Fort Lauderdale Probate Administration Attorneys
Probate administration is the process by which a decedent's assets are passed to their beneficiaries. When there is a valid will, it must be admitted to probate in order to trigger transfer of ownership. The probate process is also used to pass ownership when a decedent has no will. Through probate, the decedent's financial affairs, such as the repayment of debts to creditors, are wound up. Probate proceedings in South Florida usually occur in the circuit court for the county in which the decedent lived at the time of their death. If you are named as a personal representative or have questions about this process, the lawyers at Stok Kon + Braverman are able to provide experienced legal representation.
The Probate Administration Process
Probate proceedings are supervised by a circuit court judge. The judge determines whether the decedent died intestate and whether the will is valid, as well as confirming the identities of any heirs based on the evidence submitted. When a will names a personal representative, the judge determines whether whoever was named is qualified to serve. When that person meets statutory qualifications, Letters of Administration are issued to provide the personal representative with the authority to conduct probate administration.
The personal representative is a person, bank, trust company, or other institution that the judge will appoint to make sure that debts are paid from the decedent's estate, assets are identified and safeguarded, and creditors are notified through the publication of a notice. The personal representative also must conduct a diligent search for creditors, object to improper claims against the estate and pay valid ones, file taxes, retain professionals as necessary to administer the estate (including an attorney), and ensure that assets are appropriately distributed, among other things. A lawyer can explain this process further. The personal representative is required to follow certain legal duties in the course of administering the estate. However, questions inevitably arise during probate administration. The judge may hold hearings to address these questions.
The personal representative owes a legal obligation to administer the probate estate according to the laws of Florida. When a personal representative's acts or omissions result in losses for the estate, the personal representative may be held liable to the beneficiaries for the resulting damages.
Personal representatives are under an obligation to engage the appropriate professionals so that the decedent's probate estate is appropriately managed. An experienced attorney can make sure that you are fulfilling your obligation to identify, safeguard, and appropriately distribute assets. Even when an estate is fairly simple, legal issues are common and are likely to be difficult for a personal representative to research on their own as a layperson. As a personal representative in Florida, you are free to engage any attorney, even if they are different from the attorney whom the testator would have chosen or did choose. We can advise you on your rights and duties as a personal representative, or if you are a beneficiary, we can provide advice about whether another person who has been named as a personal representative is living up to their legal obligations.