One of the most important things to consider when drafting an estate plan is how the estate will be administered upon your death. Florida provides two main ways that an estate can go through administration, which is the process of carrying out the decedent’s wishes and dealing with any problems that arise along the way. At the Martin Law Firm, our Fort Myers and Cape Coral probate lawyers strive to help our clients achieve their estate planning goals and ensure that their loved ones will not need to face litigation after they pass. We also have offices in Miami, Naples, and Tampa from which we represent clients throughout the Southwest Florida region.
Although Florida law allows people to create a will without the assistance of a lawyer, this often leads to headaches, confusion, and unnecessary delays for loved ones and beneficiaries. In many situations, a testator’s estate will be required to go through Florida’s formal administration proceeding. Understanding this process can be critical to drafting an effective estate plan. Whether you are planning for the future or you are involved in a probate dispute, the Martin Law Firm is prepared to assist you.Navigating a Formal Administration Proceeding in Southwest Florida
Understanding the probate process can be critical to drafting an effective estate plan. Formal administration is the most commonly used type of administration in Florida, next to summary administration, which is an expedited proceeding. There are many specifications and requirements that apply to a formal proceeding, which involves three steps. The first step consists of opening the estate. After consulting and potentially retaining a probate attorney, the personal representative must file a petition with a Florida probate court.
These initial documents create a court record for the estate and provide a general accounting of several factors, including the assets in the decedent’s estate and their estimated value, along with any outstanding debts and other key issues. If the testator did not appoint a personal representative in their will, the court will need to appoint a representative. Florida law provides that an estate is not officially open until a personal representative has been identified. After the petition is filed, the judge will provide a set of letters of administration, which are legal documents that specify the identity of the personal representative and outline their duties.
Next, the personal representative must administer the estate. This is the most complex step of a formal probate proceeding. First, the personal representative must notify any creditors and provide them with a copy of the petition. Also, the personal representative must collect any assets that they are tasked with supervising or disseminating under the will, including personal property and real estate. The personal representative has the option of leaving these items with the beneficiary who is intended to receive them in the will. This process also involves performing a thorough inventory of the decedent’s estate, which they must file with the probate court within 60 days after receiving the letters of administration. The list must include the estimated fair market value of each item and substantial details about the items. If there are any outstanding debts, the personal representative must also collect these, and they must oversee the continuation of any business affairs in which the decedent was involved if there is a reasonable way to preserve the value of the business. There are additional steps that the personal representative must complete during this second phase, and it can become complicated. Retaining a skilled probate lawyer can assist people planning their estate and people tasked with the administration of an estate in reducing the chaos and ensuring a smooth proceeding.
Finally, the personal representative must close the estate, which can only take place after certain requirements have been satisfied, such as providing creditors with sufficient time to submit claims.Seek Guidance from a Compassionate Lawyer in Fort Myers or Cape Coral
Whether you have recently lost a loved one and have questions about the appropriate way to carry out their wishes, or you are hoping to create a solid and legally compliant estate plan, the caring and dedicated legal professionals at the Martin Law Firm are ready to assist you. Our lead attorneys are a husband and wife team who understand the complexities that often arise in estate planning and probate matters. We have dedicated our practice to serving ordinary individuals and small businesses rather than large corporations, and we have counseled families on estate planning matters throughout Southwest Florida, including in Fort Myers, Cape Coral, Miami, Naples, and Tampa. Call us to set up your free consultation at (844) 465-4357 or contact us online.