When most people die in Florida, their assets are distributed through a legal process called probate administration. The goal of this process is to settle the estate according to the deceased person’s wishes, a task made much easier in cases where there is a will.
Probate is designed as a way to gather all the deceased person’s assets, identify and pay any legitimate creditors and distribute the remaining property. At the center of the process is the personal representative, an individual or entity designated to act on behalf of the deceased person. The personal representative’s role is to administer the estate responsibly, ensure that all interested parties are notified and to pay valid claims.
The legal process starts when the personal representative files a probate petition in local court. The representative also files a copy of the will and a list of the deceased person’s assets and their estimated values. The judge will allow any creditors to file claims on the estate and authorize the representative to pay valid claims, as well as taxes and other expenses. The court also hears any challenges to the will and decides how to distribute the assets. In some cases, an estate can be settled through an expedited process called summary administration.
The Importance of Having a Will
A will streamlines the probate process by designating a personal representative and clearly stating who should get which assets. South Floridians who want to plan how their estates will be settled can go a long way by consulting a Miami probate lawyer to consider drafting a will and/or using a living trust to avoid probate administration.
If you die without a will, your assets will be distributed to your heirs in a line of priority established by Florida law. Surviving spouses are first in line, followed by descendants like children, grandchildren and parents.
Some people with significant assets may choose to go around probate administration by creating a living trust. This legal tool transfers the assets into a trust before the person dies and dictates where the property goes after death. The person creating the trust can continue to access and use the assets throughout his or her life. Because setting up a living trust takes a few steps on the front end, it’s important to discuss the option with an experience estate planning attorney.
Contact the Miami Probate Lawyers at Hoffman & Hoffman P.A.
Hoffman & Hoffman is a South Florida estate planning law firm whose attorneys help people manage their assets and decide how property will be distributed in the event of their death. Our Miami probate lawyers are pleased to represent clients throughout South Florida, including in Ft. Lauderdale, West Palm Beach and Coconut Grove. Contact us at (305) 831-0948 to speak with an attorney.