Probate is the legal process whereby a deceased person’s property is distributed pursuant to a will or by operation of law.
The personal representative has the responsibility for conducting a probate. This person is either named in the will or selected by a judge based on applicable law.
Once appointed, a personal representative requests Letters of Administration which, when issued, authorizes the personal representative to administer the estate. The first step is to determine and pay the decedent’s debts. To that end, a notice to creditors is placed in a local newspaper. In addition to determining and paying the decedent’s debts, the personal representative must inventory the decedent’s assets, pay any taxes that are due and distribute any remaining assets, property, cash, etc. to the beneficiaries. The complexity of the distribution of process depends on the size of the estate and the nature of the assets.
Once the distribution of assets is completed to the satisfaction of the Court, the probate will be closed.
A will is a written directive controlling the disposition of a person’s property after death.
For a will to be valid in Florida:
The maker of the will must be at least 18 years old and must be of sound mind when signing.
It must be written and must be witnessed and notarized as provided by law.
It is necessary to follow exactly the legal formalities for the execution of the will or it may be determined to be invalid.
The formalities required for a valid will must be proved to the satisfaction of the probate judge.
If a person dies without a will (intestate), his or her property will be distributed according to a formula fixed by law. If there is no will, upon the filing of an appropriate petition, a judge will appoint a personal representative to administer the estate. The cost of probate when there is no will is often greater than probate when there is a will.