Central Florida Attorneys for Probate Litigation
What is Probate?
Probate is the legal process of settling accounts and transferring a decedent’s assets to beneficiaries upon their death when there is no will. In Florida, probate is necessary when there is no will, and it is estimated that over 68% of Americans do not have a will. Florida has three options to settle an estate through formal administration, summary administration, and a non-court supervised disposition of personal property without administration. Each process has specific requirements of the estate. During a time of grief, this can be overwhelming for families. Our experienced probate attorneys provide answers to common questions and can guide you through the court rules, timelines, and required duties of probate. We can help alleviate the stress, giving you room to grieve and heal.
Summary administration is designated for estates less than $75,000, excluding non-probate assets, or where the death occurred more than two years ago. The court will not appoint a personal representative but instead determines if the estate qualifies for summary administration, then issues an order, releasing the property to the people who inherit it.
Non-Court Supervised Disposition of Personal Property Without Administration
When final expenses are greater than the property’s value, it becomes subject to probate. This process can only be used if the decedent did not leave any real estate, and the assets are either exempt from creditors’ claims or don’t exceed the final expenses. Final expenses include funeral costs and medical expenses incurred within 60 days of the decedents’ death.
Formal administration is designated for larger estates and requires a personal representative (executor), appointed by the court, with authority to settle the estate. Under the court’s supervision, they will gather inventories and assets, pay debts, taxes, and distribute what is left to the beneficiaries.
Estate (Probate Assets)
Florida Law defines a probate asset as assets owned in the decedent’s sole name at death. Examples include bank accounts, retirement accounts, annuities, and proceeds from a life insurance policy. However, some assets do not pass through probate. Assets with designated beneficiaries such as a retirement account or life insurance proceeds are not considered probate assets. Jointly owned assets are considered non-probate as ownership transfers to the survivor. There are a few exemptions for homestead property and some personal property.
Real estate can be a tricky and complex matter when jointly owned or tenants have rights of survivorship. If you have questions, the estate planning attorneys at Williams & Williams can help you determine which of your loved one’s assets are subject to probate.
A trust is a fiduciary arrangement where a grantor gives a trustee the right to hold and manage assets for a specific person. Trusts are set up before someone dies, and the trustee gains control once it goes into effect. A trust does not protect against creditors, and a decedent’s estate may still be subject to probate. The most significant difference between a trust and will is that a will only takes effect once you die.
Florida Probate Code
Probate law in Florida is outlined in several chapters of the state statutes. The Florida Bar provides an intense 322 pages of Florida probate rules that govern these proceedings. Probate law is extensive and complex; with over 30 years of experience in estate planning, our firm provides sound counsel and assists you every step of the way.
- Florida Statute, Chapter 731: Estates and Trusts
- Florida Statute, Chapter 732: Probate Code: Intestate Succession and Wills
- Florida Statute, Chapter 733: Probate Code: Administration of Estates
- Florida Statute, Chapter 734: Probate Code: Foreign Personal Representatives; Ancillary Administration
- Florida Statute, Chapter 735: Probate Code: Small Estates
- Florida Probate Rules, Florida Bar
One way to protect your family from probate is to do your estate planning in advance. We can work with you to protect your assets with either a Will or a Trust. We can help appoint the right people and designate beneficiaries to protect your investments. Another benefit to estate planning is including end-of-life healthcare plans and power of attorney. We recommend regularly updating your estate plan, particularly following any significant life changes such as getting married, having a child, and divorce. Help your family avoid costly and complicated probate litigation by preparing today.
Experience Matters. Call Us for Assistance with Probate
For over three decades, Williams & Williams has handled many families’ probate and estate planning matters throughout Central Florida. We are committed to walking you through the process of probate and, if necessary, probate litigation. Every situation is different; call us today to schedule a consultation and go over the facts of your case. Our firm is ready to address your legal needs. We are also available for evening and weekend appointments. Call our Winter Park office today at 407-648-4333 or contact us online using the form below.