When someone dies, the person’s estate goes through probate. The court supervises this process, and it is the method used to pay the decedent’s debts and distribute the assets.
It is often a sad and confusing time when a loved one dies, and understanding the probate process may help reduce stress levels.
According to the Florida Courts, the only assets that probate applies to are those that do not have an automatic succession of ownership. Some examples of probate assets are investment and bank accounts, real estate, retirement accounts, annuity contracts and life insurance policies.
According to the Florida Bar, a person’s estate goes through the probate process whether or not there is a will.
One of the first things the judge will do is assign a personal representative. The decedent may have already named one in the will, and the judge will either approve this selection or name a different one. This representative has a number of responsibilities, including:
- Locate and determine the value of all probate assets
- Search for creditors and pay off valid claims
- Pay estate administration expenses
- Locate beneficiaries and distribute assets accordingly
- File tax returns and pay due taxes
- Close the estate
To help with the process, the personal representative may hire professionals such as investment advisors, attorneys and accountants. For his or her time and services, the personal representative does receive compensation, and the determination of this amount may occur a number of ways.
Probate can be a lengthy process, depending on the specific requirements of the estate. Even basic ones take a minimum of five to six months to close.