As the personal representative (also known as the executor) of an estate, it is common to need to file probate for the deceased’s estate. Depending on the extent of the estate and other factors, the process varies slightly. However, no matter the size of the estate, probate can be time consuming. This is why hiring a probate attorney may be the right option for many. Before you decide whether or not you wish to hire an attorney to assist you with the probate process, here is a brief summary to help you understand how to file probate in Florida.
Notify Clerk of Courts in the County
The clerk of courts needs an original will and a certified death certificate to begin the probate process. Typically, the executor or personal representative handles this. If one was not appointed in the will, a spouse can handle the duties or the heirs can nominate someone willing. An estate without a will requires additional paperwork and steps.
Determine the Estate’s Value
This step may benefit from the assistance of a probate attorney. Not everything the deceased owns counts as part of the estate value. For example, the primary residence is exempt from the estate value but other homes would not be (whether in Florida or not). Also excluded from estate value is jointly held property. Those items pass to the survivor in full. Have a conversation with your probate attorney to discuss the factors at play in your matters of the estate.
Research the Estate’s Debts
As the personal representative, you will need to diligently research all debts held by the deceased. However, it is your duty to inform the creditors of the death and provide them a date by which they must file a claim against the assets. You will need to pay all debts and any federal taxes due before distribution.
Prepare for Distribution of Assets
Although some personal possessions may be identified in the will, other items may not be. Finding a fair and equitable way to distribute them may be challenging at times.
The assistance of a probate attorney can be invaluable throughout the entire process. They will be able to guide you through the paperwork. When the judge handling the case has questions, your probate attorney can also help you provide a response in a timely manner. If there is controversy among estate benefactors, a probate attorney can offer legal advice without emotional or personal involvement.
If you have been appointed as executor of an estate and need an experienced probate attorney, call Wagstaff Law Office. Our team is ready to help you. Call us today at (727) 584-8182 for your confidential consultation.