Probate is a formal way of making sure estate assets end up where Florida law requires, whether or not there is a valid Florida Last Will and Testament. If a will does exist, it is necessary to submit it to a Florida probate court so that it can be validated and administered effectively. The probate process also assures that the decedent’s financial affairs are settled after his or her death and that creditors are paid.
When trying to understand Florida probate law, it is important to know the different types of probate available, and what each one entails. Florida has two types of probate: formal administration and summary administration.
Formal administration is the standard proceeding, and it generally takes between six to 12 months; however, depending on the size and complexity of the estate, it could take 18 months or more.
Florida standard probate involves a three-month waiting period for creditors to come forward with claims before the estate can be dispersed to heirs and other beneficiaries. Summary administration is less complicated and time consuming, but is generally limited to small estates with less than $75,000 in “non-exempt” property belonging to the deceased. Non-exempt property does not include homestead property, which is the decedent’s primary residence. Other stricter standards regarding the status of heirs must also be met for summary administration to apply.
If no Florida will exists – also known as “dying intestate” — probate is necessary to determine who will receive the deceased person’s assets under Florida law. In Florida, a surviving spouse with no children will be the sole beneficiary if no will exists.
Beyond that, there is a standard formula used to determine the amount dispersed to any children whether or not there is a surviving spouse. There are also provisions in the law to determine who is to inherit the assets if there are no children or surviving spouse.
Our experienced and trusted estate planning attorneys have been serving Treasure Coast families for decades, and Michael Fowler is one of only four Treasure Coast attorneys who is Board Certified by the Florida Bar in Elder Law. Contact us for your initial consultation at one of our conveniently located offices in Fort Pierce, Stuart, Port St. Lucie, Vero Beach, and Okeechobee.