Inheriting Property in Florida: 5 Steps to Navigate the Probate Process

Inheriting Property in Florida: 5 Steps to Navigate the Probate Process

Losing a loved one is never easy, and dealing with the legalities of probate can be overwhelming for many people. Inheriting property in Florida can add another layer of complexity to an already difficult time. Navigating the probate process can be challenging, but understanding the steps involved can help make the process smoother. In this blog post, we will discuss the five steps to navigate the probate process if you have inherited property in Florida.

Navigating Florida's Inheritance Laws

Intestate Succession Rules

When a Florida resident passes away without a will, their estate is subject to Florida's intestate succession laws. These laws serve as a default plan, dictating how assets will be divided among surviving family members, such as spouses and children. The hierarchy of heirs is clearly defined, starting with the surviving spouse and children, then moving on to parents, siblings, and more distant relatives if necessary.

Understanding how Florida's succession rules apply to your specific situation can be challenging, especially when your loved one left no instructions. Because of this, you are encouraged to seek legal representation to help you throughout the probate process.

Keep reading to learn about some of the basic steps of Florida's probate process.

Step 1: File a Petition for Administration

The first step in the probate process is to file a petition for administration with the court. This petition asks the court to appoint a personal representative to manage the estate. The personal representative is responsible for gathering the decedent's assets, paying off any debts, and distributing the remaining assets to the beneficiaries.

Petitions for probate administration should be filed in the circuit court of the county in which the deceased party lived.

Step 2: Identify and Notify Creditors

Once the personal representative has been appointed, they must identify and notify all potential creditors who have a claim to the estate. This includes sending notices to known creditors and publishing a notice in a local newspaper to alert any unknown creditors. Creditors generally have 90 days from the date of publication to make a claim against the estate.

The personal representative must compile a list of all known and potential creditors with the court during this period.

Step 3: Appraise and Manage Assets

The personal representative is responsible for inventorying, appraising, and managing all assets of the estate. They must ensure that all assets are appropriately managed and preserved during the probate process. If necessary, they may also be responsible for selling assets in order to pay off any outstanding debts.

Common types of assets that must be identified and managed during probate include:

  • Real Estate (homes, land, other properties)
  • Bank Accounts (checking accounts, saving accounts, CDs)
  • Stocks and Bonds
  • Personal Property (jewelry, furniture, collectibles)
  • Vehicles (cars, boats, motorcycles)
  • Retirement Accounts (401k, IRA)
  • Life Insurance Policies
  • Business Interests (sole proprietorships, partnerships, corporations)
  • Debts owed to the deceased

Step 4: Pay off Debts, Taxes, & Distribute Assets to Beneficiaries

Once all assets have been appraised and managed, the personal representative must pay off any debts of the estate. This includes any outstanding bills, taxes, and funeral expenses. After all debts have been paid, the personal representative can distribute the remaining assets to the beneficiaries. The distribution must be done in accordance with the deceased's will or Florida's intestacy laws.

Step 5: File a Final Accounting

One of the very last steps of the probate process is filing a final accounting with the court and petitioning to close the estate and be discharged as the estate's personal representative. The final accounting must detail all of the estate assets, any debts paid, and how the remaining assets were distributed to the beneficiaries. The probate process is complete once the court approves the final accounting and petition to close the estate.

Review our previous blog for a more detailed breakdown of the probate process.

Legal Guidance for Heirs & Beneficiaries

Probate in Florida can be challenging, and as a descendant or heir, you may be unsure what your rights are. While legal representation is not required during this process, it is strongly recommended. If you have questions about probate or are concerned about whether a deceased loved one's wishes are being upheld, reach out to Dorcey Law Firm for guidance.