Probate Court is where a Last Will and Testament is filed after a person passes away (the decedent) for safekeeping and as a matter of record. The court oversees the process where the decedent’s assets are gathered, debts are paid off and the remaining assets are distributed to the designated beneficiaries. It is important to note that if all the assets are owned by a living person via beneficiary designation, title or deed, there would be no need to “probate” a Will. If a person dies without a will (called intestate) the assets are distributed to the heirs based upon Florida law. Depending on the decedent’s estate and circumstances, there are different types of administration: Summary Administration; Formal Administration; Ancillary Administration; and Disposition Without Administration. In most cases you will need a lawyer to assist you with navigating through the Probate Court. If you have questions about this process, please contact us for a no obligation, complimentary consultation.
While a comprehensive estate plan may save you from the probate process, you will still have to facilitate the will and trust administration. Even when there is a detailed plan to follow, there are many things to monitor and take care of. When the creator of a trust dies, the trustee has certain duties to carry out, including the collection and management of the trust assets, the resolution of debts and claims, and the filing of the necessary individual and fiduciary income tax reports and federal estate tax return if one is required. At Buist Law, our experienced attorneys can assist a trustee in understanding and carrying out his or her duties and responsibilities in administering a trust in accordance with Florida Law.
Frequently Asked Questions
For example, a decedent was worth $1,000,000 at the time of death; $300,000 was in a living trust, $150,000 was jointly-owned, and a piece of real estate worth $450,000 was in his sole name and had a $100,000 life insurance policy naming his children as beneficiaries. The decedent’s “gross estate” would be $1,000,000, but his “probate estate” would only be $450,000; as the trust would be governed by the decedent’s Trust the $150,00 jointly owned asset would transfer directly to the other owner and the life insurance would be paid out to the beneficiary.
A Summary Administration is available if the value of the probate estate is less than $75,000, and if the decedent’s debts are paid, or creditors do not object. The proceedings are significantly shorter, no personal representative is appointed, and there is less work to be done providing a significant savings to the estate.
Another form of alternative administration is a Disposition without Administration. This is available if there is no real estate in the estate and if the total probate assets do not exceed the total of the funeral expenses and the amount of all reasonable and necessary medical and hospital expenses incurred within sixty (60) days of the decedent’s final illness. If you meet these qualifications you are not required to go through the probate process.