When someone dies in Florida and has assets, the distribution of assets goes through a probate process. This involves the court and other parties.

Probate occurs whether or not there is a will.

Probate for asset distribution and financial affairs

According to the Florida Office of the State Courts Administrator, the main reasons for probate are to distribute probate assets and pay off the decedent’s debts. Some examples of assets include an investment or bank account, real estate, retirement account and life insurance policy.

If there are debts owed by the deceased, the assets first pay off all creditors, and then disbursement to heirs can occur.

Probate process

According to the Florida Bar, within 10 days of finding out the testator died, the will’s custodian must present the will to the court’s clerk and file for probate, which requires a filing fee. The judge in charge of the process will then assign a personal representative, which may be the person named in the will or a qualified individual, trust company or bank.

The job of the personal representative includes numerous tasks. Some of these include:

  • Identify, find and value the assets
  • Locate and pay off creditors
  • File tax returns and pay taxes owed
  • Pay the estate’s expenses
  • Identify and locate heirs and beneficiaries
  • Distribute remaining assets to beneficiaries

Once the personal representative completes all necessary tasks, he or she may close the probate estate. To compensate for time and effort, the representative does receive professional fees determined previously by the decedent, by Florida law or by the judge.

The probate process is not quick, even for simple estates. Minimum completion often takes six months, and complex circumstances can take years.