Probate court has a somewhat negative reputation, in no small part because people associate court proceedings with red tape and delays. Particularly in situations where family members disagree about the validity of an estate plan or the distribution of assets after someone’s death, probate has a way of significantly increasing how long it takes to administer an estate and also decreasing what people inherit due to the expenses involved.
However, probate proceedings help to ensure that the estate administration process complies with state law and that the personal representative of the estate upholds someone’s wishes regarding their property and their closest loved ones. When probate is necessary, it can be very valuable for both beneficiaries and the party serving as the administrator of an estate to know what to expect from the process.
Looking into the homestead’s status
The residence where someone lived is often their most valuable possession. Depending on whether they were the sole owner or not, along with other factors, there can be multiple steps that someone will need to handle early in the probate process to protect and maintain the home where someone lived.
Locating and submitting documents to the courts
One of the early steps involved in probate will be notifying the courts of someone’s passing and providing necessary documentation to the courts. Copies of estate planning paperwork will be important, as will records regarding someone’s finances and personal property. The personal representative will also need to show up at probate hearings on behalf of the estate.
Settling financial obligations
One of the most important steps in estate administration involves sending written notice to creditors and others with a financial interest in the estate so that they can make claims as permitted under Florida law. The personal representative will then need to resolve those debts and other financial obligations using estate resources.
Distributing assets to beneficiaries
Perhaps the most anticipated stage of the probate process is also often the last step that the personal representative takes. Once they have provided documentation to the courts and paid off someone’s debts, they can then take what remains and distribute it among the selected beneficiaries or family members with direct inheritance rights.
Many personal representatives benefit from having a probate attorney guide them through the process, especially because covering the cost of that lawyer’s work is usually an obligation for the estate, not the representative. Knowing what to expect during the probate process may benefit those who expect to oversee probate proceedings in Florida so that they can make informed, efficient decisions accordingly.