At Stok Folk + Kon, our Fort Lauderdale probate lawyers handle a wide range of matters for South Florida residents. Probate administration is a judicial process for identifying the assets of someone who has died, paying his or her debts with those assets, and distributing the remaining assets to beneficiaries. In some cases, the Florida laws of intestacy shape the probate process. However, if someone has made a will, it must be entered into probate. Family members and other parties will have an opportunity to contest the will or enter into other types of probate litigation. Chapters 731-735 of the Florida Statutes constitute the Probate Code, which governs these processes. Probate may also involve matters related to guardianship or trust administration.Representation in Probate Matters
The two primary types of probate administration are formal administration and summary administration. However, there is also an administration proceeding called Disposition of Personal Property Without Administration, which only applies to a narrow set of circumstances in which no real estate is involved, and the only assets are exempt from creditors' claims or are not more than the amount of final expenses. With this process, whoever paid for the funeral and any medical expenses connected to the death may be reimbursed from the assets. They can simply file a form available from the clerk of the court.
When the decedent has a will, whoever is in possession of it needs to file the will within 10 days of learning about the death. Some assets do not require probate court administration, such as property held in joint tenancy or assets that have a designated beneficiary, including life insurance proceeds or assets held in a living trust. However, when court-supervised probate is necessary, the court determines whether the will is valid.
If the value of the estate is $75,000 or less, or the death occurred more than two years ago, summary administration may be appropriate. Whoever was named as the executor in the will, or whoever inherits the property, such as a spouse if there is one, may file a Petition for Summary Administration. The petition will state that the estate qualifies for summary administration, list assets and their value, and name who will inherit which assets. In that case, a personal representative need not be appointed for the estate. Instead, the court issues an order to release the property to whoever inherited it.
Formal administration may be necessary when summary administration does not apply, such as when the value of the estate is more than $75,000. An interested party or executor may ask the court in the county where the decedent was living at the time of their death to be appointed as a personal representative. Beneficiaries and heirs must be given notice so that they may object or file a will contest. The will must be filed with the court and proven valid by the witnesses to the will, unless the will is self-proving.
If there is no will contest or other probate litigation, the personal representative will gather assets, pay off debts and taxes, and distribute the assets to heirs or beneficiaries. The estate may be closed after all of the assets are distributed. This process takes six months to a year.Discuss Your Needs with a Probate Lawyer in Fort Lauderdale or Beyond
After a family member dies, their property may become the subject of heated debates and concerns. It is important to work with an experienced attorney. Whether you have questions about probate administration, object to a will, or are concerned about how the personal representative is handling the estate, the Fort Lauderdale probate attorneys at Stok Folk + Kon can offer knowledgeable advice and representation. We also serve people in Hollywood, Fort Lauderdale, Hallandale, Coral Springs, and Pembroke Pines, among other Miami-Dade, Broward and West Palm Beach County cities. Call us at (954) 237-1777 or complete our online form to set up a consultation if you need a trust litigation attorney or assistance with any other probate matter.