Most people have heard the term “probate” but it is surprising how many don’t really understand what it means. In Florida, the term “probate” has several meanings depending on the context in which the term is used.
First, probate is the judicial process whereby a Last Will and Testament is “proved” in a court and accepted as the true last testament of the deceased. In this context, the term is used in court documentation asking to have a Will “admitted to probate.” Or in some cases, the documentation will ask that the court “probate” the Will, i.e. accept the Will as authentic.
In Florida, this process of seeking to establish the authenticity of the Will is done by the filing a Petition for Administration in a state probate court. In a testate estate, one of the requests of the Petition for Administration is to have the Will determined, i.e. proven, to be authentic and proper to govern the decedent’s estate.
After a Will is admitted to probate, a Personal Representative (which is the same thing as an Executor) is appointed. This begins the legal process of administering the estate of a deceased person, resolving all claims, and distributing the deceased person’s property according to the Will. In Florida, the process of administering a probate estate is a court proceeding. The necessary paperwork is filed by an interested party with the probate court. A case number is assigned to the matter and a Judge is appointed to oversee the administration of the estate. This entire process is regularly referred to as the “probate” of the decedent’s estate. In this context, “probate” is a noun.
Another use of the term probate is where it is used as a verb. In this context, attorneys will sometimes say that we need to probate certain assets. This uses the word probate in the same way we might say that an asset of the decedent needs to be administered. In other words, the verb calls for action as it relates to the asset being probated.
No matter how the term is used, probate is not something anyone should desire to go through. Instead, it is better to consult with an experienced estate attorney who can help you establish a plan to avoid probate. This can save those you care about both time, money and aggravation.