Probate is a vital process that occurs after the death of almost every person in Florida. For most estates, this involves going through the process known as formal probate administration.
Formal probate administration serves many functions. It is a way for a probate court to authenticate a will and determine the property rights of heirs. It also allows for the appointment of a personal representative to pay creditors and distribute the remaining estate assets. A number of issues may arise during formal probate administration that necessitates the help of a lawyer located in Coral Gables. Speaking with a reliable probate attorney today could help you better understand your rights and what to expect during a formal probate administration.
How Does Formal Probate Administration Differ from Summary Administration?
There are two main options for probate in Florida. These are formal administration and summary administration. The law presumes that a decedent’s estate will need to move through formal administration. However, according to Florida Statute § 735.201, an estate may be eligible for summary administration if the value of the estate is $75,000 or less after the claims of creditors, or if the decedent has been dead for at least two years. Determining which form of probate is correct is one way in which an attorney could provide assistance.
Formal probate administration must follow the traditional probate rules. This includes filing a formal petition for probate with the proper court, submitting a copy of the decedent’s will if one exists, empowering a personal representative to oversee the estate, and submitting regular reports to the court.
Summary administration differs from formal proceedings in one key way: it does not require the personal representative to take control of estate assets. Instead, the court can order the direct transfer of assets to the decedent’s heirs, whether a will exists or not.
Essential Legal Issues in Formal Probate Administration
Formal probate administration in Florida moves through three key phases with help from our attorneys in Coral Gables. First, a party must submit a formal request to open probate to the correct branch of the Probate Court. This petition must include the following, which an attorney assists in drafting:
- A copy of the decedent’s will;
- Information about the decedent’s property;
- A list of all known creditors;
- A list of all named heirs and family members.
The second phase is the authentication of a will. Under state law, a will is presumably valid if it is in writing, contains the author’s signature, and two witnesses also sign the document. Any interested party may contest a will’s authenticity due to alleged fraud or duress. If a will does not exist, this is disclosed to the court, and the heirs (per Florida statute) would be the beneficiaries.
Finally, the court will appoint a personal representative to oversee the maintenance of estate property and distribute it to all appropriate parties. This step is unique to formal administration and does not occur during a summary administration case. Attorneys can assist here in informing personal representatives of their duties under the law or take the lead in asking a court to scrutinize the actions of a representative. After the distribution of assets is complete, the personal representative may ask the court to close out the formal probate administration.
Find a Coral Gables Attorney to Provide Guidance During Formal Probate Administration in Florida
Most estates that go into probate must follow the process of formal probate administration. This means that the court must empower a personal representative to oversee the estate and only close proceedings once it determines that a representative has acted appropriately.
A Coral Gables lawyer is ready to address your concerns about formal probate administration in Florida. This includes determining whether this is necessary and protecting your legal rights as either an heir or personal representative. Give us a call now to learn more about this process today.