What You Need to Know About Probate in Florida
Feb. 23, 2023
Our firm represents clients in the probate of deceased estate and guardianship matters. We also assist clients with estate planning in the preparation of wills, living wills, powers of attorney and health care surrogates as a probate attorney in Orlando.
Florida law uses two types of probate administration: formal and summary. Formal administration is the most common type of probate used in Florida court proceedings. Non-court supervised administration proceedings are known as “Disposition of Personal Property Without Administration,” and these occur only in limited circumstances.
A Formal Petition for Administration (With a Will or Without a Will), opens the probate estate, by filing the Petition for Administration with the Probate Court with help of a skilled probate attorney. This document provides the probate court with the information needed to open the Florida Probate estate, including the decedent's name, last known address, date of death, name of heirs/beneficiaries and the nature and value of the decedent's estate, among other information.
A Summary Administration may be filed when the value of the entire estate subject to administration does not exceed $75,000.
An Overview of Florida Probate Laws
The Florida Probate attorneys with Veliz Katz Law have over 60 years of combined experience helping families administer their loved ones' estates. We understand that estate administration is a solemn legal process, but know how vitally important it is as well.
Administering an estate is essentially performing the last duties of your loved one. We know from our experience that the process of administering an estate is full of complex legal questions and can be a difficult time emotionally as well. So, if a person close to you died and his or her will or trust appointed you to be the personal representative for the estate in Florida, we are here to help. You can rely on our six-plus decades of legal experience to guide you through the process and help give effect to your loved one's last wishes.
Probate Services We Offer
Our law firm's office is conveniently located in Maitland. Because of our ideal location, we are able to serve all of Central Florida and beyond. Our firm has helped administer hundreds of estates in the circuit courts in the Orlando region for people who were residents of Florida. Under Florida law, the probate of an estate of a Florida resident is referred to as a "domiciliary probate."
We also perform other services relating to affairs associated with aging and nearing the end of one's life. Our firm can draft simple estate plan documents for you such as wills, living wills, durable powers of attorney, and healthcare surrogate appointments. All of these legal documents are a vital component of helping your family care for you later in life and executing your wishes for the gifts you leave to your loved ones.
Our convenient location and proximity to some of Florida's premier vacation spots and retirement communities allow us to serve our clients who live in other places in Florida and out-of-state. Additionally, we can help administer the probate of Florida real estate owned by people domiciled elsewhere. This process is known as "ancillary probate." We encourage people living in other states to contact our firm to discuss how we can help you perform the duties of a personal representative for an estate in Florida even if you live elsewhere. Our firm will work hand-in-hand with you to help make it as simple and convenient for you as possible to perform your duties as a personal representative even though you do not live in Florida.
Why Hire a Probate Attorney?
Retaining an attorney is vital to ensuring that your loved one's final wishes are executed. Attempting to administer an estate, even a simple one without an attorney, can leave you confused and stressed because Florida Probate law is complicated. Florida Circuit Courts require probate administrators to file numerous forms and provide notice to heirs and possible heirs, as well as creditors, about the request to distribute the assets of the estate of your loved one or close friend. Failing to comply with the rules will delay estate administration and could violate the rights of people who might have a claim under the will or to contest the will.
Why Hire Our Law Firm for You Probate Matter?
Experience matters. With our combined 60-plus years of legal experience probating estates in Central Florida for residents of Florida and non-residents alike, we have earned the trust of our clients through the diligent performance of our duties to serve your best interests and by making the process of administering an estate as easy as possible. We comprehend how incredibly difficult it can be to identify the assets of your family member's estate, especially when you live out of state. Our firm can work with you to find all of the realty, personal property, bank accounts, brokerage accounts, timeshare properties, automobiles, and other property that does not automatically transfer to another upon the death of one person to include in the estate administration.
Estate Probate and Trust Administration in Orlando, Florida
Probate of an estate and trust administration seeks to accomplish the same overarching goal through different means. Probating an estate essentially is the legal process by which property is transferred from the deceased to his or her designees. Probate in Florida can be formal or informal, depending on the size of the estate. Trusts, whether revocable or irrevocable, are used as a mechanism to avoid going to probate court to transfer title to the property owned by the trust.
Trust administration, on the other hand, is the process by which the trust comes to an end with the death of the settlor. Thus, the trustee of the trust must undertake to perform the task of winding up the trust's affairs.
Probate of An Estate in Florida
The probate of an estate is the process of collecting the deceased person's assets, identifying liabilities, and then distributing the remainder of the property in the estate to the heirs or beneficiaries designated by will or by statute. Probating an estate also helps identify heirs to the estate, if they are unknown at the time the person died.
Types of Probate Estates in Florida
Technically, Florida recognizes three types of probate procedures. The most common is formal probate. A person can file a Petition for Summary Administration of the estate. However, the summary administration is limited to estates containing $75,000.00 or less. Finally, Florida courts recognize a petition known as Disposition of Personal Property without Administration. Those proceedings are rarely used and only in circumstances in which the value of the property is low.
Probating a will begins with filing a petition in the Circuit Court in which the decedent lived and paying the correct filing fee. The form asks the petitioner, who may or may not be the personal representative, to declare whether the decedent left a will. The petition shall include information such as the name, date of birth, date of death, and last residence of the person who died. Additionally, the petition must list the heirs of the decedent and all that person's creditors, if known. After the petition is entered, then the Court will impose deadlines for filing of certain documents, notice to heirs of the intent to probate the estate, and date for objecting to the will.
Leaving a Will or Dying Intestate in Florida
When a person dies after leaving a will, the Court will follow the wishes outlined in the document unless an heir or another beneficiary objects and is successful after contesting the will. In Florida, a woman who died after leaving a will is called a testatrix. A male who dies after executing a will is known as a testator. However, if a court invalidates a will or the person dies without leaving a will behind, then the decedent's property will pass according to Florida's laws of intestate succession. Usually, probate administration for an intestate estate is expensive, time-consuming, and may not comport with the wishes of the person who died. Therefore, drafting a will according to the Probate laws of Florida and adding amendments or making changes, called a codicil, will save money in the long run and prevent the distribution of your assets that you never intended.
Who Is the Personal Representative of An Estate?
The personal representative of the estate is the individual either designated by will or by the Court to serve as the individual who will handle the transfer of property and the payment of debtors. A court will appoint a personal representative, sometimes known as an executor if the will does not provide for one or the person identified in the will as personal representative declines to serve.
Not every nominee for personal representative can serve as one. Typically, a personal representative must be a resident of Florida, although blood relatives and adopted children may serve as a personal representative even though they live out-of-state. Additionally, the person must be at least 18, have a criminal history free of felony convictions, and be of sound mind. A personal representative need not be a real person. Florida law recognizes banks and other corporate entities as eligible to serve as personal representatives.
Once the judge approves the personal representative for the estate, then the Court will issue "Letters of Administration." Letters of Administration are formal documents endorsed by the Court, which gives the personal representative the authority to transfer property. A typical example would be the legal authority to transfer a bank account held only in the name of the individual who died to another person. The Letters of Administration will also assist the personal representative in accumulating the remaining probate that belongs in the decedent's estate and assembling an inventory of the estate's assets and liabilities.
Rights of The Surviving Family Members to The Estate
Florida law protects spouses, minor children, and disabled children from being left out of the estate of the person who died. Surviving spouses in Florida can take an "elective share." An elective share protects a surviving spouse from receiving no property after estate administration or no property at all. Children and disabled adults receive similar protections. It is important to note that adult children who are not ill or disabled can be left out of a will without recourse.
A related issue is the problem of the pretermitted spouse or heir. If a testator or testatrix creates a will and subsequently gets married or has a child, then Florida Probate law will grant the share to the spouse or child as if there was no will at all.
Handling Creditors' Claims Against the Estate-Exemptions
Personal representatives must send a Notice to Creditors known or could become known with a reasonable investigation. This notice must appear in the newspaper of general circulation in the region in which the decedent lived. All legitimate claims made by creditors must be paid before any beneficiary can receive a gift. The personal representative can object to a claim, and the creditor will have to file a lawsuit to recover the money owed.
Florida law permits certain exemptions to creditors' claims. Home furnishings, motor vehicles, school loans, and specific other property is exempt from collection provided that the exemptions are timely claimed.
The personal representative must file closing income tax returns with the Internal Revenue Service and pay all other taxes before closing the estate.
Florida Trust Administration - What Is a Trust?
A trust is a vehicle to transfer property from one person to another upon the happening of an event. Trusts can be made during one's lifetime, called an "Inter Vivos" trust, or upon death through a will, sometimes called a "Pour-Over Will." Properly drafted trust documents account for how property will be transferred from one to another thereby dispensing with the necessity of going to Court to obtain judicial approval.
Our law firm will help you perform all of the tasks necessary to wrap up a trust, including distribution of assets, payment of debts, and informing beneficiaries of their rights in the trust property.
Veliz Katz Law: Experienced Probate & Trust Administration Lawyers Serving Central Florida
Help for your Florida probate law issues is only a call or click away. Contact Veliz Katz Law for more information and to schedule an appointment.