In Florida, probate happens when an individual dies with assets in their name only and without having appointed any beneficiary. The purpose of probate is to identify, collect, and distribute assets appropriately and is overseen by the courts. The person who files a probate case must do so in the county where the decedent resided before their passing. In the case of an out-of-state resident who owned property in Florida, courts can handle the probate case in the county of the property.
The cost of probate involves court, bond, attorney, and representative fees. Most often, all fees are paid from the probate assets. Probate costs usually depend on the estate’s value, although probate litigation can increase the overall cost. Factors that cause a probate to be more expensive include the number of different locations of assets, titling issues with real estate, arguing beneficiaries, multiple creditors, to name a few.
Steps of the Probate Process in Florida
If the decedent left a will and nominated a personal representative for their estate, this person normally begins the probate process by meeting with the Florida Probate Administration Attorney. But, if not, beneficiaries or interested parties also can get the process started.
This initial appointment involves reviewing necessary documents like:
- The original Last will
- Real estate deeds
- Financial statements
- Life insurance policies
- Anything about debts owed
Once all information is gathered and proper documents prepared and signed, the attorney for the personal representative files the appropriate forms with the probate court. They must notify any beneficiaries, including the decedent’s surviving spouse, the trustee, and beneficiaries of any estate trusts.
The process remains on hold until the Florida probate court issues an order and letters of administration that allow the personal representative to open an estate bank account. All assets and accounts that were solely in the decedent’s name can now be liquidated. Their proceeds go to the estate bank account.
The personal representative must then publish Creditors Notices to estate creditors to inform them that a probate proceeding is now open. Creditors may then file claims with the probate court. The attorney and personal representative determine whether to pay the creditors or contest their claims.
The personal representative must prepare a final income tax return and handle any applicable taxes like estate taxes.
The next step involves preparing a final accounting of the estate and an asset distribution plan. They share this information with each beneficiary for approval. Once all beneficiaries agree to the distribution plan, the personal representative may then distribute the estate. The personal representative will also request permission from the Florida probate court to release them of further responsibility to the estate. The court can then end the probate process by officially discharging the personal representative and closing the case.
How Long Does the Probate Process Take?
The duration of the probate process depends on the estate’s size and value. It can range from three months, where the value is less than $75,000 and there are no unpaid creditors, to nine months for a larger estate with straightforward issues, to more than two years if creditors, negotiations, and difficulties to identify the beneficiaries are involved. Your attorney can outline the process you can expect after an initial review of your case.
Our lawyers at Hill & Kinsella are skilled at guiding personal representatives through each step of the process while overcoming a broad range of hurdles.
Other concerns that can increase the length of the probate process include:
- Contests over the authenticity of the will
- Income tax issues
- A lawsuit involving the estate
Working with an Experienced Probate Lawyer
If you are a nominated personal representative in a probate process, Florida law requires that you hire an attorney. They must advise you and attend court hearings with you. Working with a lawyer who specializes in probate cases can make a positive difference in understanding how the process works and properly completing each step. Our goal is to complete the probate process as properly and quickly as possible.
During your initial consultation, your attorney will discuss your situation and evaluate what you should expect in terms of costs and duration. With information from you they should also identify some specific concerns that you may encounter during the probate process. For more information read this [https://www.hilllawgroup.com/blog/2021/march/what-is-probate-is-probate-necessary-/]
At Hill & Kinsella, our lawyers generally set our minimum fees between $3,000 to $5,000. We sometimes set them at a percentage of the estate value according to Florida law reasonable fee standards.
Hiring a reputable and knowledgeable probate attorney can also simplify the process and protect your rights if you are a creditor, a beneficiary, or an heir. Please read more about us https://www.hilllawgroup.com/about-us/
Our office offers a free initial consultation. This is a great opportunity to determine whether we are the firm you wish to engage for your probate process. If you need legal counsel for a probate matter in St. Petersburg or the Tampa Bay area, contact Hill & Kinsella today at (727) 240-2350 to schedule a consultation!