By Melanie Walters
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In almost all cases, Florida probate law requires that a Florida probate attorney to be involved in the administering of the estate. There are very few exceptions to this probate law so it’s in your best interest to hire a Florida probate attorney when you have to go through Florida probate. But how do you know when to hire a Florida probate attorney?

What is Florida Probate?

Florida probate is the process of establishing what probate loans, assets, debts, taxes, claims and expenses the deceased had and after paying creditors, distributing the remaining assets to the beneficiaries. In accordance with Florida probate law, this process is court supervised and can either be Formal Administration or Summary Administration. In both cases, a Florida probate attorney should be involved to ensure nothing is overlooked.

Formal Administration is the most common method of administering Florida probate cases for two reasons:

  • The deceased has property and assets in excess of $75,000 and has passed away within the past two years.
  • The deceased requested Formal Administration in his or her will.

Summary Administration is an abbreviated Florida probate process and is only used if the deceased passed away more than 2 years ago or the assets and property are less than $75,000. Even if you qualify for Summary Administration, Florida Probate Law allows you to choose Formal Administration. Consult a Florida probate attorney to help you determine which method is right for your situation. 

Why does Florida Probate Law Require a Florida Probate Attorney?

Even with a valid will, legal in the state of Florida, a probate attorney is recommended by the state to represent the executor or personal representative of the will to ensure they have completed all the necessary tasks and have preserved the estate. A personal representative is the executor to the will. This can be a bank or trust company but is usually a person. Some of the tasks that are part of the probate process in Florida:

  • Probate notice to creditors to allow them to make a claim for payment from the estate.
  • Assess each claim and pay it, negotiate a lower payment or object the claim.
  • Gathers all the assets of the estate.
  • Preserves the assets of the estate until it is time to distribute the assets.
  • Pay taxes for the deceased.

There are other tasks the personal representative is responsible for depending on the size and scope of the estate. The personal representative will have to file legal forms and send out legal documents as well. Because of the many and varied responsibilities of the personal representative, seeking the professional advice of a Florida probate attorney is not only recommended, probate law requires it for a Formal Administration.

How to avoid Florida Probate?

There is only one way to avoid probate in the state of Florida. Probate laws do not apply to revocable trusts that name beneficiaries. If you have all assets and property funded in a revocable trust, then all assets and property pass to named beneficiaries with going through the Florida probate process. There is another added benefit to a revocable trust, and that is, that all details are kept private, unlike the Florida probate process where there are few privacy protections.

Settling the estate of someone after they pass away can be a very difficult job, even with a valid will and revocable trusts. However, in most cases the deceased did not leave a valid will and revocable trusts. In those cases, probate law requires that you hire a Florida probate attorney to ensure that the deceased’s assets get into the right hands.