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The main purposes of probate are to transfer the assets of a deceased person to their heirs and beneficiaries and to finalize the business of the decedent’s estate. That means determining what assets are in the estate and what bills need to be paid. You’ll need to pay off the debts, file final income and any estate taxes, and distribute the assets to the beneficiaries. If there is a will, you will do this in accordance with its terms. If there is not, the estate will be settled according to Florida law.

If you have been named a personal representative for an estate in Florida, you will have a number of responsibilities in probate. Examples of these responsibilities include:

  • Locate the final will or estate plan
  • Perform an inventory of all the assets and personal property in the estate
  • Account for any real estate in other states, which typically needs to be probated separately
  • Obtain a valuation of any major estate assets
  • Pay off the decedent’s final bills
  • File the estate’s final income tax returns
  • File and pay any applicable estate taxes
  • Transfer the remaining assets to the beneficiaries

Are there assets that don’t go through probate?

Yes. There are quite a few types of assets that don’t need to go through probate:

  • Property held in a revocable trust
  • Real estate held as joint tenants with a right of survivorship
  • Bank accounts that are designated “payable on death” or “transfer on death”
  • Insurance policies and retirement accounts with designated beneficiaries
  • Property held in “Lady Bird” deeds or enhanced life estates

This matters because many people have transferred all or most of their assets into revocable trusts. Since those assets are not probated, they are subtracted from the total value of the estate. If the remainder of the estate is worth less than $75,000, it could qualify for summary administration, which is faster, simpler and less expensive. If the estate is worth less than $10,000, it could qualify for disposition of personal property without administration, which is an even simpler process.

Can I get legal help with the probate process?

Yes. There is a lot to know and a great deal of detailed work involved in Florida probate. Having an attorney handle all or part of the process, or on call in case disputes arise, can make things a lot easier.