St. Augustine Probate Attorney
Representing Families in St Johns, St Augustine, Ponte Vedra, Orange Park, Fleming Island, and Jacksonville
Estate Planning Attorney Serving Florida for More Than 20 Years
Our Jacksonville office is located in Mandarin but serves all neighborhoods, including Ponte Vedra, San Marco, San Jose, and Southside
Probate is the term for the court-supervised process involving the identification and gathering of the assets of a deceased person (also known as the decedent), paying the decedent’s debts, and distributing a decedent’s assets to their beneficiaries. Chapters 731 through 735 of the Florida Statutes are known as the Florida Probate Code, and specific rules governing Florida probate proceedings are Part I and Part II of Florida Probate Rules.
Probate can be relatively quick and straightforward, but it can also be incredibly complicated and involve disputes that lead to a very long and drawn-out process. Any person who is preparing for a probate proceeding will want to be sure they are working with an experienced St. Augustine probate attorney.
Attorney Rose Marie Preddy has been helping individuals prepare their estate plans for more than 25 years. She is passionate about working with her clients to create sound estate plans that protect their assets and their loved ones. Attorney Preddy works closely with each client to offer custom-tailored estate planning solutions. She emphasizes maintaining open communication lines to ensure that no issues, questions, or concerns are ignored.
Types of Probate Administration
There are two most used types of probate in Florida; formal administration and summary administration. A non-court supervised administration, known as a disposition of personal property without administration, applies in limited circumstances.
Probate administration will only apply to probate assets. Probate assets are assets that a decedent owned in their name at the time of death or any assets that a decedent owned with one or more co-owners and lacking a provision for automatic succession of ownership at death. Probate assets may include bank accounts or investment accounts in the sole names of decedents, life insurance policies, annuity contracts, or individual retirement accounts payable to a decedent’s estate, and real estate titled in just the name of a decedent or the name of a decedent and another person as tenants in common.
Probate is necessary to pass ownership of a decedent’s probate assets to their beneficiaries when a decedent dies without a will. Probate will also be necessary to complete a decedent’s financial affairs after their death.
Summary administration is only used when the total value of a decedent’s assets subject to probate is $75,000 or less or when a decedent has been dead for more than two years. Formal administration will be used for all other estates or whenever a personal representative is required for other purposes.
How the Probate Process Works
The custodian of a will must deposit an original copy of the will with the court clerk having the venue of a decedent’s estate within 10 days of receiving information that a person making a will, also known as a testator, has died. There will be no fee to deposit a will with the clerk of court, but there is a filing fee when a party opens probate.
A circuit court judge presides over all probate proceedings. A judge reviews the will to be sure it has the necessary formalities to be admitted to probate. The judge will also consider any evidence to confirm or deny the legitimacy of the will The judge also confirms the identities of beneficiaries or a decedent’s heirs as to who will receive a decedent’s probate estate. When a will nominates a personal representative, the judge will decide whether the named person or institution is qualified to serve in the position.
When a nominated personal representative satisfies statutory qualifications, a judge issues Letters of Administration, which will be evidence of the personal representative’s authority to administer a decedent’s probate estate. If any disputes arise while administering the decedent’s probate estate, the judge can hold a hearing to resolve the matter.
The term personal representative is used in Florida and is also known as an executor, executrix, administrator, or administratrix in other states. The personal representative has a variety of duties, which include:
- Identifying, gathering, valuing, and safeguarding a decedent’s probate assets
- Publishing a “Notice to Creditors” in some local newspaper to notify potential claimants to file claims in the manner required by law
- Serving a “Notice of Administration” to provide information about probate estate administration and procedures required to be followed by those who have an interest in the estate
- Conducting a diligent search to locate any known or reasonably ascertainable creditors and notify such creditors of the time by which any claims must be filed
- Objecting to improper claims and defending suits brought on such claims
- Paying all valid claims
- Filing tax returns and paying any taxes properly due
- Employing professionals to assist in administering the probate estate
- Paying expenses of administering the probate estate
- Paying statutory amounts to the decedent’s surviving spouse or family
- Distributing probate assets to beneficiaries
- Closing the probate estate
While the Last Will and other pleadings are open for public inspection, the details of financial assets are confidential An Inventory details all assets owned by the decedent that must be probated and must be filed sixty days after Letters of Administration have been issued. Creditors who may file claims for bills owed are available for public inspection. Due to privacy concerns, many people go the route of creating a trust to avoid any of their personal matters to be open for public view.
Call Us Today to Schedule a Free Consultation with a St. Augustine Probate Attorney
Do you think that you might be dealing with a probate matter in Florida? You will want to be sure that you have a skilled St. Augustine probate lawyer on your side.
Preddy Law Firm, P.A. is conveniently located between St. Augustine and Jacksonville in Florida and represents clients in Jacksonville, St. Johns, St. Augustine, Ponte Vedra, Orange Park, and Fleming Island. You can call us at (904) 665-0005 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation that will allow our firm to thoroughly review your case and explain what steps you will need to take.
Probate Attorney Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
When there is no will, probate assets will pass through intestate succession, which is the formal name for distributing property according to the laws of a state. Florida Statute §§ 732.101-.109 covers intestate succession in the state.
Under intestate succession, the surviving spouse is usually the first to inherit probate assets if the couple have no children or have children from the same marriage. If there are children from prior marriages, the spouse only takes a portion of the estate. This is true whether or not you have a close (or not so close) relationship with your children. When a decedent has no children, the spouse will get everything.
The decedent’s children are next in line, and a grandchild can inherit a portion of the estate if a child dies before their parent. Children must be legally adopted or biological children of the decedent.
If a decedent dies without a spouse or children, then the decedent’s parents will be next in line to inherit an estate. Should none of these parties be alive, then the siblings of a decedent will divide the estate.
A personal representative may be a person, bank, or trust company. A person must either be a resident of Florida or a spouse, sibling, parent, child, or another blood relative of the decedent. A trust company must be incorporated under the laws of Florida. When a decedent leaves a valid will, the designated personal representative is usually nominated in the will and has preference to serve. If a decedent does not leave a valid will, a surviving spouse will have preference, with second preference going to a person selected by a majority in the interest of the heirs.
Since no two probate cases are the same, you will need no exhaustive list of documents in probate. Some documents relevant include wills, trusts, appraisals, outstanding bills, titles, deeds, bank statements, investment records, corporate documents, operating agreements, and many more.
The majority of probate is administered under the rules of formal or summary administration. Summary administration can only be used in cases where the decedent’s probate estate is valued at less than $75,000 or the decedent passed away more than two years ago. Summary administration is a streamlined process that does not involve a personal representative and is generally faster and less expensive than formal administration.
In formal administration, the court will appoint a personal representative. This process typically takes longer and requires more documentation than summary administration.
No. A person cannot disinherit their spouse without a properly executed pre or post marital agreement. Florida law allows a surviving spouse to take either their share under a will or a portion of a decedent’s property determined under Florida’s elective share statute. The statute uses a formula to compute the size of a surviving spouse’s elective share. The formula can be complicated, meaning that people will need the help of a St. Augustine probate attorney.