When someone dies owning property solely in his or her name, the decedent’s property will likely go through probate. During probate, the court will verify the validity of the last will and distribute the property to its rightful beneficiaries.
In this article, you will discover the essential Florida probate rules.
Florida Probate Rules 2022 – Step-by-Step
Submitting the Decedent’s Will to the Court
Florida Statutes §732.901 (1) provide that “the custodian of a will must deposit the will with the clerk of the court having venue of the estate of the decedent within 10 days after receiving information that the testator is dead.”
When submitting the will, the responsible person must request the court to open probate. Any interested person can petition for probate on behalf of the decedent’s will, including the decedent’s beneficiaries.
If there is no will and the decedent died intestate, the court will distribute the estate based on Florida’s intestacy law.
Appointing a Personal Representative
There are two types of probate administrations in Florida – summary administration and formal administration.
As provided by Florida Statutes §735.201 (2), summary administration applies to cases in which “the value of the entire estate subject to administration in this state, less the value of property exempt from the claims of creditors, does not exceed $75,000 or that the decedent has been dead for more than 2 years.”
Summary administration does not require the appointment of a personal representative, which significantly reduces the time and costs associated with the process.
If the decedent’s estate does not qualify for summary administration, it will be formally administered. In most cases, the court will likely appoint the person designated in the decedent’s last will as the personal representative.
After issuing “letters of administration,” the court grants the representative the authority necessary to execute the decedent’s estate.
Handling Probate Proceedings
Once authorized by the court, the personal representative must follow the required steps to administer the decedent’s estate and distribute the remaining assets to their rightful heirs or beneficiaries.
Under Florida law, the personal representative must hire a licensed attorney to assist him o her in the estate administration. The list of specific tasks to be completed by the personal representative include:
- Notify all interested parties who may be entitled to the decedent’s assets
- Collect, identify, and inventory all the decedent’s assets subject to probate
- Open safe deposit boxes (if applicable)
- Secure the decedent’s estate
- Notify all the decedent’s creditors
- Objecting to invalid or unfeasible creditors’ claims
- Paying valid creditors’ claims from the estate
- Handling the estate’s tax liabilities
Once the estate is administered, the personal representative must file a final accounting with the court. Upon receipt of the final accounting, the court must hold a hearing to approve the accounting.
Any interested person can file an objection to the accounting within 30 days of receipt of the notice. If there is no objection or the objection is not considered valid in court, the personal representative can close the estate.
Closing the Decedent’s Estate
With the final accounting approved in the court, the personal representative must file a Petition for Discharge, including a plan for the final distribution of the decedent’s assets.
After the personal representative has distributed the remaining assets to their rightful new owners, the court may issue an order to discharge the personal representative and close the estate.