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Frequently Asked Questions About Florida’s Probate Process

Whether you are planning ahead for the administration of your own estate or you recently discovered that a loved one named you in their will as their personal representative (executor), you probably have many questions about the probate process. At Law Office Of Douglas A. Oberdorfer, P.A., we have been helping clients through probate for nearly two decades. Here are some of the most common questions our clients ask:

Does everyone have to go through probate?

No. Only estates with certain assets need to go through probate, mainly assets that are solely in the deceased person’s name and are not in a transfer on death (TOD) or payable on death (POD) account. For example, life insurance policies have a named beneficiary and are payable on death, so they do not usually have to go through probate. Assets placed in a trust also pass outside of probate. In addition, a summary process is available for certain estates with a total value of $75,000 or less.

How long does probate take?

Probate takes longer than people think. Television and movies make it appear as though heirs receive their inheritance within days of their loved one’s passing. In reality, the process takes anywhere from several months to over a year. Certain situations take longer, such as selling real estate or needing to file a federal estate tax return.

What does a personal representative do?

A personal representative oversees the administration of the estate. Other states refer to this person as the executor or administrator. Often, the will nominates the personal representative that the deceased preferred. If not, the heirs can nominate someone for the role. This person has many jobs, including:

  • Filing the paperwork with the court necessary to start the probate process
  • Serve notice to all interested parties
  • Gather the estate’s assets and debts
  • Liquidate any assets, such as selling real estate or cars
  • Pay any debts, including taxes
  • Distribute the remaining assets to family, heirs and other beneficiaries
  • Close the probate with the court

What if there is no will?

When someone dies without a will, their estate is considered intestate. In those cases, the court will decide who the decedent’s legal heirs are under Florida law and appoint a personal representative. Florida statutes lay out which heirs inherit in what order under these circumstances.

Who pays for the probate?

The personal representative pays all costs, including court fees and attorney fees, out of the estate assets.

Bring Your Questions To Us

Probate is a complicated process, difficult to navigate without legal help. If you have questions about your own situation, please contact our Jacksonville office to schedule a free initial consultation with our attorney. You may call our office at 904-638-5862 or reach out to us online.