Florida Probate Law & Asset Disbursement
Florida probate law requires that when a person dies, their assets owned in their name individually, bills, and taxes are to be gathered, calculated and distributed through a probate court-supervised process called probate. Probate is a court ordered process used to ensure a fair distribution of assets among beneficiaries and the payment of all bills and taxes.
The Florida probate process
Probate forms and papers should be filed expediently in order to get the estate settled as quickly as possible. The local Clerk of the Circuit Court requires a filing fee at the time of initiation and will start the probate administration by assigning a file number. The probate process will continue with a running docket listing all probate forms and papers that are filed with the clerk for the administration of the probate.
Thereafter a Circuit Court Judge will preside over the proceeding, issuing decisions on any questions that may arise. The Judge will appoint a personal representative, or executor, to handle the administration of the probate, pay all taxes and creditors and settle the estate as defined by Florida probate law.
Florida probate court allows the probate process to continue for a lengthy period of time and it usually lasts anywhere from three to eighteen months, depending upon the extent of assets and necessity for filing estate taxes.
Should the estate not exceed $75,000 then Summary Probate is an alternative to the lengthier Formal Administration. “Disposition Without Administration” is another alternative form of the probate process that is allowed only when assets do not exceed up to $6,000 in funeral expenses and medical bills incurred in the final 60 days of life.
Disbursement of assets under Florida probate law
After all bills and taxes have been paid, the spouse of the deceased receives the first $60,000 of the probate estate plus one-half of the remaining estate. The lineal descendants share the remaining half. However, should there be descendants whom are not related to the living spouse, then the living spouse receives half of the probate assets and the lineal descendants share the remaining half.
Florida probate law dictates that the living spouse will receive homestead rights, allowing the surviving spouse to stay in the home until their death, at which point the home will be settled between the original lineal descendants via the probate process. Certain surviving children may also have this right.
Should there be no living spouse then the estate is divided by the probate court between the children, should a child be deceased then their share is divided amongst their offspring according to Florida probate law. Should there be neither spouse nor offspring, then the estate reverts to the deceased’s parents. If the deceased’s parents have preceded them in death then the estate is shared between the deceased’s siblings, nieces and nephews.
Please see our Free Article Index for more articles on Florida probate law and estate planning.
To find out how we can help you during the probate process, please visit our Practice Area in Probate and Trust Law.
If you are facing probate, or would like to avoid probate altogether, call us today to arrange a time to sit down and talk about your situation. This is a free, no-obligation consultation to see how we may help you.