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What Is Probate? A Quick Beginners Guide

When a loved one passes away, the initial focus is on the grieving process and remembrance of that person in the hearts and minds of those he or she touched while alive. At the same time, it’s important not to overlook the pressing legal and financial matters left in the wake of his or her absence.

Probate is the legal process for allocating assets of a deceased person (“decedent”) to his or her beneficiaries. If a decedent had assets, a probate may be necessary to distribute the assets to the beneficiaries. So why have a will? When a decedent has a will, the will dictates who the beneficiaries are whereas when a decedent does not have a will, Florida Intestate Statues dictate who the beneficiaries are.

There Are Many Misconceptions
Most people don’t realize it, but the majority of the court records in a probate are a matter of public record. However, this doesn’t mean personal details and information of the private life of the decedent will be supplied to the news media and/or anyone who asks.

There is also a common misconception that debts and taxes disappear after death. This is not the case. Assets owned by the decedent at the time of his or her death are available to be used for payment of outstanding debts and taxes unless those particular assets are exempt.

Some people think probate is a quick and easy process. Instead—due to waiting periods—it can take up to a year. Some complex probates can take longer.

The Process Is Straight-Forward

The formal probate process starts by officially requesting the court to appoint someone as personal representative to the estate of the decedent by filing a Petition for Administration. Some of the other requirements are as follows:

  • Marshaling and preserving assets
  • Contacting beneficiaries and heirs
  • Contacting known creditors

Personal Representatives are also tasked with keeping the estate property safe. This includes preparing a list of the decedent’s assets, which is called an Inventory. Appraisal of items may be necessary during this process.
Assistance Is Available

The death of a loved one is a traumatic and emotionally-draining experience. That’s why it’s important to work with a skilled and knowledgeable attorney who will save you time, turmoil, frustration, and expenses.

If you are looking for a probate attorney in Florida, please contact Mara Law, P.A. at 386.672.8081.