On the heels of a loved one passing away, going through the probate process can seem daunting and stressful. With several obligations to fulfill, going into probate without any knowledge of the proceedings can leave you feeling overwhelmed. Our Fort Lauderdale probate team explains what the probate process aims to achieve, as well as how it can be successfully navigated.
What is Probate?
Probate is the legal process of administering a person’s estate once they have passed away. It includes analyzing and fulfilling the terms set in a will, gathering and appraising any applicable assets, and paying off any outstanding debts of the deceased.
Outlining The Process
Although no probate experience is the same, with some being different according to the laws of the state, there are aspects of probate that will generally remain the same.
Filing a Petition
The first step in the process is to file a petition with the probate court. This step also includes the validation of the will before the distribution of any assets it contains.
Sending Notices & Taking Inventory
The next step includes sending out a notice to the beneficiaries and taking an inventory of all probate assets. After approving the will, the court will appoint an administrator who will then identify and notify anyone named in the will, relatives who stand to gain an inheritance, and any creditors the administrator becomes aware of when preparing the last of the decedent’s financial documents.
This is also the time in which beneficiaries or relatives of the deceased have the opportunity to contest the nature of the will if they feel they were unfairly treated or omitted from it. These accusations can be the result of suspected undue influence, where the now-deceased was forced to add or retract certain aspects of the will, or they simply did not have the correct mental capacity to sign it.
The administrator will then take the time to comb through all of the decedent’s assets and determine the estate’s total value. It is important to note the value of the items within the estate is determined by their value at the date of death rather than the present. This process is not only crucial in simply determining the value of assets in question, but it also provides a way of proving that all assets were accounted for and distributed properly.
Distributing Assets & Closing the Estate
Before closing the estate, the last step of the probate process is to distribute the assets to their proper recipients as outlined in the will. Certain assets can take a relatively short time to process, while more valuable items, such as a house, can require more time.
This step also includes paying any outstanding debts and taxes on behalf of the decedent and closing any accounts related to finances or retirement.
Once all these steps are completed and the administrator is compensated for their efforts during the probate process, it is then time to close the estate. This is done by filing a petition with the court to dissolve the estate, making it available for public record.
How Adrian Philip Thomas, P.A. Can Help
Probate can be a long and arduous process, and the team at Adrian Philip Thomas, P.A. is prepared to help provide effective and compassionate legal representation.
Some of the biggest roadblocks that prove challenging for probate administrators are contested wills. We understand how challenging the loss of a loved one can be and are prepared to help guide you toward a beneficial solution for all parties involved.
Estate taxes are also a significant worry for some families, and having experienced legal guidance during this time can help minimize the impact these taxes can make on your family’s estate.
Hiring an attorney can also provide a distinct advantage when handling and collecting assets, including managing any proceeds from retirement and life insurance policies, ensuring nothing gets left behind.
If you are about to enter the probate process and aren’t sure where to start, don’t hesitate to contact our experienced team today through our website or give us a call at (800) 776-3103 to schedule your consultation!