When a person dies owning property in their names only, and they have not set up a revocable living trust, the title or ownership of their property must be transferred to another person or persons. If they die with a will (i.e., “testate“), the property must be transferred to their beneficiaries named in the will.
If they die without a will (i.e., “intestate“), the property must be transferred to their heirs at law, which are designated by statute and are usually their closest family members. In either case, only a court can authorize these transfers of property ownership. That court is called the probate court.
The process by which you apply to the probate court to transfer the property is commonly known as “probate.” If there is a will, the will is submitted to the court so that it can determine if it is a valid will, whether it has been superseded by a later will, etc.
The court appoints a personal representative (or “executor“), who is named by the deceased in the will, to handle the administering of the deceased’s “estate,” which refers to all the property the deceased owned at death in their name only. Administration includes taking an inventory of the decedent’s property, and filing various public notices of the probate proceedings to reach anyone who has a claim against the estate or who objects to the will.
If there is no will, the court also appoints a personal representative (or “administrator“) to handle the estate. If the court appoints a personal representative due to there being no will, that appointment is often contested among several family members.
We represent personal representatives of probate estates in Florida, and assist them in commencing the probate case, filing the necessary public notices and inventories of estate assets, and arranging for the final distribution of estate assets. Because every estate is different, our legal fee depends on the extent and complexity of the particular probate case, so we normally undertake probate administration on an hourly-fee basis, rather than for a fixed fee. Our hourly rate is $250.00. We require an initial deposit of $4,500, and and we bill the client on a monthly basis during the course of the probate case from that deposit account. Personal representatives find it very efficient and convenient to use our Virtual Law Office feature, which permits the secure and confidential exchange of estate documentation during the probate case.
FLORIDA’S PROBATE SYSTEM
Below is an overview of the three ways to settle an estate in Florida, from the simplest and least expensive to the most complicated and costly.
A note about wills: Whether or not probate will be necessary, Florida law requires that anyone who has possession of a will must file it with the local circuit court within 10 days of learning of the death. If a probate court proceeding is necessary, the court will determine whether or not the will is valid.