A Largo Probate Attorney to Guide You through the Florida Probate Process
The loss of a loved one is painful and often unexpected. It also brings immediate legal consequences regarding the property and wishes of the deceased. Court proceedings are the last thing you want to experience during this time. A local Largo probate attorney who is familiar with this court should guide you through the rules of this court.
A Consult with Largo Probate Attorney John Frazier Can Help.
Our law firm offers a full range of services in the administration of Florida probate estates. We assist those named as personal representatives to the estates of the deceased, along with a full spectrum of probate legal services for Pinellas County families.
You may have heard the word “probate,” but what is it exactly?
Florida probate is the court-ordered process that manages and protects the assets of a person’s estate when they pass away. There are three main objectives to probate:
- Verify and inventory the deceased’s assets;
- Resolve disputed creditor issues and pay any outstanding bills and debts, including tax returns;
- Manage the distribution of the deceased’s estate according to the will or by Florida laws if there is no will. This distribution moves the remaining assets out of the deceased’s ownership to the rightful new owners.
Most people have never probated a will and are strangers to the process. Anyone who has gone through probate knows the process can be very slow and stressful.
Largo probate attorney John Frazier can move your probate case forward efficiently and economically. Let us take care of your probate needs so you can enjoy the peace of mind our legal services permit.
Is Probate Always Required in Florida?
Not always. Probate is necessary only when there are probate assets in the deceased’s estate. This holds true whether one dies with or without a will. Also, you may have a living trust in place as part of your estate plan. In this case, assets and properties owned by the trust would not have to pass through probate court.
In a Largo Estate, What Assets Are Subject to Probate?
Probate assets consist of property that is solely in the deceased person’s name. This means the assets are not held jointly, there are no “payable on death,” “transfer on death,” or “in trust for” beneficiaries on the assets, and the assets are not held in trusts.
Probate assets, commonly called the probate estate, can generally be grouped into four categories:
- Individual Assets – Property titled solely in the deceased person’s name without co-owners or beneficiary designations. These assets can range from bank accounts, stocks, and bonds, to household items and real estate.
- Property Held by Tenants-In-Common – A common form of real estate co-ownership, where the property is owned by multiple owners in percentage shares. Tenants-In-Common properties have no right of survivorship. The decedent’s share of the property becomes part of the probate estate, to be distributed to rightful heirs or named beneficiaries.
- Assets Without Beneficiary Designation -or- Assets With Predeceased Beneficiaries – When an asset has no beneficiary or the beneficiary of the asset dies before or at the same time as the decedent – those assets will have to go through probate for proper distribution.
- Assets Left Out of a Trust – Assets accidentally left out of a trust will have to go through the probate process. One safety measure to this is if the decedent has what is called a “pour over” will that allows for the transfer of assets into a trust at death.
What Assets Are Not Subject to Probate in Largo, FL?
Common situations where probate is not necessary include cases where the decedent had:
- Assets with a beneficiary designation such as a life insurance policy or IRA;
- Assets titled jointly between spouses, and property would automatically transfer to the surviving spouse under Florida law;
- Assets titled with someone other than a spouse, as joint tenants with right of survivorship designation;
- Assets held in a living trust.
When to see a Largo Probate Attorney?
We will help you understand these and additional circumstances unique to your case and evaluate whether probate must be opened. Depending on the size and complexity of the estate, probate can take weeks, months, or even years. Families and representatives need to work with an experienced Largo probate lawyer to navigate this process.
How Probate Works: Pinellas County Probate Court Handles All Largo Probate and Estate Administration Cases
Probate works to pass ownership of a decedent’s real estate and personal property. An automatic change of legal ownership happens at the moment of death. This is the “law of succession.”
The new property owners are determined differently, depending on whether the deceased does or does not have a Last Will and Testament. With or without a will, the settling of an estate always benefits from the counsel of a probate lawyer.
Largo probate attorney John Frazier will guide you through the process and handle the complex elements of probate on your behalf.
Probate with a Will
If you leave behind a valid Last Will and Testament when you die, the will identifies the new owners of your property. These are the “beneficiaries” or “heirs” to the will.
The probate process does the following things:
- Verifies the deceased’s will is authentic and valid;
- Inventories all probate assets and determines their value;
- Ensures all debts and claims against the deceased person’s estate are paid from those assets; and
- Distributes remaining assets to the rightful beneficiaries.
Probate without a Will
If you die without a valid Last Will and Testament, you are said to have died “intestate” which simply means without a will. In this case, probate assets are distributed to legal heirs as explained under Florida statutes of intestate succession, beginning with the surviving spouse, and then on through children, grandchildren, parents, siblings, and so forth.
If the decedent had no will and was not survived by any heirs, assets will go to the state of Florida. This seldom happens, as the statutes are designed to get probate assets into the hands of even the most remotely related heir.
Whether there is a will or not, our knowledge of the Florida probate system can help you manage your loved one’s estate in the smoothest, most cost-effective way possible.
Largo Probate Attorney John Frazier Provides Necessary Assistance for Personal Representatives
One of the most important parts of writing a will is choosing a personal representative, also known as an executor, of the will. Personal representatives may be named in a will or appointed by the probate court. A personal representative could be a friend, family member, or a professional, even a trust or a bank.
In all cases, it should be someone you trust to be qualified and competent in administering your estate according to your wishes. Florida law allows for personal representatives to collect a commission payable from the estate assets based upon the value of the estate.
If you die with no will, or the will does not name a personal representative, the probate court will appoint someone to serve.
Have you been named the personal representative of an estate?
This is a time when an initial consult with Largo probate attorney John Frazier can be invaluable. Most Florida probate proceedings require the help of a lawyer—and while it is a big responsibility, it is also a privilege. We assist personal representatives through the process of probating estates in Largo and throughout Pinellas County.
What Does a Personal Representative Have To Do?
A personal representative is only involved in matters of formal probate. This person has a fiduciary duty to oversee and protect the decedent’s assets from the time of death until the affairs of the estate are settled according to Florida probate statutes.
The personal representative will be responsible for opening the case in probate court. Proceedings are closely monitored by the court system. Even in the simplest probate administration, various legal questions will surface, or the will may be contested — most of which will be unfamiliar to anyone who is not a probate lawyer.
If you are designated by will or by the court to handle a loved one’s final affairs, we offer experienced, compassionate representation. Our firm prepares and files court documents, locates and notifies heirs, and represents clients in the distribution of assets. If disputes arise or someone contests the administration of the estate, Largo probate attorney John Frazier is here to help you through it.
Types of Probate in Florida
Because people have different situations, there are different types of probate. Florida has three options. The two main types of probate are formal administration and summary administration. The formal administration is Florida’s traditional, full process, and the summary administration is an alternative, shortened form of probate that may be allowed in certain cases.
Also, a second alternative to a formal administration is to have a “Disposition Without Administration.” Not every estate will qualify for each type of probate. A Largo probate lawyer will help you review the details of your case and help you make a clear decision about which type of probate to follow.
Formal probate is required if the decedent has been dead for two years or less or if the value of the estate exceeds $75,000.
Formal probate administration involves:
- appointing a personal representative
- admitting the will to court for approval (if the decedent left a valid will)
- taking inventory of the estate
- collecting and managing assets
- notifying creditors and beneficiaries
- paying legitimate claims of creditors
- filing tax returns and paying due taxes
- handling exemptions, allowances, and special claims
- defending against improper claims and will contests
- paying expenses of the estate’s administration
- distributing remaining assets to beneficiaries
- closing the estate
Summary administration is a streamlined form of probate that is only available in certain conditions: Estates valued at $75,000 or less (non-exempt property)—or—where the decedent passed away more than 2 years ago. (The statute of limitations for creditors to file a claim against a decedent’s estate is two years.)
Florida law does not require the person who requests a summary administration to have a lawyer. Also, a personal representative is not appointed by the court. A petition for summary administration may be filed by any beneficiary or a person named as personal representative in the will.
For the court to accept a petition for summary administration,
- all of the decedent’s assets and their market value must be known;
- all information (account numbers, balances) must be known;
- all of the decedent’s bills must be paid (or provisions to pay creditors have been made);
- there must be a plan for how assets are to be distributed.
Generally, when these requirements are met, the probate court will accept the petition and can move the matter along quickly.
However, even when an estate meets these criteria, a summary administration may not be sufficient or appropriate.
A probate lawyer may be necessary to understand the statutory rights of all participants, the correct documents to file, important homestead issues, and more. An experienced Largo probate attorney will help you determine whether a summary or formal administration is the right path for you.
A Further Option in Florida Probate:
When certain final costs are higher than the value of the probate estate, probate may not be required. Instead, an alternative resolution is called a “Disposition of Personal Property Without Administration” and it is not supervised by the court. This applies only in limited situations:
“Disposition of Personal Property without Administration” in Pinellas County, FL:
This process is also sometimes referred to as a Small Estate Proceeding and as a “no probate” filing. It is a way for an heir or beneficiary to petition the court to simply transfer the estate. Only certain cases will satisfy this option because the restrictions are much tighter, where the decedent basically has nothing left over beyond funeral and medical expenses.
This process is allowed when:
- Real property is not involved
- Other assets are exempt from creditors, and probate assets do not exceed funeral expenses, and probate assets do not exceed reasonable medical expenses sustained during the final 60 days of the decedent’s illness.
While disposition without administration can avoid probate, it can be impractical and may raise tax issues and other risks. It is essential to discuss your case with a knowledgeable lawyer to understand the issues surrounding the estate so you can make sound decisions.
Consult with a Largo Probate Attorney Who Puts You First
For anyone who is grieving and administering an estate at the same time, we offer our utmost guidance and support. You can trust that your probate matters are being handled efficiently and with great care. Attorney fees are generally paid from the probate estate.
Contact us today or call (727) 260-2581 to arrange a consultation. When you need assistance or have questions about inheritance, probate, or any estate planning needs, we are here for you.
My firm works in association with the Law Offices of Joseph F. Pippen Jr. & Associates, with multiple offices throughout Florida, which enables me to deliver to you all of the resources of that firm as well.