Probate is the legal process of handling financial affairs and distributing someone’s estate after a loved one passes away. The probate process can be complex, so it is vital to work with an experienced probate attorney like Brian W. Hurd. We can help you navigate the process if you are a will’s executor or involved with a family member’s probate proceedings.
What assets go through probate?
Probate is the formal process of executing a will and distributing assets to family members and beneficiaries. Probate assets are solely owned by the decedent without a named beneficiary, a right of survivorship clause, or a “payable” or “transferable” upon death benefit. Who receives these assets is determined by the decedent’s will.
The Steps of Probate
Probate follows a structured set of steps with a formal petition to begin and end the process. Probate proceedings can take anywhere from six months to a few years, depending on the complexity of the estate and whether it is contested.
The first step is for a family representative to submit the decedent’s death certificate, the will, and other financial documents to a probate lawyer. The lawyer will present these documents to the probate court by filing a petition of administration, which is the formal beginning of the probate process.
2. Will Validation
Once the documents are presented to the court, a probate judge will review them and validate the will. If the will is valid, the judge will give the executor authority to handle the decedent’s estate. If there is no will, the judge will appoint a personal representative and follow Florida’s intestate laws to distribute assets.
3. Beneficiary Notification
It is the executor’s responsibility to inform the beneficiaries stated in the will about the notice of administration. If there are any concerns or disagreements about the will’s validity, a beneficiary or interested party may contest the will.
4. Creditor Notification
The executor will review the decedent’s financial affairs and notify any creditors who may want to file a claim with the estate to resolve a debt. Creditors usually have 90 days after the notice of administration was filed to submit their claims.
5. Value the Estate
The executor will gather relevant documents and tangible items to help determine the estate’s value. The estate’s value includes all assets and property owned by the decedent, including cars, bank accounts, personal possessions, family heirlooms, and real estate.
6. Create Estate Bank Account
The estate bank account holds the decedent’s funds and money from any sold assets until the estate is settled. Beneficiaries are not entitled to any of the estate’s assets until probate officially concludes. Executors are responsible for ensuring these funds are only used for their intended purpose. Funds from this account may also be used to maintain the decedent’s current assets, such as a mortgage or car payment.
7. Debts Paid
Funds from the estate bank account are used to pay off debts from creditor claims.
8. Distribute Assets
Once estate debts are paid and the creditor claim period has passed, the remaining assets are distributed to the beneficiaries as stated in the will.
9. Petition of Discharge
After the assets are divided, a probate attorney will present documentation to the probate court showing that the estate was settled. Then, the judge will sign an order of discharge, which is the official conclusion of the probate process.
Contact a Merritt Island Probate Attorney
The Law Office of Brian W. Hurd will guide you through probate proceedings and help resolve issues if a will is contested. Call our office at 321-453-5007 for a consultation to discuss your case.