Generally speaking, probate is the legal process where a person’s estate and belongings are distributed to heirs and beneficiaries. Especially if the will is contested. This happens when the person becomes deceased. The probate process may also handle other matters such as paying off any debt that the deceased may have owed.

The probate process can be extensive and complex, as a person may have many belongings and assets in their estate that need to be processed. The process allows a court to prove the validity of the deceased person’s will; if they have none, then the process allows for distribution of the property according to state law.

Does Florida Have its Own Probate Code?

When it comes to the probate process, many states have adopted the Uniform Probate Code, or UPC. The UPC is a body of laws that provide guidelines and uniform procedures for issues such as determining a will, naming the role and functions of an executor, and for overall administering an estate after a person’s death.

The state of Florida is not included on the list of states that have adopted the UPC guidelines. Instead, Florida has its own set of laws and statutes that govern probate, wills, trusts, estates, and other related matters.

For instance, Florida estate and probate laws require that anyone in possession of a will needs to file it with a local Florida circuit court, within 10 days of learning of the person’s death. From there, the court will determine whether full probate court proceedings are necessary, and whether they need to further validate the will.

Why is it Important to Have a Local Florida Lawyer for Probate Issues?

When dealing with probate or other related issues, it is highly important to work with a local lawyer for advice and guidance. A local lawyer will have the experience and knowledge necessary to help with issues that may be specific to Florida laws. A local lawyer is often:

  • Able to research Florida laws to determine what the current probate guidelines are;
  • Familiar with the various courts and judges in the area; and
  • Experienced when it comes to legal issues that are specific to the Florida area.

Residents of areas such as Boca Raton would have a big benefit in hiring a Boca Raton wills, trusts, and estates lawyer instead of hiring a lawyer in Ft. Lauderdale or Miami. Likewise, a resident in Ft. Lauderdale or Miami would benefit from having a lawyer who lives in the same city as them. Ultimately, residents of the state of Florida may face unique issues in wills, trusts, and estates and having a local attorney will ensure that they will get the help they need.

For example, many Florida residents are senior citizens who have relocated from a different state for retirement or vacation purposes. As such, their property might still be located in another state or area, and they may also be living in a local senior nursing home or retirement home. These are issues that may cause some issues when their property is distributed upon their death.

What are Some Common Issues Dealt with Under Florida Probate Laws?

One of the main questions that many people have is whether all property must pass through the probate process. In the state of Florida, certain property items don’t have to pass through the probate process, and can sometimes pass directly to the new owner.

A few examples of property that don’t always need to pass through probate court in Florida may include:

  • Property that is owned or held in joint tenancy by more than one individual. This can include a house owned by a married couple, joint bank accounts held by more than one person, or other similar property situations;
  • Assets where the deceased person previously designated a beneficiary. Common examples of these include life insurance benefits, retirement accounts, and other similar types of transferable assets; and
  • Assets that are held in a living trust.

In addition, Florida is one of only a few states that lists out information regarding lawyers fees in its probate statutes. For instance, under Florida probate laws, fees are based on the value of the assets passing through probate, including any income earned during the actual probate proceedings. Lawyers may have a choice of whether or not they want to follow the fee schedule listed in the statutes.

What is “Summary Administration” in Florida?

Florida probate laws are also unique in that they allow for what is called “summary administration” in some cases. Summary administration is a type of streamlined version or probate, sometimes considered a “probate shortcut” by many. This option may allow for quicker and more efficient administration of a deceased person’s estate.

Summary administration proceedings are only available in certain circumstances. They are available only if:

  • The person’s death occurred more than at least two years ago; or
  • The total amount of property that would have to pass through probate does not exceed $75,000 in total value.

In order to initiate a summary administration, the named executor of the estate must file a document known as a “Petition for Summary Administration”. The petition must include a list of the deceased person’s total assets and total value; it should also state which persons will be inheriting which items of property.

Do I Need a Lawyer If I Am Dealing with Probate in Florida?

As a state that does not incorporate the UPC, Florida may have certain probate provisions and regulations that are unique to the area. It may be in your best interests to hire a Florida wills, trusts, and estates attorney if you need help with the probate process. Your attorney can provide legal guidance and can help you meet the requirements for successfully administering the estate of a loved one.