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Probate and Estate Administration Attorney in Ocala, Florida

Probate is a process that many people have to experience during a lifetime, and it touches nearly everyone’s assets when passed. Unless you are a probate attorney, probate and estate administration are probably a mystery to you. It is a mystery that must be solved when a loved one that has named you as the personal representative of an estate passes away or if the probate court appoints you to serve in that capacity.

As a probate attorney with clients in Ocala, Florida, and throughout Marion County, I understand estate administration can be confusing at best and overwhelming at worst. For validation, reach out to my firm, Michael A. Siefert, P.A., to get the experienced legal guidance you need to consider all of your options.

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What is Probate in Florida?

Probate is the legal process that identifies a deceased person’s assets, debts, satisfies debts, and distributes the remainder of the estate to the appropriate beneficiaries or heirs.

Not all assets the decedent had at the time of death are subject to probate. Only Assets in the decedent’s name are subject to probate. Those with a title on death or transfer on death (a vehicle or bank account) assets payable to a beneficiary (a life insurance policy, for example), or those listed with joint tenancy with rights of survivorship or as tenants in the entirety, are excluded from probate.

If the decedent had ownership of all assets into a living trust during the decedent's lifetime, an estate will not be subject to probate. That is because the trust owned the assets rather than the individual. The assets of a living trust can be distributed as dictated by the trust, to the beneficiaries of the trust, without probate.

Are There Different Types of Probate?

There are three types of probate administration in Florida.

  1. Formal probate is the process used if the value of the assets subject to probate exceeds $75,000 and there are debts to be paid to creditors. Formal probate typically takes the longest to complete, especially if assets need to be sold to satisfy debt or if someone challenges the validity of a will.

  2. Summary administration may be an option if the value of the estate’s nonexempt assets is $75,000 or less and if no creditors object to summary administration. Although this process usually takes less time, those who inherit from the estate are liable for any claims against the estate asserted within two years from the date of death. For example, a creditor who learns about the estate a year after the debtor’s death can force the beneficiaries to settle the debt.

  3. Disposition without administration may be an option under two conditions. First, all property is exempt from probate which means creditors have nothing to garnish. Second, if the value of nonexempt personal property of the decedent is not more than the cost of the funeral and burial plus any medical expenses incurred during the last 60 days of the decedent’s life.

What Is Involved in the Estate Administration Process in Florida?

When someone executes a will, a personal representative is appointed to oversee the administration of the estate. This person is the personal representative, executor, or administrator of the estate. If there is no will, the probate court will appoint someone to serve as the executor, often a surviving spouse or adult child of the decedent.

The role of the executor is to inventory the assets of the estate, notify beneficiaries named in the will, or, if there is no will, notify heirs under the laws of intestate succession. Under Florida laws of intestate succession, heirs are ranked from the surviving spouse, children, parents, grandparents, grandchildren, and siblings. The executor must identify, locate, and notify every heir should there be no will.

The executor publishes public notices of the death to allow creditors the opportunity to assert claims against the estate or to provide those who wish to challenge the validity of the will to do so. The executor verifies creditor claims and if necessary, liquidates assets of the estate for satisfaction. The assets of the estate pay creditors, compensate the executor and attorney's fees, and pay the filing and other costs of probate itself. Once everything is paid, the executor administers the distribution of the residual to the beneficiaries or heirs.

With some estates, administration is relatively straightforward, and estates can be closed relatively quickly. However, some estates are larger or more complex, requiring far more work on the part of the executor. Whether the estate is small or complicated by assets, creditors, challenges, and heirs, hiring a Florida probate attorney to help you navigate the process smoothly and with legal compliance is a wise choice.

Probate and Estate Administration Attorney Serving Ocala, Florida

Whether a loved one named you the executor in a will or the court has appointed you to serve, you have a tremendous responsibility. I have helped clients in Ocala, Florida, and surrounding communities rise to the challenge for more than 30 years. You do not need to administer an estate on your own. Call Michael A. Siefert, P.A., to discuss your role and begin fulfilling it. Contact my office today.