Probate FAQs

MY LOVED ONE HAS DIED, DO WE NEED A PROBATE?

The answer depends very much upon the specific circumstances of your situation. Generally, if there is real estate involved it is likely that some type of probate case will need to be filed with the Court. This is also true if the deceased person has checking, savings, IRA’s, CD’s, or similar financial accounts that were not jointly owned or made Payable On Death to a specific person.

Feel free to contact the office for a no cost initial consultation to answer questions you may have about the probate process. You may telephone (239) 997-0078 or email Alexis@SitkaLaw.com.

WHAT IS PROBATE?

Probate is a court supervised process that is often required when a loved one passes away. During th Probate Administration process, the deceased person’s “Probate Assets” are collected and their debts are paid. After payment of probate costs, taxes, and debts, the remaining probate assets will be distributed to the beneficiaries.Probate is a court supervised process that is often required when a loved one passes away. During th Probate Administration process, the deceased person’s “Probate Assets” are collected and their debts are paid. After payment of probate costs, taxes, and debts, the remaining probate assets will be distributed to the beneficiaries.
The Probate court case is usually opened in the county where the person died or where their residence was located on the date of death.
At the beginning of the Probate process, the court will appoint a Personal Representative if the case has been filed as a “Formal Administration”. The Court will oversee the process while the Personal Representative collects the assets, pays the expenses and debts, and distributes the assets to the beneficiaries.
If the person left a Will, the court will determine whether the Will is valid under Florida law. The Court will also determine who the beneficiaries are under the Will. If there is no Will, the Court will determine who the beneficiaries are according to the Florida statutes.
Under certain circumstances, a “Summary Administration” can be filed instead of a “Formal Administration”. However, this more streamlined process can only be used in certain circumstances:
(1) If the value of the entire estate subject to administration in this state, less the value of property exempt from the claims of creditors, does not exceed $75,000 AND  The estate is not indebted OR All creditors’ claims are barred OR Provision for payment of debts has been made.
OR
(2) If the decedent has been dead for more than 2 years.
Sometimes it is possible to avoid filing a Probate case. This depends upon the particular facts of each case as well as the type, and amount, of assets and debts.
You may contact the office for a free initial consultation to answer questions you may have about the probate process. Telephone (239) 997-0078 or email Alexis@SitkaLaw.com.

WHAT ARE “PROBATE ASSETS”?

The Probate Administration court process deals with the distribution of Probate Assets. Probate assets are those assets that the decedent owned in his or her sole name at death, or that were owned by the decedent and one or more co-owners and lacked a provision for automatic succession of ownership at death.

For example, a bank account would be considered a Probate Asset if the decedent is the only person named on the account and there is no beneficiary designated on the account to receive the funds at the death of the account holder.

Another example is in regard to life insurance. Life insurance policies usually name a beneficiary to receive the proceeds upon death of the insured. However, if there is no designated beneficiary, or if the named beneficiary is the probate estate, then a probate will be required to gain access to the benefits.

In regard to real estate, if the property is titled in the sole name of the decedent, or in the name of the decedent and another person as tenants in common, it is a probate asset (unless it is homestead property). Real property owned by husband and wife as tenants by the entirety is not considered to be a probate asset and the property will go automatically to the surviving spouse upon the death of the first spouse.

Each asset must be analyzed to determine if it a “Probate Asset” that is subject to the Probate Administration court process.

You may contact the office for a free initial consultation to answer questions you may have about the probate process. Telephone (239) 997-0078 or email Alexis@SitkaLaw.com.

WHO CAN START THE PROBATE ADMINISTRATION PROCESS?

Any interested person can file a petition for probate administration. This is usually a beneficiary, an heir, or a creditor.

Telephone (239) 997-0078 or email Alexis@SitkaLaw.com to schedule a free initial consultation.

WHAT HAPPENS WITH THE ORIGINAL WILL?

If there is a Will, Florida Law requires the custodian of the Will to deposit it with the clerk of the court within 10 days after receiving information that the testator (the Decedent) is dead. The custodian must supply the testator’s date of death or the last four digits of the testator’s social security number to the clerk upon deposit.

Telephone (239) 997-0078 or email Alexis@SitkaLaw.com to schedule a free initial consultation.

IS A PROBATE REQUIRED IF THERE IS A WILL?

People often believe that if there is a Will then that means there is no need to file a Probate case. This is not accurate. A Will usually contains the names of the beneficiaries and it provides further instructions to the Personal Representative regarding how the decedent wants his Probate assets to be distributed. However, a Probate Administration may need to be filed depending upon the nature of the assets and debts.

Feel free to contact the office for a no cost initial consultation to answer questions you may have about the probate process. You may telephone (239) 997-0078 or email Alexis@SitkaLaw.com.

WHO IS APPOINTED BY THE COURT TO BE THE PERSONAL REPRESENTATIVE?

The court will first look to see if there is a valid Will in which case the person designated in the Will has first preference to be appointed as Personal Representative. If there is no valid Will, the court will look to the Florida Statutes to determine who is entitled to preference to be appointed as Personal Representative, in the following order:The court will first look to see if there is a valid Will in which case the person designated in the Will has first preference to be appointed as Personal Representative. If there is no valid Will, the court will look to the Florida Statutes to determine who is entitled to preference to be appointed as Personal Representative, in the following order:

1. The surviving spouse.

2. The person selected by a majority in interest of the heirs.

3. The heir nearest in degree. If more than one applies, the court may select the one best qualified.
A person is not qualified to act as Personal Representative in Florida if the person:
1. Has been convicted of a felony.

2. Is mentally or physically unable to perform the duties.

3. Is under the age of 18 years.

4. Is a non-resident of Florida that is not related to the decedent.
You may contact the office for a free initial consultation to answer questions you may have about the probate process. Telephone (239) 997-0078 or email Alexis@SitkaLaw.com.

DOES THE PERSONAL REPRESENTATIVE HAVE TO PAY THE DECEDENT’S DEBTS FROM THEIR OWN FUNDS?

No. A decedent’s debts are paid from the assets of the decedent’s Probate estate. The Personal Representative will have to notify known or reasonably known creditors of the Probate. The Personal Representative will also have to provide notice of the Probate by publication in the newspaper for the benefit of unknown creditors. Creditors must file their claims by the appropriate deadline or they will lose their right to payment of the debt.

You may contact the office for a free initial consultation to answer questions you may have about the probate process. Telephone (239) 997-0078 or email Alexis@SitkaLaw.com.

HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO COMPLETE A PROBATE?

There is no deadline for completing a Probate. A “Formal Probate” administration is complete after the assets are collected, the creditors are paid, and the remaining assets have been distributed to the beneficiaries or heirs. Sometimes the Probate process will be delayed if there are disputes among beneficiaries or creditors or for other similar reasons. Generally, the final accounting and other documents required to close the probate administration are due within 12 months from the date the Letters of Administration are issued by the Court. However, this period can be extended by the Court if necessary.

A “Summary Administration”, if permitted, is usually completed much quicker than a “Formal Administration”.

Telephone (239) 997-0078 or email Alexis@SitkaLaw.com to schedule a free initial consultation.

DO I HAVE TO HIRE A LAWYER TO HANDLE THE FLORIDA PROBATE?

Yes. In most cases, an attorney is required to represent the Personal Representative in Probate case in Florida. There is a limited exception if the Personal Representative is the sole “interested person” or is an attorney. The phrase “interested person” includes creditors as well as other beneficiaries.

Telephone (239) 997-0078 or email Alexis@SitkaLaw.com to schedule a free initial consultation.

HOW DO I LOCATE THE CLERK OF COURT IN THE COUNTY WHERE MY LOVED ONE DIED?

Below is a list of the Clerk of Courts for each County in Florida. If you are attempting to avoid probate by using the Florida Statute 735.301 process which provides for distribution of personal property without probate in certain situations, you may wish to review the Clerk’s website for the County where your loved one resided when they passed away. Many Clerks provide forms and instructions for how to use this process as each County has its own way of handling these types of cases.

If you want additional information to determine if you can use this process, CLICK HERE to learn more.

If you still have additional questions, please feel free to call me at
(239) 997-0078 for a free 30 minute consultation to get answers to your Probate related questions.

ALACHUA COUNTY
www.alachuaclerk.org

BAKER COUNTY
www.bakerclerk.org

BAY COUNTY
www.baycoclerk.com

BRADFORD COUNTY
http://www.bradfordcountyfl.gov/circuit_court

BREVARD COUNTY
www.brevardclerk.us

BROWARD COUNTY
www.browardclerk.org

CALHOUN COUNTY
www.calhounclerk.com

CHARLOTTE COUNTY
www.co.charlotte.fl.us

CITRUS COUNTY
www.clerk.citrus.fl.us

CLAY COUNTY
http://clayclerk.com

COLLIER COUNTY
www.collierclerk.com

COLUMBIA COUNTY
www.columbiaclerk.com

DESOTO COUNTY
www.desotoclerk.com

DIXIE COUNTY
www.dixieclerk.com

DUVAL COUNTY
www.duvalclerk.com

ESCAMBIA COUNTY
www.escambiaclerk.com

FLAGLER COUNTY
www.flaglerclerk.com

FRANKLIN COUNTY
www.franklinclerk.com

GADSDEN COUNTY
www.gadsdenclerk.com

GILCHRIST COUNTY
www.gilchristclerk.com

GLADES COUNTY
www.gladesclerk.com

GULF COUNTY
www.gulfclerk.com

HAMILTON COUNTY
www.hamiltonclerk.com

HARDEE COUNTY
www.hardeeclerk.com

HENDRY COUNTY
www.hendryclerk.org

HERNANDO COUNTY
http://hernandoclerk.com

HIGHLANDS COUNTY
www.hcclerk.org

HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY
www.hillsclerk.com

HOLMES COUNTY
www.holmesclerk.com

INDIAN RIVER COUNTY
www.clerk.indian-river.org

JACKSON COUNTY
www.jacksonclerk.com

JEFFERSON COUNTY
www.jeffersonclerk.com

LAFAYETTE COUNTY
www.lafayetteclerk.com

LAKE COUNTY
www.lakecountyclerk.org

LEE COUNTY
www.leeclerk.org

LEON COUNTY
www.clerk.leon.fl.us

LEVY COUNTY
www.levyclerk.com

LIBERTY COUNTY
www.libertyclerk.com

MADISON COUNTY
www.madisonclerk.com

MANATEE COUNTY
www.manateeclerk.com

MARION COUNTY
www.marioncountyclerk.org

MARTIN COUNTY
www.martinclerk.com

MIAMI-DADE COUNTY
www.miami-dadeclerk.com

MONROE COUNTY
www.clerk-of-the-court.com

NASSAU COUNTY
www.nassauclerk.com

OKALOOSA COUNTY
www.okaloosaclerk.com

OKEECHOBEE COUNTY
www.clerk.co.okeechobee.fl.us

ORANGE COUNTY
https://www.myorangeclerk.com/

ORANGE COUNTY COMPTROLLER
www.occompt.com

OSCEOLA COUNTY
www.osceolaclerk.com

PALM BEACH COUNTY
www.mypalmbeachclerk.com

PASCO COUNTY
www.pascoclerk.com

PINELLAS COUNTY
www.pinellasclerk.org

POLK COUNTY
www.polkcountyclerk.net

PUTNAM COUNTY
www.putnam-fl.com/coc

ST. JOHNS COUNTY
www.clk.co.st-johns.fl.us/index.htm

ST. LUCIE COUNTY
www.stlucieclerk.com

SANTA ROSA COUNTY
www.santarosaclerk.com

SARASOTA COUNTY
www.sarasotaclerk.com

SEMINOLE COUNTY
www.seminoleclerk.org

SUMTER COUNTY
www.sumterclerk.com

SUWANNEE COUNTY
www.suwgov.org

TAYLOR COUNTY
www.taylorclerk.com

UNION COUNTY
www.unionclerk.com

VOLUSIA COUNTY
www.clerk.org

WAKULLA COUNTY
www.wakullaclerk.com

WALTON COUNTY
http://clerkofcourts.co.walton.fl.us

WASHINGTON COUNTY
www.washingtonclerk.com

Call me today at (239) 997-0078 for a free 30 minute consultation to get answers to your Probate related questions.