When a family loses a loved one, the last thing on their mind is likely how that person’s assets will be divided. However, they will probably eventually turn their attention to the estate administration process including probate. For many people in Florida, especially those grieving, the process can seem overwhelming.
Often, the process includes the ultimate goal of validating the decedent’s last will and testament, paying his or her debts, and distributing anything remaining to named beneficiaries. Those involved in the process include the executor of the estate, a person tasked with insuring that creditors are paid and assets are distributed, beneficiaries, creditors and a judge.
The process begins once someone asks for the court to begin proceedings. Once a will is authenticated, the executor will begin to gather assets and notify any creditors, often by publishing a notification in the newspaper. Once all creditors have been paid and assets gathered, the process of distributing the remaining assets can begin. Depending on the complexity of the estate, the process can take months to years to complete.
Many people in Florida want to take steps to help their family members avoid the lengthy, public and sometimes expensive probate process — a process that can be more frustrating and result in an outcome inconsistent with the decedent’s wishes if there is not will in place. Fortunately, there are estate planning tools that can ease estate administration for surviving loved ones as well as professionals who can help with administration if the person has passed. Many people seek guidance from an experienced professional to ensure that they fully understand the options available to them, allowing them to pick options that are most appropriate for their individual circumstances.