As a top Florida probate attorney, Matt Weidner is the man to ask when you’re faced with questions about the probate process. Today he’s covering some of the most frequently asked questions you have in regards to probate law.
Florida Probate Attorney Matt Weidner Answers Your Probate FAQ’s
Q: I was told that there are two types of probate, what are they?
A: You are referring to summary and formal administration probate.
Summary probate is a probate process that can be used to settle small estates that have a value under a specified figure. Each state has their own definition of what does or does not meet the classification of a “small estate”. The summary probate process allows beneficiaries of the state to claim assets through simplified procedures and does not require the state to appoint a personal representative in the state of Florida.
In contrast, formal administration probate is used for larger estates. In these cases, a probate judge oversees the administration of the estate and a personal representative is assigned (executor). During the formal administration probate process there are three stages – the opening of the estate, the administering the estate, and the closing the estate which your probate attorney can assist with.
Q: What Are Letters of Administration?
A: Letters of administration are orders issued by the court that give the personal representative permission to begin estate administration. In order to get letters of administration issued, an estate must be opened via probate court first.
Q: What happens if there is no last will and testament?
A: If there is no last will and testament, assets may pass by intestate concession. In this case, Florida law dictates who is entitled to inheritance from the estate if there was no will in place.
Q: Does Florida probate mean that I have to go to court?
A: Not necessarily. If there is no dispute over the outcome of the case in probate then you will not have to appear in court in Florida for the probate process. If the case is being contested then you may be requested to appear in court for a hearing. If you have a probate attorney, your attorney may be able to appear in your place. In certain situations, the court may also permit a phone hearing so that you can attend without appearing in a Florida court.
Q: How long does the probate process take?
A: The answer to this question depends on the details of the case at hand. In general, however, a formal probate process can take six months or more to be completed. This is another reason why it’s helpful to have a probate attorney on your side because they can take care of the majority of the probate process for you during this extended period.
Q: Why do we have to go through probate?
A: Probate is necessary to close out the affairs of the deceased as well as to transfer assets of the estate to the beneficiary and out of the deceased’s name.
Q: Where do I file probate papers?
A: Your attorney can file probate papers for you. They are filed with the Clerk of the Circuit Court in the county where the deceased lived while alive. With the filing of these papers, you must also pay a filing fee to the Clerk to begin the administration of probate. Once you have filed your papers and paid the filing fee, the Clerk will assign you a file number and maintain a docket sheet. The docket sheet will keep a list of all papers that have been filed with the Clerk in regard to the probate administration.
Q: Who has preference to be the personal representative for the estate if no will was left behind?
A: If no will was left behind, the preference for personal representative is given to the spouse. If there is no spouse or complicating factors arise, secondary preference is given to the individual chosen by the majority in interest of the heirs.
Q: Does a personal representative have to be represented by an attorney?
A: Yes. In the majority of cases, a personal representative must be represented by a probate attorney. The reason for this is because the probate process can get extremely complicated, even if the estate in question seems relatively straightforward. The job of the probate attorney is to inform the personal representative of the steps necessary in the probate process and the duties required of them as a representative for the estate.
Q: If I am the sole beneficiary of an estate AND the personal representative (executor) do I still have to have a probate attorney?
A: No, there are a very few instances where a probate attorney is not required and this is one of them. That said, it is always prudent to consult with a probate attorney when dealing with any type of probate because Florida probate law is exceptionally difficult to navigate without a formal probate law education.
Q: Should I go with summary probate administration?
A: Summary probate administration isn’t necessarily the best option even when it is an option. There are a number instances where summary probate isn’t the best choice and formal administration is preferred, these instances are varied but include cases where one or more heir of the estate are missing or in cases where a property is left to a significant number of beneficiaries.
Looking For the Top Florida Probate Attorney?
If you’re looking to hire the top Florida probate attorney, Matt Weidner from Weidner Law is the man for the job. Pick up the phone and call 727-954-8752 today to secure the representation that you deserve!