If you have recently lost a loved one and are now having to deal with their personal items, you may need to go to probate court.
Probate court can be a complicated and confusing process for those not familiar with it. This guide by Handin Law will help you to better understand the Florida probate system.
This article details Florida probate law specifically. However, probates often differ between states. If you live in another state, check your local jurisdiction for specific information about how probating estates works.
Confused about how probate court works? Here are some of the most common questions and answers about Florida’s probate court.
What is Probate?
Probate is a judicial process that ensures the distribution of assets to heirs or other beneficiaries as set forth in a will. It also manages the transfer of property when someone dies without having left behind a will and dies “intestate”. It can also handle disputes among family members. Like for example, when deciding what should happen with their departed loved one’s belongings.
In probate court, you will need to prove that you are an heir by presenting documents and other information about your relationship with the deceased person. You’ll also need proof of financial ability. This is typically done through bank statements or tax returns.
The Main Types of Probate In Florida
In Florida, there are three main types of probate proceedings: formal administration, summary administration, and disposition without administration.
- Formal Administration: In this proceeding, an executor of the will or other interested party requests to be appointed personal representative to oversee the estate. This person has the power to make decisions about property and how it should be distributed. This the most common type of probate court proceeding.
- Summary Administration: In this proceeding, a family member can petition for an informal summary administration to expedite the process. Then, living members will not need to wait for many months for assets to be distributed. This can be a good option if there are not many assets that need managing such as debts or taxes. This form of probate is only available to those with property or assets valued under $75,000.
- Disposition Without Administration: In this proceeding, everything left by a loved one goes directly to people as outlined in their will with no intervention from probate court proceedings or trusteeship. The beneficiary must then submit a written statement to the probate court of their intention in disposing of any assets they received. This procedure can only be utilized for small amount of liquid assets, usually $5,000.00 or less.
For more information on the full probate process, view Chapter 732 of The Florida Statutes.
Is Probate Required in Florida?
The answer to this question is more complicated than a simple yes or no. In Florida, probate must be filed for anyone who dies with assets solely in their name. This includes whether they leave a Last Will and Testament or not.
Probate court can also aid in settling disputes among family members. This typically involves things like who gets what and how assets are divided.
What if Someone Dies Without a Will in Florida?
In the event someone dies without a will in Florida, their assets are declared “intestate”.
It’s distributed according to the following:
- The decedent has a spouse and no children, then they leave their entire estate to the spouse.
- If the decedent has a spouse and one or more children with the spouse, the spouse will receive the entire estate.
- There is no surviving spouse, then all of the probate assets are split equally among the children.
- If there is no surviving spouse or any living children, probate assets will be distributed to parents, grandparents and siblings; in that order.
- If no immediate relatives of the spouse are alive, then the estate is available to more distant blood relatives. Additionally, they must prove they’re related to the deceased person.
Do You Need an Attorney for Probate Court in Florida?
Yes. Florida probate courts require an attorney except in rare circumstances.
How Long Does Probate Court Take in Florida?
The probate process in Florida can take anywhere from six months to a year; depending on the complexity of the estate. The length of the probate depends on factors. This includes things like how many assets need to be managed, the number of heirs, and the presence of a will.
Can a Will Be Contested in Florida?
Florida law provides for legal disputes such as contested wills, and challenges to a trust. There are also legal disputes such as a contested probate or challenges to the validity of an estate.
For Further Information About Probate Court, Contact Us at the Law Offices of Gary i. Handin, P.A.
When dealing with the Florida probate court system, it’s important to have good legal representation.
At Handin Law, we understand how difficult and intimidating this process can be. We will work with you every step of the way. Whether you’re looking into reducing estate taxes through a trust fund or handling disputes between family members about inheritance distribution.
We have helped many families navigate Florida’s probate courts efficiently and successfully. We can help you too.