When someone dies in Florida, most of the time, their estate will pass through probate court. The Florida probate courts provide oversight during estate administration. The courts help ensure that the personal representative of the estate fulfills someone’s financial obligations, complies with state law and follows the instructions provided by the decedent.
What can personal representatives and presumptive beneficiaries or heirs expect during the probate process?
Probate can take months, if not years
The duration of probate proceedings varies drastically from case to case. Sometimes, families can resolve probate matters in as little as three months when there are few assets, clear instructions and no complications. Larger or more complex Estates may require up to 24 months to complete the probate process. Often, the final distribution to heirs and beneficiaries does not occur until the end of that process. People need to prepare themselves for a potentially lengthy wait.
There could be disputes
One of the reasons that probate can take so long to complete is that challenges against the estate or testamentary documents are somewhat common. Beneficiaries or family members concerned about the terms in a will can sometimes contest the will. Other times, they may challenge the actions taken by the personal representative of the estate and seek their replacement. When litigation occurs, it typically increases the duration of the probate process and diminishes the overall value of the estate.
The process is different with a will or trust
The best-case scenario for probate proceedings in Florida involves very clear testamentary documents. A will can grant specific assets to certain people. The probate courts expect the personal representative of the estate to abide by the terms set in the will. Trusts are similar in that they dictate what happens to personal property. However, depending on how someone funded the trust, the assets it holds may not need to pass through probate court. They may therefore not influence tax liabilities or be subject to creditor claims like assets addressed in a will.
Probate proceedings can confuse and frustrate people. Both individuals expecting to inherit from an estate and those managing an estate may sometimes need guidance during the process. Learning more about what to expect during estate administration by seeking legal guidance can help people temper their expectations and more effectively assert their rights.