Probate is the court-supervised process of authenticating the Last Will and Testament of a person who has passed away and disposing of their assets. If the person did not have a Will, the probate process will still take place, but it will be based on what are known as the intestacy statutes of Florida. These are laws written by legislatures to determine how property should be transferred after someone has passed away without a Will.
The probate process can be long. Even when there is a Will and the probate is relatively straight forward, it can take on between 8 months to 2 years. This is because each step requires court approval, and the court system is almost always backed up with more cases than it can adequately handle.
The process usually involves the following basic steps:
- Authenticating the Last Will and Testament (which is a fancy way of saying the Court must be convinced the document is the decedent’s Will, that it bears his or her true signature, that he or she knew what he or she was signing, and that it was properly witnessed and notarized).
- Appointing a Personal Representative (usually pre-determined by the decedent in his or her Will).
- Locating and determining the value of the decedent’s assets at the time of death (usually through account statements and appraisals)
- Identifying and contacting all known creditors (unknown creditors are advised via an add in a local newspaper)
- Payment of bills, including final expenses
- Filing income tax returns (the Personal Representative will need to file the decedent’s final income tax return and an estate income tax return for any income earned during the probate process)
- Determining any estate tax liability, filing the applicable estate tax returns, and paying any estate/inheritance taxes due
- Distributing what is left to the beneficiaries (or if the decedent did not sign a Will, to the decedent’s heirs)
Langer Law, P.A. has experience representing Personal Representatives and beneficiaries/heirs in the administration of a loved one’s estate and is committed to effective, yet efficient representation in Probate matters. Contact us today to schedule a consultation