Probate Administration, Litigation & Guardianships
Probate administration is the court-supervised process through which a decedent’s assets are transferred upon death. The purpose of probate is threefold: to ensure that the decedent’s estate is administered properly, to provide closure with regard to ownership of the decedent’s assets, and lastly, to wind up the decedent’s financial affairs.
Florida has two types of probate administration:
formal administration and summary administration.
Probate applies only to those assets within the decedent’s probate estate, i.e. assets that the decedent owned—either solely or jointly—at death and for which there is no rule of automatic succession. Probate assets generally include all forms of property—real, personal, tangible, or intangible—owned by the decedent with the exception of real property owned in another state, property held in trust, community property, homestead property, and property that automatically passes in succession or is payable to a named beneficiary.
The process generally begins when a person, usually the personal representative, files a petition for administration with the court. An inventory of the decedent’s assets is then filed. Once the assets are identified and valued, they are used to pay off the decedent’s outstanding debts. Any remaining assets are then distributed to the decedent’s beneficiaries according to the decedent’s will, which itself must be entered into probate. If the decedent dies without a will, the assets will be distributed according to Florida law.
Probate is often lengthy, costly, and overwhelmingly complex, but with the proper legal strategies, the decedent’s property can pass to its intended beneficiary after death, and probate can be avoided altogether.
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