Beneficiaries: People named in a last will or trust to receive a portion of the decedent’s estate.
Decedent: The person who has died owning property which must be re-titled to those who stand to inherit that property.
Heirs at Law: The people who will inherit a decedent’s assets if the person died without a last will. There are statutory distribution patterns which favor spouses, children, and parents.
Intestate: Having no last will at time of death.
Personal Representative: The person who is appointed by the probate judge to administer the estate. The personal representative’s duties include identifying and gathering assets, identifying and notifying creditors and beneficiaries, paying bills and distributing assets. If there is a last will, the will maker has identified one or more persons to serve as personal representative. Other states use the term “executor” for the person who performs the duties of the personal representative. The personal representative is a fiduciary. He or she is supposed to treat heirs, beneficiaries and creditors fairly and honestly.
Testate: Having a valid last will at time of death.
What is probate?
Probate is the formal, court supervised undertaking of settling the decedent’s affairs and re-titling the decedent’s assets to the heirs at law or beneficiaries if there is a last will. Having a last will does not avoid probate. In most cases the last will is an enforceable set of the will maker’s instructions to be followed by a personal representative. Depending on the complexity of the estate, a probate case can take from 2 months to 2 years (and on rare occasions longer) to complete.
In Florida there are two different probate options:
Summary Administration Probate: Summary administration is an expedited, less formal type of probate. If the decedent has been dead for more than two years, a summary administration is permitted regardless of the value of the estate. Otherwise, to qualify for summary administration, the estate has to have a value of $75,000.00 or less, disregarding the value of the decedent’s homestead. Even if the decedent’s home is worth several hundred thousand, if the other assets add up to $75,000.00 or less, a summary administration may be filed. Summary administration requires fewer documents to be filed and generally is finalized within 3 to 4 months (sometimes sooner).
Formal Administration Probate: When an estate has assets valued over $75,000.00 and the decedent has been dead less than 2 years, formal probate is required. Remember, the value of decedent’s homestead property is not included when measuring the value of the estate. Formal administration requires many different documents to be filed at different stages of the estate’s administration. An Inventory must be filed within 60 days of the appointment of the personal representative. An accounting is often required to show what assets were collected, what bills were paid, and how the remaining assets are going to be distributed to the heirs or beneficiaries. Formal probate administration can take a year or more depending on the complexity of the estate and whether anyone is challenging a will or the conduct of the personal representative.
PowerLegal, P.A. has been actively representing personal representatives in estate administration since the law firm opened in 2006. A Powerlegal, P.A. attorney will respond to probate inquiries by phone or in person without a consultation charge for the first hour.