s house, but also smaller things, such as jewelry, clothes, and more. Once you file the accounting with the probate court and the court determines the accounting is accurate, you will distribute assets to beneficiaries of the estate, in accordance with the decedent’s wishes.
As you can see, the probate process is document-heavy and quite involved, so it’s always best to proceed with an experienced attorney in your corner. Contact The Law Offices of Matthew J. Jowanna, P.A. today to schedule your initial consultation with our dedicated estate planning and probate law firm.