Settling a probate estate requires quite a lot of time, patience, and organization. The probate process has the potential to be long and drawn out depending on the deceased’s state of affairs and, realistically, how easy the probate court makes it to work with them. However, if you’re well-equipped and prepared to deal with the role and duties of Executor, with the help of an attorney, you should be able to settle the estate in Florida within 6 months. Here are 5 steps to help you settle a probate estate:
Gather the Right Documents
The Last Will and Testament is the first document you will need when a person passes away and you need to start handling their estate. Additionally, you will need real estate deeds, bank statements, insurance policies, and any other documents concerning the deceased’s personal or business finances. There are also numerous documents and forms that must be filed with the probate court in order to get the probate process started and your attorney can help you with the preparation of the documents that need to be filed.
Send Out Notifications
Once the Executor has been appointed by the court, it is his or her responsibility to notify any agencies the deceased was involved with at the time of death. These include banks, utility companies, and any other businesses where the deceased had an account. You must also notify state and federal government agencies such as Social Security, Medicaid, and the VA if the deceased was receiving benefits from them at the time of death. Some of these notifications can be done before the court actually appoints the Executor, however, sometimes, businesses will not deal with you until you can show proof that you were appointed the Executor (which requires an order from the Court).
Find Out How Much the Estate is Worth
The probate court will usually require a thorough inventory of the deceased’s assets and property to calculate any estate taxes or probate fees that are owed. If the deceased owned several pieces of personal property, like automobiles, art, jewelry, antiques, or other collectibles, it may be necessary to bring in an appraiser to find out how much the property is worth.
Collect Debts and Pay Bills
The assets in the estate must be fully accounted for before any distributions to beneficiaries can be made (as discussed below), including any debts owed to and by the estate. You’ll have to pay any bills owed by the estate, and you should also seek out any money that may be owed to the estate to begin making the correct distributions to beneficiaries.
Distribute the Estate Assets
The Last Will and Testament directs how distributions should be made to beneficiaries, and it is the Executor’s responsibility to make those distributions. All distributions must first be approved by the probate court to ensure that all debts have been paid by the estate before the beneficiaries can receive any assets. Again, your Florida estate attorney will help you determine how and when to make the distributions.
If you have been named as someone’s Executor and need help settling an estate, or if you would like to know how you can possibly avoid the probate process through the use of a Revocable Living Trust, please call us at (813) 438-8503 to set up an initial consultation.