If your loved one has recently died, and had assets subject to the probate process, then chances are that you are already aware that wrapping up his or her estate is going to take some time. While an established trust can provide for a much quicker and less-costly dispensation of assets, decedents who left assets in their own name often leave their heirs with an estate that must be resolved through probate. And that necessarily means the involvement of probate court.
Why Probate is Necessary?
When your loved one dies, there are a few reasons why you might end up contacting a probate court or otherwise interact with the probate process. As a general rule, most people who have to deal with this process have typically been named as executors of someone’s will. When that is the case, you have to interact with the probate court in your role, as the court sifts through all of the various assets in the estate, entertains claims from creditors and others, and then permits the distribution of the assets in accordance with the provisions of the will. On the other hand, you might also need to contact probate court if you have reason to believe that the will’s provisions should be legally challenged. In either case, it would behoove you to learn more about how probate works.
Probate becomes necessary whenever a decedent has assets that do not automatically transfer to another party at death. In such cases, the court determines the validity of the will and then processes the assets and any claims against them in accordance with the lawn in the State of Florida. Obviously, this is a complex process that requires some level of understanding if you are to preserve your legal rights and interests. Contacting an experienced probate attorney can certainly help, but you should also avail yourself of the following resources to learn more about how it all works.
Information about the Probate Process
The probate process can be complex for any layperson. As a result, it is always a good idea to consult with expert resources to learn how it works and what steps are involved in processing the estate through probate. Fortunately, the Florida courts have provided a great deal of information about these proceedings on their website. Nolo’s legal encyclopedia can also be a great resource for gaining a better understanding of the process in Florida.
For additional information about the actual Probate Rules in effect throughout the state of Florida, you can turn to the Florida Bar. Their website has a tremendous amount of probate information that details just about everything you could want to know about the process. You can learn which types of assets are covered under the probate laws, how the proceedings will be managed, and the roles of the various parties involved in the entire affair.
Florida Laws Governing Probate
It can also be helpful to familiarize with the actual source of these rules and procedures. The best way to accomplish that goal is to go directly to the source: Florida’s probate laws. These laws are all grouped under Title 42 in the Code, in five related chapters:
- Chapter 731 – Probate Code: General Provisions
- Chapter 732 – Probate Code: Intestate Succession and Wills
- Chapter 733 – Probate Code: Administration of Estates
- Chapter 734 – Probate Code: Foreign Personal Representatives; Ancillary Administration
- Chapter 735 – Probate Code: Small Estates
You can review the provisions contained in those chapters by following the links provided, or get an overview of the entire contents with this Florida probate guide.
Information about Estate Tax Issues
Though only a tiny portion of estates meet the estate tax threshold each year, it is still important to know whether that tax applies. If it does, the tax itself is often quite high, so proper preparation for managing the filing and payment is essential. The good news is that you can locate all of those details by calling the Florida Department of Revenue at (800) 352-3671, or visiting their website for more information.
Different Estate Provisions Throughout the US
Depending on where you live, probate laws, estate taxes, and other estate resolution matters can differ wildly from one jurisdiction to another. While it might seem as though these laws should be fairly uniform from one area to the next, they are not – and states can have differing statutes, timelines, and procedural steps that need to be followed. Obviously, most of us don’t have the time or resources to easily track down all of those legal provisions – even with the help of modern tools like the internet. Everplans, however, has done just that, and provides a compiled list of state resources here.
Florida Probate Courts
You will probably want to contact the actual court handling your loved one’s estate, particularly if you find yourself named as the executor of his or her will or are openly challenging the validity of the Last Will and Testament. Depending on what you are trying to accomplish, your contact with court officials may be sporadic or regular. In any event, you will need to get in touch with the court handling probate for your area, and in Florida that means contacting the circuit courts.
For Fort Myers, the Probate Office is located in the court in Fort Myers. That office manages estate settlements, guardianship issues due to incapacitation, and all matters related to probate concerns in Lee County, Florida. The Clerk of Court’s website provides more information about who to contact, while also providing answers to frequently asked questions and details about fees. The Clerk’s office can be reached by calling (239) 533-5000.
Estate Planning & Probate
Obviously, the after-death concerns are only part of the equation. You should also consider your own estate planning to ensure that your last wishes are respected without added cost or delays. There are a number of helpful resources that can assist you in learning more about how to proceed with the creation of your own plan:
- Florida Estate Procedures
- Florida Law Governing Living Wills
- Durable Power of Attorney Laws in Florida
- Florida Will Laws
The fact is that there are plenty of resources out there to assist you as you try to learn more about the probate process to ensure that you are well-situated for coping with the issues surrounding your loved one’s probate, or to prepare your own estate. To really understand it all, however, an experienced attorney can provide invaluable assistance. If you live in the Fort Myers area, Barbara M. Pizzolato, P.A can help you make sense of it all. To learn more and get the estate planning and probate assistance you need, call her today at (239)-225-7911.