Probate is a widely used term and, although many people know it has something to do with Wills, many do not understand the process until they are forced to deal with it. In Florida, how a Last Will and Testament is written, may lead people to incorrectly believe that their Will controls all of their assets.
Generally speaking, Probate is the process of assembling the assets (real property, belonging, investments, etc.) of a deceased person. The estate must first pay:
- medical expenses of the decedent’s last 60 day of their dying illness
- administration cost
- government taxes owed
- creditors / claimants of the estate
The estate then distributes the assets to the heirs and beneficiaries.
However, in Florida, there are many factors that determine what kind of probate administration is needed and how that administration is going to be processed. Some of the most fundamental include:
- Did the decedent have a Will?
- Is the Will the original?
- Where (in what states) are all the decedent’s assets (home, car, etc.)?
- Who are the heirs/beneficiaries of the estate?
- Are the heirs/beneficiaries heirs at law?
- Are all the heirs/beneficiaries living?
- Are there any heirs/beneficiaries from a previous marriage?
- Are there any heirs/beneficiaries not of legal age?
- Can all the heirs/beneficiaries be contacted?
- Will any assets need to be sold or liquidated?
- Are all creditors reasonably ascertainable?