Florida Residents’ Guide to Probate and Estate planning

Probate and Estate planning You do not need to face the unfamiliar legal process on your own if you are named in a Will as the Personal Representative for an estate. Our St. Petersburg attorneys specializing in Probate and Estate Planning will help you understand your responsibilities and guide you through the Estate Administration Process. For many years, we have assisted beneficiaries and representatives of estates in Pinellas County and Hillsborough County. Contact us now for immediate legal help.

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What is Probate?

Probate is the court process for administering an estate. It’s the process by which a decedent’s Last Will and Testament are administered. Probate is the court process for gathering and sorting assets of a deceased individual, paying taxes and debts, and distributing assets among heirs and beneficiaries. Florida law allows an individual who leaves a valid will to make certain decisions about his or her estate. It is possible to choose a personal representative, who will be responsible for the administration of the estate. You can also select beneficiaries to receive the assets. In general, probate is only required when an individual dies and leaves assets titled in their own name. The Probate division in the Florida Circuit Courts, where the maker resides, oversees the entire process. An attorney will be required to assist the personal representative in Florida with estate administration.

What is the probate process?

Each Florida probate estate administration is different, but the majority of uncontested Florida probate estate administrations include these steps:
  • The original will and the petition for administration should be filed with the Florida probate courts.
  • Notify known beneficiaries, heirs, and creditors of the will regarding the filing. A legal notice is published in a local paper for potential creditors.
  • The estate is represented by a personal representative.
  • Representatives are responsible for the inventory and valuation of estate property.
  • The representative pays the legally enforceable, outstanding estate debts to the appropriate creditors.
  • The representative sells estate assets.
  • If applicable, the representative will handle the payment of estate tax.
  • The representative makes a final account and distributes any remaining assets to the heirs.

What are Probate Assets?

Assets that are subject to Florida probate include those assets owned by the decedent alone and do not have provisions for automatic ownership transfer at death. This would include accounts in the sole name of the deceased, life insurance payable to the estate of the deceased, and real property titled only in the name of the decedent (unless it’s a protected homestead that isn’t subject to creditors’ claims).

What is the Florida law on a will that avoids probate?

A will does not prevent probate. It is important to note that in cases where probate may be required, family members and loved ones can benefit from its finality.

How can I avoid probate?

You can avoid Florida probate by planning your estate properly. In Florida, trusts are often used to avoid Florida probate. Contrary to a Last Will and Testament (LWT), Trusts are private Estate Planning tools that are not filed in the probate court. The joint tenancy right of survivorship allows two or more individuals to have an interest in a property at the exact same time. If an asset has a joint tenant who also holds a survivorship or designated beneficiary, it will not go through probate. Joint tenancy is possible for most property, whether it’s personal property like checking or savings accounts, or real estate such as houses, buildings, and land. Here are some ways to avoid probate.
  • Transferring property to a Living Trust
  • Transferring property from individual to joint ownership may not always be the best option.
  • Add a designation “payable upon death” to bank accounts
  • Include a “transfer on death” designation on securities account
  • Nominate a beneficiary for retirement accounts, such as IRAs or 401(k).
It is always advisable to consult a qualified lawyer when making Estate Planning choices. This is because Estate Planning and Bonardi & Uzdavinis attorneys are trained in providing appropriate information about when and how to avoid a probate proceeding.

Contact a St. Petersburg Probate Attorney

Estate administration can be confusing, emotional, and complex. Our Florida probate attorneys provide compassionate and experienced representation to clients in the Tampa Bay area. Call the attorneys at Bonardi & Uzdavinis LLP if you need assistance with Florida Estate Administration or a Will Contest. We can also help with estate planning and trust administration.

Feel Free To Schedule A Consultation

Contact Bonardi & Uzdavinis without delay to arrange a FREE consultation.

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