Florida Probate Process
Probate Lawyer in Fort Myers
When someone passes away, their property needs to be properly administered
through a process called
probate. The probate process involves gathering the assets of the deceased person,
called the decedent, and then paying their taxes, claims and expenses
before distributing the remaining property to beneficiaries. Probate assets
are property owned solely by the decedent at the time of death which has
no provision for automatic succession of ownership after the passing of
the decedent. The state of Florida has had probate laws since achieving
statehood in 1845, and currently uses the Uniform Probate Code, an act
used in 16 states that standardizes the probate process.
Types of Probate in Lee County, Florida
There are three types of probate in the state of Florida: formal administration,
summary administration and family administration.
Formal administration probate takes the longest time to complete and is the most common process. The
first step of formal administration probate is filing a Petition for Administration
with the Circuit Court. After the petition is filed, the court will admit
the will, if there is one, and appoint a personal representative to administer
the estate. If an estate does not exceed $75,000 or two years have elapsed
since the decedent has passed, the estate may be available for
small estate probate, which takes less time and is cheaper to complete. If the decedent left
only personal property that is not worth over $60,000 to a surviving spouse
and/or lineal descendent, then the estate may be eligible for
family administration probate.
In addition to these court-ordered forms of probate, Florida residents
may also be eligible for
Disposition of Personal Property Without Administration, a non-administration proceeding also referred to as small estate affidavit.
A Circuit Court Judge presides over probate proceedings, which may involve
a number of people, including the Clerk of the Circuit Court, a personal
representative and the Internal Revenue Service.
The Importance of Having a Valid Will
If you would like to determine how your property will be distributed after
you pass away, it is important to have a valid
will. In the state of Florida, a valid will is a document that meets a variety
of legal requirements including being signed by the decedent and witnesses.
This document can select future heirs and their inheritance, appoint a
personal representative and establish a trust. If you die intestate, or
without a valid will, your property will be distributed according to
Florida intestate laws. A Fort Myers probate attorney can draft a will and create a trust to
protect your loved ones today.
The Rights of Surviving Family Members
Although it is possible for a decedent to disinherit potential beneficiaries,
the surviving family may have rights under the law. A surviving child
may be entitled to a share of the property, for example, even if he or
she was left nothing in a valid will. If you did not sign a valid prenuptial
or post nuptial agreement with a Florida homestead waiver and marital
elective share waiver, then you have homestead rights and martial elective
share, which is 30% from your late spouse's share. Although this may
seem simple, it is not and should be discussed with a Fort Myers probate
attorney to ensure that the matter is handled properly.
Seek Experience You Can Trust in Fort Myers, FL
The Dorcey Law Firm, PLC assists a wide variety of clients with their probate
matters. If you are currently serving as a personal representative of
a late loved one's estate, we understand that financial matters may
be difficult to handle right now and we can walk you through the probate
process. Additionally, our firm can assist you with estate and trust litigation
if you believe an aspect of the probate process was not carried out correctly
or assets were incorrectly handled.
Whatever your probate needs, you can trust that our firm will patiently
listen to your case and provide you with excellent counsel. Contact our
firm to learn more about the benefits of hiring an experienced Fort Myers
probate attorney or complete a
free case evaluation for information about your legal needs.