Navigate Florida’s Probate Process with Confidence with Assistance from RTRLAW’s Probate Attorneys
The passing of a loved one brings not only emotional turmoil but also a whirlwind of legal and financial concerns. The daunting probate process in court may exacerbate these worries. But with the legal advice and guidance of dedicated Florida probate attorneys from RTRLAW, you can navigate this journey quickly and easily, saving both time and money when probating a loved one’s estate.
What is Probate?
At its core, probate is the legal validation of a person’s Last Will and Testament (or simply, a will). Imagine probate as a big checklist that the court uses to make sure a person’s final instructions (what they wanted to do with their possessions and assets after they’re gone) are followed. If they left a will, the probate administration process helps make sure what’s in the will happens. If there isn’t a will (also known as dying “intestate”), probate helps decide who gets what from that person’s estate.
Throughout this process, if not already named in the will, a trustworthy individual, often the spouse, parent, adult child or sibling of the person who died (also called a decedent), is appointed by the probate court to oversee the estate’s distribution. This person (known as the personal representative in Florida) ensures the decedent’s wishes, as outlined in the will, are fulfilled.
When there is no will or if family members don’t agree on what the will says, the probate process can be quite complicated. That’s when you need an experienced probate attorney to help guide you through the process.
What Are the Different Types of Probate in Florida?
When a person dies in Florida, is probate always necessary? Probate is needed if the person who died owned something just in their name, like a solo bank account, regardless of how much money is in it. Even if there’s only $2,000 in their account, the family or heirs of the decedent will need some help from the probate court to have access to that account.
The kind of probate needed largely depends on how much the estate (everything the person owned when they died) is worth. In Florida, there are generally four types of probate processes:
- Disposition without Administration: This is for really small estates and doesn’t exactly use the regular probate steps. Instead, it’s a special court process used when someone wants to be paid back for funeral costs or final medical bills they covered within two months after the person died. For example, if mom had $2,000 in her personal bank account when she died, and you paid for her funeral, you could ask the court to order the bank to give you the $2,000 to cover those costs.
- Summary Administration: This is a simpler kind of probate for cases when: a. the total estate is valued at less than $75,000; b. everyone who is set to inherit agrees; c. all debts are paid off; and d. you know everything the person owned. You’ll probably still want a lawyer’s help with a summary administration, but this route is usually less expensive and less complicated than a formal probate administration.
- Formal Probate Administration: This is the standard, more detailed probate process. It’s used when the decedent’s assets are worth more than $75,000, or there are debts to pay, disagreements among heirs, or assets that no one knew about. This process includes officially naming someone to be in charge (the personal representative), informing potential creditors through newspaper announcements, and other steps.
- Ancillary Probate Administration: This process is used if the person who died owned real estate (like a house or land) in Florida in their name only. It’s an additional probate process that deals specifically with this real estate.
Each type of probate has its own rules and steps, so it’s often helpful to have an experienced probate lawyer, such as the probate attorneys at RTRLAW, guide you through whichever type of probate applies to your situation.
When Should You Seek a Probate Attorney?
While many probate scenarios progress without a hitch, certain complexities require the experience of a seasoned probate lawyer. These challenges include:
- Family members/heirs are unable to agree on what the will says.
- The will is a bit confusing or contradictory.
- There is a belief that the decedent may have been tricked or pressured into writing or changing the will.
- There’s no will at all.
- The family situation is a bit complicated, such as when step-siblings are involved or if there are no immediate family members/blood relatives alive.
In Florida, if an heir doesn’t agree with something in a will, he or she can ask the court to look at it again. This is when having a probate attorney on your side is like having a guide on a tricky hike. Navigating a probate lawsuit can be difficult and require expert legal guidance for a variety of reasons, from contesting an inheritance to challenging trust accountings.
What’s The Difference Between Probate & Non-Probate Assets?
When planning your estate, it’s important to understand the difference between probate and non-probate assets. Probate is the process through which a court determines how to distribute your property after you die. Some assets are distributed to heirs by the court (probate assets) and some assets bypass the court process and go directly to your beneficiaries (non-probate assets).
Probate assets can include the following:
- Real property that is titled solely in the decedent’s name or held as a tenant in common;
- Personal property, such as jewelry, furniture, and automobiles;
- Bank accounts that are solely in the decedent’s name;
- An interest in a partnership, corporation, or limited liability company;
- Any life insurance policy or brokerage account that lists either the decedent or the estate as the beneficiary.
Non-probate assets can include the following:
- Property that is held in joint tenancy or as tenants by the entirety;
- Bank or brokerage accounts held in joint tenancy or with payable on death (POD) or transfer on death (TOD) beneficiaries;
- Property held in a trust;
- Life insurance or brokerage accounts that list someone other than the decedent as the beneficiary;
- Retirement accounts.
The probate process includes filing a will with the court and appointing a personal representative (also called an executor or administrator), collecting assets, paying bills, filing taxes, distributing property to heirs, and filing a final account. This can be a costly and time-consuming process; that where a seasoned probate attorney can help.
How RTRLAW’s Experienced Probate Attorneys Support You
Going to probate court might seem daunting, but you don’t have to do this alone. The compassionate and proficient probate attorneys at RTRLAW are dedicated to supporting clients and families during these trying and often emotional times. Our aim? To make the probate process as straightforward and stress-free as possible by assisting clients with:
- Securing and identifying estate assets;
- Evaluating the real value of the decedent’s real estate and properties;
- Addressing outstanding debts and identifying any estate taxes that are due;
- Processing life insurance claims; and
- Submitting necessary paperwork to the probate court.
Dealing with all this can seem like trying to solve a big puzzle. At RTRLAW, our job is to help families like yours put the puzzle pieces together and make things as easy as possible for you.
Connect with a Trusted Probate Partner at RTRLAW Today
Eager to know more about Florida’s probate process? Schedule a free consultation and strategy session with our seasoned probate attorneys today. Contact us, email [email protected], or call or text us toll free at 1-833-HIRE-RTR (1-833-447-3787). RTRLAW’s attorneys are available throughout the state of Florida and can meet with you at your convenience – by phone, video conference or at one of our six convenient offices, including Fort Lauderdale, Orlando, Tampa, Lake Worth, and by appointment in Miami or Jacksonville. RTRLAW ensures dedicated estate planning assistance is always within your reach.