West Palm Beach Probate Lawyer Alfred G. Morici has practiced estate planning and probate law for thirty-five years. Let him guide you through the essentials of Estate Planning in Florida,
Probate is a court supervised legal process for dealing with the assets of a deceased person. Its purpose is to prove the validity of the decedent’s Last Will and Testament. In Florida, Probate proceedings include identifying and gathering the decedent’s assets; paying taxes, claims and expenses, and distributing assets to beneficiaries.
Assets to be distributed are those that the decedent owned in his or her sole name at death – they may include bank and investment accounts, retirement accounts, real estate, and personal property. Of course there are too many exceptions and specific regulations to list them here.
How does Probate work?
The decedent’s Last Will and Testament, a certified death certificate, and a petition to probate are filed with the clerk of the appropriate court. If there is a valid Last Will, the probate court names a personal representative to handle the administration. The personal representative can be a person, bank, or trust company. It will be appointed by a judge to be in charge of the administration of the decedent’s probate estate. If a person does not leave a Last Will, the court will decide who receives the assets of the deceased.
The probate court may require the personal representative to post a surety bond. This can be very expensive, and requires the payment of an annual insurance premium until the estate is ordered closed by the probate court.
Having a Will does not avoid Probate
Many people are under the impression that having a Will avoids probate. That is not the case. In fact, the term probate comes from a Latin word meaning “to prove” (or establish the validity of) a Last Will and Testament. There are many reasons why you should have a Will, but having a Will does not avoid probate.
Do I need a lawyer to Probate in Florida?
Generally speaking, the personal representative must have attorney representation before the probate courts in Florida. The probate process has many technical rules, which must be followed explicitly to ensure that when a beneficiary inherits assets, he/she will be free from future claims. In the majority of probate cases, a lawyer is needed to complete this process in a timely- and legally efficient manner.
There are three types of probate administration under Florida Probate law: ‘Formal Administration’, ‘Summary Administration’ (up to $75,000 value), and ‘Disposition of Personal Property Without Administration’ ( for very small estates, Florida Statute Section 735.301).
Without a legal background, there are many pitfalls, which can result in beneficiaries not receiving their inheritance for all time and free from creditors. Consequently, the assistance of an attorney is always worthwhile.
Avoiding probate is easy if you plan ahead. The benefits are lower costs for your estate administration and less frustration for your family.
West Palm Beach Estate Planning Attorney Alfred G. Morici has practiced estate planning and probate law for thirty-five years in Palm Beach County, Florida. He is a Past President and Director of the Palm Beach County Estate Planning Council, and has handled innumerable cases. He can help you with making the best decisions and share his insight having gone through the estate planning process with innumerable clients.
Call him today at 561-
471-2551 or contact him online.