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Probate FAQ

Answered by a Fort Myers Probate Lawyer

If you recently lost a loved one, their estate will likely have to be probated in order to pass ownership of the assets to the beneficiaries named in the will, or in the absence of a will, according to Florida's intestate succession laws.

Probate is a complex, court-supervised process which involves a number of steps and procedures. Since most people are unfamiliar with probate, our Fort Myers probate attorney has created a list of frequently asked questions and answers to help clarify the process. With over 2,400 clients served, and as proud members of the WealthCounsel, you can confidently contact The Dorcey Law Firm, PLC for further information.

What is probate?

Probate is a court-supervised process where a will is validated, a personal representative is appointed, and the decedent's debts and taxes are paid. Once this is completed, the remaining assets are distributed to the beneficiaries.

What is a personal representative?

The personal representative is a person appointed by the court to settle the decedent's estate and wind up his or her affairs. In other states, a personal representative is referred to as an "executor."

What happens if I die without a will?

Dying without a will is called dying "intestate." An estate has to be probated, even if there is no will. In such cases, the decedent's assets will be distributed according to Florida's intestate succession laws.

Why is probate necessary?

Probate is an important process because it ensures that a decedent's debts and taxes are paid, and that ownership of their assets pass on to their beneficiaries. Without probate, interest in an estate cannot pass to the beneficiaries.

Will Florida get my estate?

Very rarely is an estate turned over to the state of Florida. Even if a decedent passes without a will, the estate will be distributed to his or her closest living relatives, and if there are no close relatives, it will be passed on to more remote relatives. Only in cases where there are no relatives will the assets be turned over to the state.

Do all assets pass through probate?

Only probate assets owned in the decedent's name alone pass through probate. There are several types of assets that are not subject to probate, including: assets held in a trust, bank accounts with beneficiary designations, and life insurance policies with beneficiaries, and retirement accounts etc.

Where do I file probate papers?

The necessary documents such as a will, if any, are filed with the clerk of the circuit court. A probate proceeding is usually opened in the county where the decedent lived at the time of his or her death. Once opened, the court judge presides over the probate proceeding.

Who serves as the personal representative?

If the decedent left behind a valid will, the judge will appoint the person named by the decedent to serve providing that person is qualified and accepts the appointment. If there is no will, the decedent's surviving spouse has the first right to serve as the personal representative, otherwise the decedent's heirs can select someone.

Request a free consultation today!

Personal representatives should always retain a qualified attorney to assist them in the administration of an estate. Many legal issues arise even in the simplest of cases; they are unfamiliar to non-attorneys and can be difficult to navigate without professional assistance.

Contact The Dorcey Law Firm, PLC to learn about our services for personal representatives. In a free case evaluation, we can answer your questions and help you gain direction in your case!

dorcey law firm
The Dorcey Law Firm, PLC - Fort Myers Attorney
Located at 10181 Six Mile Cypress Pkwy, Suite C, Fort Myers, FL 33966
Phone: (239) 330-6674
Local Phone: (239) 418-0169