Handling your Loved Ones Assets During and after Probate Court

An attorney greeting a client for a probate consultation.

Handling your Loved Ones Assets During and after Probate Court

Losing someone you love can be one of the most difficult and heart-breaking experiences in life. During these challenging times of grief, you may have to figure out how to handle and manage the loved one’s assets during and after probate court. Many families and personal representatives do not realize the complexities and potential complications involved in managing a deceased loved one’s assets. If you have recently lost someone you cared about and are not sure where to start or what your duties as the personal representative of your loved one’s estate may entail, an experienced attorney may be able to help you fulfill your duties as the personal representative and ensure that your loved one’s assets are managed in a responsible and lawful manner. Reach out to Loughlin Law, P.A. today by calling (561) 677-8403, or schedule a virtual appointment online.

What Are the Personal Representative’s Duties During the Probate Process?

The probate process does not begin until after the appointment of a personal representative to oversee the final administration of the deceased person’s estate. The appointment of the personal representative, also referred to as the executor, is different depending on whether the deceased person died with or without a Last Will and Testament. If the deceased had a will, they may have named the person they wish to serve as the personal representative in the document. In the absence of a valid will, it will be up to the probate court to appoint a personal representative. Typically, the duties of the personal representative include:

  • Identifying and preparing an inventory of the deceased person’s assets
  • Sending notices to all parties with an interest in the decedent’s estate
  • Identifying the decedent’s creditors and publishing notice to them
  • Paying or rejecting creditors’ claims
  • Paying funeral expenses and other outstanding bills
  • Filing and paying final taxes on behalf of the estate
  • Distributing the remaining assets to the deceased person’s heirs and beneficiaries
  • Closing the estate

When formal administration is required, the probate process can take anywhere from six to 18 months from the date of the court’s official appointment of the personal representative. Simpler estates with no debts, disputes, and other complexities usually do not require more than six months. After the probate process is complete, the personal representative will be entitled to a commission for their services payable from the estate assets pursuant to Fla. Stat. § 733.617.

Which Assets Do Not Go Through Probate?

Not all assets that the deceased person left behind will necessarily have to go through probate. Consequently, assets are broken down into two categories: probate assets and non-probate assets. According to the official Florida Courts Help website, probate assets include bank and investment accounts in the sole name of the deceased person, real estate titled in the sole name of the decedent, as well as life insurance policies and retirement accounts payable to the deceased person’s estate, among other examples. Some of the most common types of assets that typically do not go through probate and do not need to be reviewed by a probate court include:

  • Property held in a Trust. Most types of personal property (real estate, furniture, jewelry, etc.) becomes a probate asset by default. However, such property can be converted into non-probate assets by setting up a Trust and putting the property in the Trust. Once the property is transferred into the Trust, the asset is removed from the person’s estate because technically they are no longer the owner of that property.
  • Bank and investment accounts with a transfer-on-death (TOD) or payable-on-death (POD) policy. When the deceased person’s bank or investment account has a TOD or POD policy, the assets will pass directly to the named beneficiary upon the death of the account owner.
  • Retirement and savings accounts with a beneficiary designation. In most cases, retirement and savings accounts are set up with a beneficiary designation, which allows these assets to bypass the probate court process and pass directly to the designated beneficiary.
  • Life insurance policies with a beneficiary designation on file. Unless the deceased person did not name a beneficiary when purchasing a life insurance policy, the money from the insurance payout will go directly to the named beneficiary.
  • Assets owned jointly with other persons. When there are two or more persons who own a certain asset, the asset will typically bypass the probate process. When one of the owners dies, their share of ownership is distributed proportionately among the surviving owners.
  • Assets with a post-death designation in place. Any assets (e.g., financial accounts and house deeds) with a post-death designation, the right of survivorship, or TOD/POD designations usually do not require probate.

If someone you loved has passed away and you – as the personal representative of the estate – are tasked with identifying their assets and figuring out which assets will be reviewed by the probate court, consider getting help from an attorney. At Loughlin Law, P.A., we assist executors and personal representatives with all aspects of probate and estate administration.

Three Tips for Handling a Loved One’s Assets After Their Passing

After someone dies, the probate process falls on the shoulders of the individual appointed as the personal representative. This person is tasked with locating and managing the deceased person’s assets. The process of handling the decedent’s assets can be overwhelming and intimidating, especially if you do not have guidance from an attorney to help you fulfill your duties. Below are three tips to follow when handling a loved one’s assets that can help to make the process easier and less stressful:

  1. Understand that the probate process takes time. As mentioned earlier, the probate court process can take anywhere from around six months to more than a year, depending on the complexity of the estate. There are laws and procedures to abide by when it comes to handling and distributing the assets of the deceased, which can be time-consuming. Setting realistic expectations early in the process can help to prevent unnecessary frustrations and impatience later on.
  2. Talk to the family. Holding a family meeting to discuss the probate process can help prevent future disputes and, again, set expectations early in the process. Family members of the deceased may be more inclined to show patience, and less inclined to initiate conflict, when they know how the assets will be handled during and after the probate process, who will have access to the assets, and how long they will have to wait for the distributions to occur. In return, the family members may be able to help the personal representative with locating and inventorying the deceased person’s assets, which tends to be one of the most time-consuming parts of the probate process.
  3. Get help from an attorney. Navigating the probate process can be emotionally and mentally taxing, especially if the deceased is someone you loved and you need to take the time to grieve and mourn the loss. An attorney can often provide invaluable guidance and knowledgeable help throughout the process to ensure that the decedent’s wishes are honored, the assets in the estate are managed properly, and that you, in your role as the personal representative, avoid personal liability for mishandling assets and legal matters.

Contact an Attorney for Help With Handling Assets During Probate

An experienced Florida probate attorney can provide personal representatives and bereaved family members with the help and answers they need as they move through the probate process. Loughlin Law, P.A. works with clients to alleviate the burdens they face during probate and to ensure that all matters in the probate court are handled in the appropriate manner. Call (561) 677-8403 today to schedule a case evaluation today.

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