Here at the Law Office of Laurie E. Ohall, we frequently meet with first-time Personal Representatives (executors) who are overwhelmed by probate in Florida and the duties that go along with it. If you are not familiar with the process, the legal and financial task you now face can seem scary. There is a lot to do, but we find it helpful to explain the process in simple terms using four basic steps:
Step 1 – File a petition and give notice
The first thing you’ll have to do is file a petition with the probate court. The Last Will and Testament of the decedent will have to be admitted to probate and appoint the Personal Representative, or, if there is no will, a personal representative will have to be appointed. You will also be required to provide notice of the probate to all interested parties – most of the time that is beneficiaries and heirs.
Step 2 – Give notice to all known creditors
Once the court names a Personal Representative, he or she must give written notice to all creditors of the estate. The notice must indicate the date by which all claims must be submitted. This notice is also published in the county where the Decedent died so that, if there are unknown creditors, they have a chance to see that a probate has been opened.
Step 3 – All debts, including funeral expenses as well as taxes, must be paid
The Personal Representative is required to determine which creditor’s claims are legitimate and pay those bills. In addition, all funeral and other final expenses must be paid.
Step 4 – Ask for permission to transfer remaining assets to beneficiaries
Once the creditor waiting period is over and all approved bills are paid, the Personal Representative must petition the court for the authorization to transfer assets to the beneficiaries indicated in the decedent’s will. Or, if there is no will, the assets must be distributed as directed by state law.
These are the general steps for probate in Florida, but the devil is in the details. It is important that all of the T’s get crossed and I’s are dotted, because missed deadlines or mistakes can cause the probate process to be even longer than normal. And, mistakes can be costly (extra attorney fees)! With the help of an experienced Florida probate attorney, you can ensure that this process goes smoothly and prevent any mistakes.
Our probate and trust administration process is affordable and takes the stress off you allowing you to spend the time recovering from your loss. For help settling your loved one’s estate, please contact us at 813-438-8503 to set up a consultation.