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Florida Probate, Trust, and Estates Attorneys

As Florida Probate Attorney and Administration Lawyers with decades of experience, we at e-Estates and Trusts, PLLC understands the trauma of losing a loved one, and and we are here to help you navigate this challenging time with empathy, skill, and professionalism. Commitment, compassion, and competence are our promise as we journey with you in this sensitive phase of life.

What is Probate?

In Florida, Probate is a court-supervised process. That entails gathering the assets of a decedent, paying or settling the decedent’s debts, and distributing the individual’s assets to the appropriate beneficiaries or heirs at the time of his or her death. The decedent’s assets first pay for the cost of the probate administration and the decedent’s funeral expenses, followed by the decedent’s other outstanding debts. The executor then distributes the remainder of the assets to the beneficiaries. Generally, an individual named in the Last Will and Testament as the personal representative (a.k.a. the “executor”) is responsible for handling the probate administration. In Some cases, Florida Laws Require you to have a personal Probate Attorney to navigate you from this legal jargon.

Why do you need a Florida Probate Attorney and Administration Lawyer?

In most instances, Florida law requires the personal representative to have an attorney guide them through the probate process. The personal representative generally has permission to use the estate assets to cover the attorney’s costs. Thus saving your personal income as a personal representative. Having a Florida Probate Attorney representing you in your capacity as a personal representative is a major benefit. The attorney will assist with the probate procedure, protect your interests as executor, and prepare and file the necessary documentation with the Court. Provide statutorily required notice to beneficiaries, and creditors, attend required hearings and further guide you through the legal nuances and intricacies of the probate process.

Why e-Estates and Trusts, PLLC as your Florida Probate Attorney?

At e-Estates and Trusts, we aim to guide you through the Probate and Trusts Administration Process in a streamlined and efficient manner. If they name you as a personal representative, the responsibility can feel overwhelming. Especially if the case is complex, there are numerous assets or there is disagreement amongst the beneficiaries. Being in this business for a combined 25 years, we fully understand the numerous issues faced by personal representatives. That includes the grieving process, assuming fiduciary responsibilities and financial liability, navigating and preserving familial relationships, and the like. We take pride in providing our clients with clear direction and making the estate administration process as smooth as possible.

Book Complimentary Estate Administration Consultation Now with one of our experienced probate and trust administration attorneys.

When May a Florida Probate Administration be Necessary?

  • Bank Accounts that are “payable on death” (a.k.a. “P.O.D.”) to a named beneficiary
  • Brokerage Accounts that are “transferrable on death” (a.k.a. “T.O.D.”) to a named beneficiary
  • Retirement Accounts with a named beneficiary
  • Annuities with a named beneficiary
  • Life Insurance Policies with a named beneficiary
  • Real Property or Personal Property owned as “joint tenants with right of survivorship” (a.k.a. “J.T.W.R.O.S.”)
  • Real Property or Personal Property owned as “tenants by the entirety” (a.k.a. “T.B.E.” or “as husband and wife”)

For specific guidance as to whether probate is necessary for you, Contact Us to schedule a consultation with one of our experienced probate, trust and estate administration attorneys.

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What is a Will?

A decedent and witnesses sign a valid Last Will & Testament, which meets the requirements of Florida law. A decedent will generally name the beneficiaries to receive assets and also designate a personal representative (a.k.a. an “executor”) to administer the decedent’s estate.

What Happens if There is No Will?

If you die without a Will in the State of Florida, they call it “dying intestate”. Under these circumstances, the State of Florida writes a Will for you, and heirs are determined by Florida Statute. Even if a decedent dies without a Will, assets are rarely turned over to the State. In fact, the State would keep the decedent’s assets only if the decedent died with no heirs.

Where are Probates Filed?

A probate proceeding is generally filed with the Clerk of Court in the county where the decedent resided at the time of his or her death. If an individual resided out of state at the time of his or her death, a probate proceeding will be filed with the Clerk of Court in the county where the decedent owned real property or other assets. Any individual in possession of a decedent’s original Last Will and testament must deposit the Will with the Clerk of Court in the County where the decedent resided at the time of his or her death within ten (10) days of receiving information of the decedent’s death.

What are Probate Assets?

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What are Non-Probate Assets?

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Here are some examples of non-probate assets:

  • Bank Accounts that are “payable on death” (a.k.a. “P.O.D.”) to a named beneficiary
  • Brokerage Accounts that are “transferrable on death” (a.k.a. “T.O.D.”) to a named beneficiary
  • Retirement Accounts with a named beneficiary
  • Annuities with a named beneficiary
  • Life Insurance Policies with a named beneficiary
  • Real Property or Personal Property owned as “joint tenants with right of survivorship” (a.k.a. “J.T.W.R.O.S.”)
  • Real Property or Personal Property owned as “tenants by the entirety” (a.k.a. “T.B.E.” or “as husband and wife”)

Keep in mind that sometimes when designated beneficiaries die before the decedent, those assets may be included in the decedent’s probate estate. Additionally, where the joint owner of a particular asset dies before the decedent, that asset may also be included in the decedent’s probate estate.

What are the Different Types of Probate in Florida?

There are several different types of probate administrations in Florida. You must make a complex legal determination about the appropriate form of probate administration based on several variables. These include the size of the estate, the types of assets in the estate, the presence of creditors, and the time elapsed since the decedent’s death.

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Formal Administration:

These proceedings are the most common in Florida. Formal Administrations are generally used where there are numerous assets or the decedent died owing money to creditors. In a Formal Administration, a personal representative (a.k.a. an “executor”) will be appointed by the Judge and Letters of Administration will be issued. The personal representative will gather estate assets, pay or settle the decedent’s debts and ultimately distribute assets to the beneficiaries. Formal Administrations generally take 8-12 months to conclude.

Summary Administration:

These proceedings are generally used where the value of the entire estate, not including exempt assets such as homestead property, does not exceed $75,000.00 the decedent’s debts are paid, or the creditors do not object. Summary Administration is also available, regardless of the value of the assets, where the decedent died more than two (2) years ago. In a summary administration, we do not appoint a personal representative. Instead, you file a petition requesting the Court to distribute the decedent’s estate assets to those entitled under the Will or according to Florida law. If the Court approves the petition, the Judge will enter an Order of Summary Administration that directs the distribution of assets to the proper beneficiaries. Summary Administrations are an expedited form of probate and generally take between 2-10 weeks to conclude.

Disposition of Personal Property Without Administration:

This proceeding is generally filed to request the release of assets to the person who paid the final expenses, such as funeral or medical bills for the last 60 days. You may qualify for this proceeding if you meet the following criteria:

  • a. The value of the assets are less than $6,000,
  • b. You paid the final expenses, such as funeral bills or medical bills for the last 60 days; and
  • c. These expenses are close to the value of the asset you are trying to obtain.

Ancillary Administration:

When a non-Florida resident passes away owning assets, typically real property or real estate in Florida, you use these proceedings. If the decedent’s state of residence conducted a probate, you can proceed with the Ancillary Administration in Florida. If there was no probate administration in the decedent’s home state, you refer to the Florida procedure as a non-domiciliary probate.

We see a substantial number of ancillary administrations and non-domiciliary probates because many out-of-state residents own vacation homes, condos or timeshares here in sunny Florida. Probate is an incredibly complex legal process. And if not handled properly, can leave the personal representative or executor open to personal financial liability, not to mention potentially ruining family relationships. Contact Us to schedule a consultation with one of our experienced probate, trust and estate administration attorneys.

Who is a Personal Representative?

A personal representative is a person or entity appointed by a Judge to be in charge of a formal probate administration. The personal representative is Florida’s term for executor, executrix or administrator. The individual named as personal representative has a legal obligation to administer the probate estate properly. In Such a way that they are in accordance with applicable Florida law. Their role is to ensure that the deceased's wishes, as outlined in their will or trust, are fulfilled. Under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), personal representatives are also treated as the individual in regards to protected health information (PHI) relevant to the represented person.

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What Does the Personal Representative Do?

In a formal administration, a personal representative is responsible for:

  • Identifying, gathering, valuing, safeguarding, and preserving the decedent’s probate assets.
  • You’ll manage any assets such as investments or real estate while they’re probating the Will.
  • Filing all necessary pleadings and other documentation with the Court.
  • Hiring various professionals to assist in administering the estate including attorneys, accountants (CPAs), appraisers, and financial advisors.
  • Serving a “Notice of Administration” on required parties to provide information about the probate estate administration.
  • To advise of procedures to file an objection to the estate.
  • You should provide those creditors with the required notice indicating the deadline for filing their claims.
  • Publishing a “Notice to Creditors” in the newspaper to provide notice to creditors of the requirements surrounding filing a claim.
  • Objecting to improperly filed creditor claims.
  • Selling assets to satisfy claims against the estate, if necessary.
  • Paying valid creditor claims.
  • Filing the decedent’s final income tax return and any fiduciary tax return(s) required, and paying any due taxes.
  • Paying the expenses of administering the probate estate, such as court filing fees, the cost to publish the Notice to Creditors, etc.
  • Paying statutory amounts to the decedent’s surviving spouse or family, as required by Florida law.
  • Distribute the remaining probate assets to beneficiaries.
  • Concluding and closing out the probate estate.

Personal representatives owe a fiduciary duty to the estate beneficiaries and creditors. If by any chance the personal representative mismanages the decedent’s probate assets. He or She may be personally and financially liable to the estate beneficiaries for any harm they incurred as a result of such mismanagement. Most personal representatives hire an estate administration attorney to guide them through the probate process.

Who Can Serve as a Personal Representative?

Florida law has very specific requirements for an individual to be eligible to serve as a personal representative:

  • They must be at least 18 years old.
  • They must be a Florida resident or related to the decedent by blood, marriage, or adoption.
  • They must be physically and mentally capable of carrying out the duties required of a personal representative.
  • They never received a felony conviction.

Do I Need a Florida Probate Attorney and an Administration Lawyer?

Yes, in almost all instances you will need a Florida Probate Attorney. Florida law actually mandates the assistance of an attorney in all probate matters. Except for dispositions without administration and estates in which the personal representative (a.k.a. the “executor”) is also the sole beneficiary. Even if Florida law doesn’t require an attorney, you still need one. Formal administrations have a number of technical rules and requirements that are difficult for a non-attorney to navigate. Florida’s body of probate laws is far too complex for many personal representatives to follow without legal counsel and guidance. Also, keep in mind that the Courts cannot provide legal advice regarding probate proceedings.

Disclosure: The information contained in this website and blog is of a general nature and is not intended in any way to answer individual legal questions. If you have a legal question concerning your individual circumstances, please contact our firm to schedule a conference with one of our experienced attorneys. Your review of information from this website or blog does not create an attorney-client relationship, nor any legal privileges relating thereto. Offices in Ocala and Sebring.

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