Probate and Estate Administration 101

Upon the death of a loved one, their Estate must be settled [their money & ‘stuff’ dispersed]. At a highly emotional time this can seem overwhelming to someone with no legal experience so I thought I’d write a very basic outline that folks can find while Googling late at night wanting answers.  

In a nutshell, absent a Trust or other Probate avoidance steps being taken while your loved one was alive, their Estate [with or without a Will] will be handled through a court process, which is known as Probate. Through this court process, assets are managed and then ultimately distributed. 

While every case is different, there are several basic steps that must be followed when an Estate is going through probate in the Daytona Beach area. The first step is to find an attorney you feel comfortable with to file the Petition with [or without] their Will with Probate court.  In Florida you must have an Attorney for the Probate process.  At that point, a Personal Representative is appointed.  A Notice will be sent to the heirs and known creditors, as well as a publication notice to alert any unknown creditors.  The Personal Representative will then to prepare an inventory and conduct an appraisal of the assets of the estate and prepare to pay any estate debts to the creditors.  As the probate process nears an end, the assets of the estate are sold. If required, any estate taxes are paid. Ultimately, the remaining assets are distributed to the heirs accordingly.  At best this is a six month process from start to finish.

Not only is the process lengthy but during the probate process, someone can opt to “contest” a will. In this case, that means they do not agree with the division of assets. This can be a result of children not getting equal shares, disputes over a Will being changed or even a disagreement about the whom should be the Personal Representative of the estate. These disputes can be very expensive and can extend the time that it takes to settle an estate.

With proper Estate Planning you can make the settling of the estate much easier on your family.  Estate planning can make it less costly and the process move more smoothly.  If you need help with the Probate process, Estate Planning or any aspect of planning for your future needs and the needs of your family, call me today to set up a consultation that focuses on your individual needs and the needs of your family.

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