Probate

What is probate?

Probate in Florida is the legal process of settled the estate of a deceased individual. Settling the estate of an individual means paying the debts owed by that person and distributing the remaining assets to that person’s heirs. In Florida, a personal representative is responsible for administering the estate of the decedent. A personal representative is appointed by the court and the court supervises the personal representative through this process. By law, a personal representative must be represented by an attorney admitted to practice law in the State of Florida. A probate action in Florida is part of the public record and so there is very limited privacy available to an estate. This may be ideal as the public nature of the process helps the integrity of the administration.

Is probate necessary?

All property that is titled in the name of the decedent must pass through the probate process in order for title to pass to the heirs of the decedent. Once a person dies, obviously they are no longer able to make changes to the ownership of their assets. Instead, the Florida probate court supervises the administration of the estate. So if someone dies owning assets in their name, then probate may be necessary. There are a number of simple probate avoidance techniques available if you wish to minimize the expense of probate to your estate.

What does probate cost?

The expense of probate depends, in part, on legal fees. Legal fees for probate in Florida are set by statute and generally are no more than 3% for the first million dollars in assets in the estate with a percentage decreasing as the estate value increases. The fee for the personal representative is generally the same as that of the attorney.

How long does probate take?

Generally, letters of administration can be issued by the court in a few weeks. Much of it depends on the nature and number of beneficiaries. Letters of administration give the personal representative the legal authority to administer the estate. From opening an estate to final discharge the average estate takes under twelve months to administer. Some can be completed in shorter periods of time, others can take much longer.

Who can serve as personal representative?

A resident of Florida, an attorney licensed to practice law in Florida and certain relatives of the decedent are among the list of people who can serve as personal representative of an estate. Serving as a personal representative is not an easy job and the appropriate person is one who can truly act as a fiduciary and balance the needs of all interested parties to the estate.

I’m named as personal representative of an estate, now what?

Being named as an executor/executrix or personal representative of a person’s Last Will & Testament can be daunting. That person is responsible for carrying out the provisions of the will, which includes collecting the decedent’s assets, paying any debts or taxes owed, filing the decedent’s final tax returns, distributing the remaining assets and inventory in accordance with the provisions of the will, and notifying companies that need to know about the death.

If the decedent created a trust, then the Trustee is responsible for implementing the terms of the trust and filing a Notice of Trust with the court. Even if an estate does not require a probate administration, all estates must be settled. There are still documents to be filed, debts and taxes to be paid and assets to be distributed.

The attorneys at Martin Law Firm have the experience to see you through every step of the process so you can rest assured all of the provisions and processes are carried out to the letter of the law. We will assist the personal representative, family and beneficiaries with sensitivity. We are involved in all aspects of estate and trust administration. We represent individual client’s fiduciaries in the probate process which typically includes admitting the will, qualifying the fiduciaries, and preparing inventories and accountings, collecting assets, notifying creditors and paying debts.

We can help you with the following:

  • Ancillary Probate Administration
  • Asset Distribution
  • Beneficiary Rights Under a Will or Trust
  • Complex Postmortem Estate Planning
  • Estate Administration and Litigation
  • Formal Probate Administration
  • Summary Probate Administration
  • Preparation of the Federal and State Estate Tax Returns
  • Trust Administration and Litigation
  • Representation of Personal Representatives
  • Representation of Heirs and Creditors
  • Preparation and Audits of Estate and Gift Tax Returns
  • Representing Trustees in the Administration of Revocable and Irrevocable Trusts