Our firm has handled Probate for more than thirty years helping hundreds of families. In fact, we are often called upon by other lawyers for assistance with their Probate cases. We know this is a difficult time for families and we take the time to walk them thru the process to get it completed efficiently and timely.
We begin the Probate process by meeting with the family and outlining what work needs to be done and identifying who will be doing each task: the client, our firm, the CPA, appraisers, Realtors, etc. Fees and costs are discussed so the family can make informed decisions. A time line can be established to answer the question “how long will this take”.
What is Probate? Probate is the process of dealing with the bank accounts, stocks, cars, real property and other assets that a person owned just in their name when they died. The asset had no person named to receive it at death. The probate process answers the question “who is entitled to this asset now that the person is no longer living”. Legal papers are filed with the Probate Court asking the Probate Court to authorize access to the assets to sell them, use them to pay bills and transfer to beneficiaries. Without the Probate Court’s written authorization, you may not be able to deal with them. Banks often say that all you need is a “Letter of Administration” or “Letters Testamentary” making it sound easy. Unfortunately, these can only be obtained thru the Probate process. In Florida, the Probate Courts do not allow people to do this themselves but require a Florida licensed attorney with very limited exceptions.
Depending on what assets are involved, the Probate process may be a Full Administration, a Summary Administration and for very simple cases, a Disposition without Administration. Selecting the right type of administration is very important to getting the work done quickly and efficiently. Our job is to guide you with making good choices.
When a person dies with a “Last Will and Testament”, this Will is not valid until it is submitted to the Probate Court and admitted to probate by the Probate Judge. Having a Will does not make the process automatic or allow you to act without a Court Order. Once it is approved by the Probate Court, it serves as a guide for the process. Creditors have to be identified and paid if sufficient funds are available. Assets need to be inventoried and sold, liquidated or prepared for transfer to beneficiaries. Beneficiaries need to be notified, kept informed of the process and hopefully approve of all that was done.
When a person dies without a Will, the State of Florida does not take all his or her money. That deceased person’s Estate (assets) also go thru the Probate process similar to that with a Will. But since there is no Will to serve as a guide, the distribution of assets follows Florida law on Intestate Succession (Dying without a Will). That says assets are distributed to the “heirs at law” which is much like a family tree. Spouse, children, grandchildren, parent, siblings, etc. Our first client meeting will cover this and allow for more specifics.
If you have lost a loved one, call us today for an appointment. We know it is important to act quickly and we will make every effort to get you in to see us quickly. If you are out of town, call us for a phone conference to get things going. We can be reached at 386-252-2531.