Formal Florida probate is a three-step, court-supervised proceeding
When someone dies with or without a will, their estate goes through a court-supervised probate process to ensure that the estate is distributed according to the wishes stated the will or according to Florida law. Probate is needed to pass ownership of assets to beneficiaries where there is no designation of beneficiary outside of the will or if there was no will.
Essentially, probate proceedings wrap up the estate’s financial affairs, including paying creditors. Probate proceedings follow these three steps:
- Identify, appraise and gather the deceased person’s assets and debts.
- Ensure that debts and taxes are paid
- Ensure that property and assets are distributed to beneficiaries according to the will (or according to state law if there is no will)
According to Florida law, there are two main types of probate proceedings: formal administration probate and summary administration probate. Summary probate simplifies the probate process when the value of the estate’s assets does not exceed $75,000 or when the person has been deceased for more than two years. With few exceptions, estates that do not meet the requirements for summary probate go through formal probate. Formal probate proceedings take a longer time than the streamlined summary probate proceedings.
A filing fee must be paid to the court clerk. After you file for probate, the clerk assigns a file number and maintains an ongoing record of all the documents filed.
Assets included in a formal Florida probate
The following are some examples of an estate’s assets for formal probate:
- Bank or investment accounts in the decedent’s name where there is no joint ownership or designated beneficiary
- Life insurance policies, annuities or IRAs that have no designated beneficiaries and are payable to the estate
- Real estate titled only in the name of the decedent (or in the name of the decedent and another person as tenants in common without rights of survivorship)
Assets exempt from probate
Assets that pass to others automatically are exempt from formal probate proceedings. These exempt assets include:
- Trusts. Valid living trust and irrevocable trusts are not assets of the probate estate; they are assets of the trust and its beneficiaries
- Accounts with designated beneficiaries. Retirement accounts, life insurance, investment and other accounts payable to a designated beneficiary upon death of the account’s owner.
- Property owned jointly with rights of survivorship. Property that is owned jointly with the rights of survivorship passes directly to the other owner upon death
- Life estate deeds. Real estate that passes to a remainder beneficiary under a life estate deed (including a Florida Lady Bird deed or Enhanced Life Estate deed)
Because, every estate is unique, you should contact a board certified estate planning and administration lawyer before filing in probate court. With proper estate planning and counselling, you can determine the correct strategy for administering an estate.
Skilled Florida estate planning attorneys help you prepare for the future
The Law Offices of Hoyt & Bryan are experienced estate administration and estate planning attorneys. We help families in Central Florida understand probate and navigate the probate process. We offer comprehensive estate planning and administration services, including free scheduled estate planning and administration workshops. To join us for our next workshop and learn more about how we can help you, call us today at (407) 977-8080 to speak with a Florida estate administration lawyer, or contact us online.