St. Petersburg Probate Attorney
Step-by-Step Guidance through the Probate Process
The word probate means to prove. In Florida, probate court is where certain matters pertaining to a deceased person’s estate (and their assets) are transferred through a judicial proceeding. Basically, probate is the court’s way of making sure a person’s wishes are honored as they would have wanted them to be.
We are here to help you when a loved one has passed and assets need to be transferred to the beneficiaries. In Florida that process can be very confusing and we are hear to walk you through those unknown paths.
If you need a high caliber probate lawyer in St Petersburg, you can trust, the Hill & Kinsella can help you navigate the probate process.
- A Firm That Treats Clients Like Family
- When You Hire Us, You Get The Whole Team
- You Can Expect Fast Response Times
Call (727) 240-2350 to schedule a consultation at our firm today.
How Does Probate Work?
The basic goal of probate is to pass clear title to assets on to the rightful beneficiaries. Assets that are the subject to the process are known as probate assets. These assets pass either subject to a Last Will and Testament or without a will. Dying with a will is called Atestate. Dying without a will is called Intestate.
Typically, in a testate estate (with a will) the will names a personal representative to identify and collect the assets, pay the decedent’s debts and expenses, and distribute the remaining assets to the named beneficiaries. Through the will, trusts can be created for minors and other beneficiaries who need protection.
What If There Is No Will?
If the person died Intestate (no will), the State of Florida determines who will be the beneficiaries or heirs. Heirs are the spouse (if one) and children. If there are no children or grandchildren, then it would be other close relatives. Passage of assets in accordance with these laws may or may not be the way a deceased wanted the assets to pass. In any event, the intestate estate will have to be administered through the court probate process.
Is Probate Required for Everyone?
Probate is only needed when a person passes away with assets in their name only. Here are a few times when you may need to do a probate administration for your deceased loved one:
- There is a bank or investment account titled in the deceased person’s name alone,
- They had a home with no one else’s name on the title,
- They owned a business and there is no one to take over,
- They had life insurance with no beneficiaries named, or
- Someone holding assets told you that you need “court papers.”
Here are Some Examples of Assets That Usually Pass Without Needing a Probate:
- IRA’s that designate beneficiaries,
- Life insurance policies that name beneficiaries,
- Assets in a trust that designates a beneficiary, and
- Accounts set up with a joint tenancy with right of survivorship provision.
Do All Estates Go Through Probate in Florida?
Not all estates have to go through the probate process in the state of Florida. It is required only if a person passes away without a will or trust and has assets in their name. Probate is used to distribute their property and assets. If their property, bank accounts, insurance, 401K plans and all assets have beneficiaries names or have joint owners then probate is not required.
If you are going through the probate process, you are legally required to have an attorney present with you during the probate hearing in court. The experienced probate attorneys at Hill & Kinsella are here to help guide you through the process. Call now for a consultation!
The Florida Probate Process
Probate is defined as the court-supervised process of distributing the assets of an individual that has been deceased. It also includes paying off their debts. The assets that are included in the probate process include:
- Their Bank Account
- Life Insurance Policy
- Real Estate Solely in Their Name
The probate process in the state of Florida includes the following steps:
- Locate the Original Will: The original will needs to be probated, and should be submitted to the clerk court within 10 days after the person has become deceased
- Give Required Notice to Beneficiaries and Creditors: Florida law requires that a Notice of Administration be given to the beneficiaries written in the will and the surviving spouse. Known creditors must be given Notice to Creditors and allowing them 90 days to file a creditor claim to the estate. The Notice must also be published in the local newspaper along with the deadline for unknown creditors.
- Marshall Assets: Once the forms have been given out and the beneficiaries notified, the personal representative takes custody of the assets and estate.
- Creditor Disputes: Creditors may file a lawsuit against the estate that can last for years. If the estate is required to pay estate taxes, it will take a minimum of two years to close the estate. If anyone challenges the validity of the will, that also can take years to resolve. If the probate is not complex, the process could take under one year and sometimes even quicker.
- Beneficiary Distribution: The personal representatives distributes the assets to the beneficiaries after all of the issues are resolved. The representative can issue a plan for distribution and final accounting for the bank/life insurance accounts and they can object.
- Discharge: The personal representative will file a file accounting, plan of distribution and petition of discharge to the probate court. They will review the petition for discharge and accept/reject the petition depending if all the steps were followed according to the law.
How Long Does Probate Take in Florida?
The probate process is different in every state. There are a variety of factors that determine the kind of process you are dealing with and how long you should expect to complete the probate process. The complexity and time span for the probate process also depend on the circumstances of the estate.
An estate qualifies as simple and should take 3 months or less if it meets one or more of these factors:
- The estate is valued at less than $75,000
- No unpaid creditors
- The owner has been deceased for two years or more
- There is no personal representative appointed
- Accounting have to already be prepared and filed
An estate qualifies as a complex or as a litigated estate and should take at least 2 years if it meets one or more of these factors:
- The beneficiaries have not been identified
- The authentic will is lost
- Litigation over who should be the personal representative
- Negotiation with creditors that have a claim on the estate
- The estate itself is in a lawsuit
- The assets are not easily be distributed
- Income tax issues, including if the estate is taxable, the time required for filing the tax return and figuring out any issues can take years
- Negotiation over the authenticity of the will
Are you unsure what type of probate you will be/are dealing with? We understand that the process can be perplexing and frustrating. Hill & Kinsella is here to guide you through the process. Our team of experienced estate planning and probate attorneys are more than happy to go through your case with you and make sure you have a clear understanding of your options. Give us a call today to schedule a consultation!
What Assets Are Subject to Probate in Florida?
Probate assets are assets owned by the deceased, not all assets have to go through the probate process only those that do not automatically transfer to their beneficiaries when they pass. Such as assets that the decedent owned in only his/ her name when they passed, or that were owned by the decedent and one or more co-owners and did not include automatic succession of ownership at death. The following assets are required to go through probate in the state of Florida:
- A bank account in the name of only the deceased
- An investment account in the name of only the deceased
- A life insurance policy in their name
- An annuity contract in their name
- An individual retirement account in the name of the person’s estate
- Real estate with the deed only in the name of the deceased or with an additional individual as tenants in common
The probate process is necessary if the deceased did not have a will and to pass their assets to their beneficiaries. It will complete the final unfinished financial affairs, it also ensures that all debt is paid.
What Does a Probate Cost?
The cost of a probate is usually made up of court costs, bond fees and attorney fees. That’s why we only do probate actions when assets (like those above) exist.
Our Probate fees are usually set at a minimum fee of $3,000-5,000 or a percentage of the estate according to Florida statutes, which is 3% of the estate.
If the value of the estate justifies a probate, but your ability to pay the fees is limiting, call us at (727) 240-2350 to discuss your options.
Just as everyone has a different situation, each probate administration is different. We are here to help you tackle tough questions head on, explore your legal options, and find the best path forward. Speak with our attorneys today to discuss your case and possible solutions.
Read more about What To Expect on the form below.
If you need a probate attorney in St. Petersburg, or the surrounding areas, Hill & Kinsella can provide the professional legal expertise you need and deserve. Call (727) 240-2350 today.
We proudly help clients in St. Petersburg, Tampa Bay and the surrounding areas with the probate process and to plan their own estate to avoid probate.
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