Probate is the court-supervised administration of a decedent?s estate. It is a process created by state law to transfer assets from the decedent?s name to his or her beneficiaries. A personal representative is appointed to handle the estate administration. The probate process ensures that creditors, taxes and expenses are paid before distribution of the estate to the beneficiaries.
The personal representative is accountable to the court as well as the estate beneficiaries for his or her actions during the administration. For probate estates having less than $75,000 of non-exempt assets, Florida law provides a simplified probate procedure, known as summary administration.
Probate administration in Florida only applies to probate assets, i.e. bank accounts held in sole name of decedent, or real estate titled in sole name of decedent. Probate is necessary in order to pass ownership of the decedent’s probate assets to the decedent’s beneficiaries.
If the decedent left a valid will, unless the will is admitted to probate in the Court, it will be ineffective to pass ownership of probate assets to the decedent’s beneficiaries. If the decedent had no will, probate is necessary to pass ownership of the decedent’s probate assets to those persons who are to receive them under Florida law. Probate is also necessary to wind up the decedent’s financial affairs after his or her death. Administration of the decedent’s estate ensures that the decedent’s creditors are paid if certain procedures are correctly followed.
It is important for a personal representative to engage a qualified attorney to assist in the administration of the decedent’s probate estate. Many legal issues arise, even in the simplest probate estate administration, and most of these issues will be novel and unfamiliar to non-attorneys.