The loss of a loved one can be extremely stressful for the survivors of the deceased. In addition to dealing with the grief that accompanies a loved one’s death, there are many things that must be done to settle the deceased’s estate and to handle the assets owned by the decedent.
The vast majority of people have never heard the word “probate” before having to deal with the process personally due to the passing of a loved one. The probate process is simply the court proceeding required for transferring property which was owned by the decedent, to the identified beneficiaries of the decedent’s estate. The probate process is different in every state, but the typical steps involved include inventorying the estate assets, identifying and handling creditor claims, as well as eventually making distributions to the beneficiaries.
Probate administration and estate administration refer to the same process. Any assets which are owned in the sole name of the decedent, which have no beneficiary designations, must fall into the decedent’s estate and the only way to transfer or sell estate assets, aka probate assets, is to initiate the appropriate court supervised probate process.
Probate is the court process by which your Last Will and Testament will be legally validated after you die, assuming you leave one. However, most people understand probate to be the entire process of settling someone’s estate after they die. When there is a Will and/or trust which was executed by the decedent prior to death, the estate is referred to as “testate.” When there is no Will or estate planning documents to dictate to whom estate assets are to be distributed, the estate is referred to as “intestate.” Every state has their own version of an intestacy statute, which stipulate the default rules for how a person’s property is to be distributed.
There are three general stages of probate:
The titles, executor, personal representative, and administrator all refer to the individual who is eventually appointed by the probate court to administer your estate. The Florida probate code, refers to the person in charge of the estate as the personal representative whether the estate is testate or intestate. New York, as well as many other states, refer to the person appointed by the court to be in charge of the estate as the executor or administrator. An executor generally refers to testate estates, while administrators are appointed for intestate estates. The personal representative has a great deal of power and responsibility, since that person is granted the legal authority to step into the shoes of the decedent in order to begin collecting assets and consolidating them on behalf of the estate. In short, the personal representative will have the legal authority to liquidate bank and brokerage accounts and have the proceeds deposited into a new bank account held in the name of the estate. The personal representative will also be in charge of hiring the realtor and signing any closing paperwork required to sell any real estate. Additional powers of the personal representative include requesting past tax returns, medical reports, financial statements, and other records associated with the decedent.
The duties of a personal representative are as follows:
There are different forms of probate available in Florida, depending on the circumstances involved with the estate, namely: