Probate is a legal procedure an estate must undergo after a person dies. During these legal proceedings, the court will begin distributing the estate to the proper heirs. While people may have heard the term “probate,” many may still need clarification about the process and what it involves. To learn more about the probate process and how it can affect you, contact the experienced Florida estate planning attorneys at Loughlin Law, P.A. at (561) 677-8384 to go over your questions today.
An Overview of Probate
According to the American Bar Association, during the probate process, the court will need to authenticate a person’s Last Will and Testament (Will), if he or she has one, and approve the named Executor before the person can distribute a decedent’s property and belongings. If there is no Will, the probate process will become more complicated, as there is no documentation showing the court what a person’s final wishes were regarding his or her assets and property. Consequently, it will be up to the court to make these decisions for the person.
The Probate Process
The probate process will usually depend on whether a person had a Will or passed away without one. If there was no Will, the court will need to appoint a person to serve as a Personal Representative and oversee the distribution of the decedent’s property and belongings. However, after the Personal Representative has been appointed, the rest of the probate process will be similar to what it is for someone who passed away with a Will. See Loughlin Law’s FAQ about estate planning for answers to some of the most common questions about Wills and asset distribution.
Submit the Death Certificate and Validate the Will
To begin the probate process, a lawyer or the Executor will inform the court of a person’s death and submit a copy of the person’s death certificate. If there was a Will, it will also need to be authenticated. To do this, the court will need to make sure the Will was properly signed and dated in accordance with the laws.
If a Will is present, the court will formally appoint the person named in the Will as Executor. This person will oversee the probate process and work to settle the estate. However, if there is no Will, the court will need to appoint a Personal Representative. Typically, this person is a next of kin and will act exactly as an Executor would when it comes to the probate process.
A bond will need to be posted. This step protects Beneficiaries against potential errors made by a Personal Representative or an Executor during the probate process. These bonds can be quite expensive, but the estate will usually pay for them. However, depending on the state, bonds may not be necessary, especially if the Executor or the Personal Representative is also a Beneficiary of the estate. Some individuals may even include waiving the bond in the Will.
Let Creditors and Beneficiaries Know
According to The Florida Bar, one of the primary purposes of probate is to ensure that a decedent’s debts are taken care of and paid off. That is why the Executor or the Personal Representative will now have to find and inform any potential Beneficiaries and possible creditors of the passing. They must also communicate with creditors to settle debts using money from the estate.
When there is a Will, most, if not all, of the Beneficiaries will be named, making informing them easier for the Executor. However, finding all the appropriate creditors can still take time, regardless of whether there is a Will.
Determine the Value of Assets
An assessment must first be done to determine the value of an estate. This assessment will account for everything the decedent owned at the time of his or her death. If the estate is relatively large, a professional appraiser may be required, primarily because this person understands the process of collecting and inventorying all personal property, household items, and even real estate to figure out the total value of the estate.
Pay Off Debts
The estate will usually pay the decedent’s funeral expenses as well as his or her medical costs, and taxes, and will take care of any other unpaid debts the decedent owed at the time of passing. If this step is not done properly, there is a possibility that debtors can go after the Beneficiaries for any unpaid debts.
Distribute the Rest of the Assets
After everything has been paid off, the remaining assets will be distributed to the Beneficiaries. The Executor or the Personal Representative will transfer the property to the named Beneficiaries according to the decedent’s Will or the court’s direction.
The probate process can be complex and lengthy, which can be challenging for many, especially given that this time is usually filled with grief and sorrow. If you would like further answers to “What is the probate process?” and how it can impact the distribution of your loved one’s assets, contact Loughlin Law, P.A. to speak with an experienced probate attorney who may be able to provide guidance to simplify this process.
What Is the Cost of Probate?
The cost of probate will typically depend on the estate’s complexity and size. However, in general, there are some costs that are usually associated with probate. These costs include the following:
- Lawyer fees.
- Court filing fees.
- Executor bond fees.
- Publication or notice fees.
If the decedent owned property or assets in multiple states, additional costs may also be incurred. To find out more about these expenses, consider discussing the matter with an experienced probate lawyer as soon as possible. These knowledgeable lawyers can provide you with more information and better insight into the bills related to this process.
Need Help With the Probate Process? Contact Loughlin Law, P.A. Today
The probate process can be a complex undertaking filled with numerous issues and potential pitfalls, and these can create unnecessary challenges for families already going through a difficult time. For these reasons, if you need assistance with probate or want to know more about the probate process, consider contacting Loughlin Law, P.A. today by calling (561) 677-8384 to schedule a consultation with our knowledgeable legal team.