- Probate is generally a court-supervised process for identifying and gathering a deceased person's assets, paying taxes, claims and expenses of administration, and distributing assets to beneficiaries.
- Probate assets are those assets that the deceased person owned in his or her sole name at death.
- Probate is necessary to pass ownership of the deceased person's probate assets to the deceased person's beneficiaries.
- The probate process is used whether a person dies with or without a valid will.
- The probate process may involve a Clerk of the Circuit Court, a Circuit Court Judge, a personal representative of the deceased person, the attorney engaged by the personal representative, those filing claims relative to debts incurred by the deceased person, and the Internal Revenue Service.
- Probate papers are filed with the Clerk of the Circuit Court, usually in the county in which the deceased person lived.
- The personal representative will be appointed by the court. If the deceased person had a valid will, the court will appoint the representative named in the will, barring a disqualification. If there was no valid will, the surviving spouse has the first right to be appointed, followed by the heir who is selected by a majority in interest of the deceased person's heirs. If the heirs cannot agree, the Court will hold a hearing to appoint a personal representative. Every personal representative should be represented by an attorney.
- The attorney for the personal representative advises the personal representative on the personal representative's rights and duties under the law, and represents the personal representative in estate proceedings. If the personal representative mis-manages the decedent's estate, the personal representative may be liable to the beneficiaries for any harm they may suffer.
The staff of Pearson Huff takes pride in easing our clients' way through the probate process to protect not only the personal representative but the best interests of the beneficiaries as well. Please contact us or see this pamphlet from The Florida Bar if you have any questions relating to Probate Law.