When someone dies and leaves an estate with a value exceeding $75,000, their heirs might have to open a formal probate. Without it, family members and heirs cannot access bank accounts and other property the deceased person held in their name.

If your loved one’s estate might require formal probate administration in Kendall, contact a local probate attorney. We can guide you through formal probate, confirm that everything is done correctly, and ensure the deceased person’s loved ones receive the property intended for them.

Determining Whether Formal Administration is Necessary

The property a person leaves behind when they die is called their estate – but property with a beneficiary, like a life insurance policy, retirement account, or trust, is usually not part of the estate. Jointly owned property usually transfers to the co-owner and is not part of a deceased person’s estate.

Formal administration is only necessary if an estate is worth more than $75,000 and the decedent passed away less than two years ago. Figuring out the value of an estate could be difficult, but a Kendall attorney could help determine what an estate is worth during formal probate administration.

In most cases, if the decedent owned a home that was their primary residence, its value does not count toward the estate value. However, bank accounts and investments held in the decedent’s name without a beneficiary or joint owner will count toward the estate value. The same is true of a business that the decedent owned solely, and personal property like furniture and vehicles.

Naming a Personal Representative

If the decedent had a valid will, it usually names a personal representative to manage the estate. Sometimes the personal representative named in the will is no longer alive, is in poor health, or is unwilling to handle the responsibility. In such cases, and in all cases when someone dies without a will, a probate Judge names a representative.

Florida Statutes § 733.301 describes the requirements for a personal representative. This person must:

  • Be at least 18 years old;
  • Not have any felony convictions;
  • Never been convicted of abusing or exploiting an elderly or disabled person;
  • Be physically and mentally capable of managing the duties assigned to them.

The Judge can appoint almost anyone as the representative but often appoints the decedent’s spouse or adult child. This person has multiple responsibilities that they must carry out under the probate court’s supervision. An attorney can provide guidance and support throughout the formal probate administration process.

What Happens During Formal Probate Administration?

When a Judge names a personal representative, they issue letters of administration. These documents give the representative access to the decedent’s property.

Paying and Collecting Debts

The representative must notify all the decedent’s creditors of the death and pay their debts, and they must publish a notice directing creditors on how to file a claim against the estate. Sometimes the representative must sell some of the decedent’s property to pay the debts, which could cause delays.

If others owed money to the decedent when they died, the personal representative must try to collect those debts and that money is considered part of the estate.

Distributing Property

Once the debts are settled, they can distribute the remaining assets to the decedent’s heirs. If the decedent left a will, it usually directs how to distribute the property. If they did not leave a will, the law determines who receives the property. A formal probate administration attorney can work with a personal representative in Kendall to correctly distribute the remaining property.

Closing the Estate

When the representative distributes property to the heirs, they could ask for a release of claims. If all the heirs provide a release, the representative submits these to the Probate Court with a petition to close the estate. If not all of the heirs provide releases, the personal representative must provide a formal accounting before a Judge will close the estate.

The Judge will review the petition and supporting documents. If they believe all matters are complete, they will issue a Notice of Discharge, which closes the estate.

Contact a Kendall Attorney About Formal Probate Administration Today

When a loved one dies, it can be challenging if you must attend to practical matters like settling their estate. It helps to have a legal professional by your side to offer advice and support. If your loved one’s estate must go through formal probate administration in Kendall, ask to speak with The Florida Probate and Family Law Firm during a free consultation. We can confirm that everything is done correctly and your loved one’s heirs receive their property as quickly as possible.