When a Florida resident dies after having signed a last will and testament, it activates a legal process that must transpire in accordance with state laws. Numerous parties may be involved in this process, including the individual or group the decedent had listed as an executor to his or her estate, as well as any heirs or beneficiaries named in the will. At least three things will occur during probate proceedings.
The more you understand about probate ahead of time, the less daunting it might seem when the time comes. If you have questions regarding state or federal laws that may be relevant to a particular case, it’s best to seek experienced counsel rather than make assumptions or try to figure things out on your own. While certain assets are not a requirement to pass through probate, when someone has signed a last will and testament, several things must occur.
Validation of the decedent’s will occurs at the start of the probate process
A last will and testament is a legally enforceable document if it is valid. In fact, there have been many cases, including some in Florida, where a probate judge has determined that a will is invalid. Therefore, before the full probate process can be complete, the decedent’s will must receive validation.
One must pay all taxes and debts
Before heirs or beneficiaries can receive their inheritance, one must pay any taxes or debts against the testator’s estate. If the estate has no debt, or one has paid them, the probate process may advance to the next phase, which is final distribution of assets.
The court distributes remaining assets in accordance with instructions in the will
One of the duties of the executor is to identify all heirs or beneficiaries listed in a will and inform them of their inheritance. Most executors rely on accountants and/or attorneys to help with these tasks. After a will has received validation and all taxes and debts resolved, a final distribution of assets will commence.
Assets that do not pass through probate
An estate owner might have had assets that are not part of a last will and testament, and which will not pass through probate. For example, if your spouse had retirement accounts or insurance policies and listed you as a sole beneficiary on those accounts, you will inherit those assets when your spouse dies, and they will not pass through probate. Assets held in trust also do not pass through probate.
Because Florida estate laws can be complex, it is best to seek experienced guidance and support, whether you’re planning on executing an estate plan or are in line for an inheritance from someone who has recently passed.