Stages of a Florida Probate Administration
With a formal probate administration, the court monitors the process closely and oversees the distribution of the decedent’s assets. The three main stages of a probate administration in Florida include:
- Opening the estate for probate
- Administering the estate
- Closing the estate for probate
Opening a Florida Estate for Probate
The first step is to hire a Florida probate attorney and ensure that the will is deposited with the appropriate court clerk within 10 days of the date of death. Next, file a Petition for Administration with the probate court.
Once these documents are filed, the estate will become a matter of public record in the court. However, an estate is not considered to be open until there is a personal representative, or executor, appointed. The personal representative is the one who is required to act on behalf of the estate. Before a personal representative is appointed, the judge will need to review the probate file and issue the Florida letters of administration.
Administering the Estate
Once the probate court issues the letters of administration, the estate’s personal representative can start what’s known as “administering the estate.” This is where most of the hard work occurs. A probate attorney can provide some legal guidance, however, it’s up to the personal representative to obtain all the necessary information and documents needed to move the process along. No two estates are identical, but some of the of common steps involving in administering the estate include, but are not limited to:
Notifying creditors: Notice to creditors must be published. Personal representatives must notify all known and potential creditors who will have the right to present a claim. Creditors must be notified that if they fail to submit their claim within three months of the date of first publication, they will be barred from pursuing a claim. A “reasonable ascertainable creditor” must be served by certified by mail directly. They have 90 days from the service date to make a claim.
Collecting and taking inventory of assets: The personal representative must gather all of the decedent’s assets and will be responsible for managing them throughout the process. There should be an inventory of the decedent’s assets done within the first 60 days after the letters of administration are issued. This should list all of the estate’s property with adequate detail and include the fair market value for each of the assets.
Interim accounting: In some probate administrations, the personal representative may opt to file an interim accounting. It’s not required though unless the court specifically orders it.
Paying creditors’ claims: Valid claims from creditors have to be paid within a year from when the notice of creditors was published. There are instances where it can be extended, and payments cannot be compelled until five months have passed from the publication date.
Determining fees: You have to determine what the fees are that need to be paid from the estate. These fees cover attorneys, accountants, appraisers, and the personal representative fee.
Closing the Estate
The estate can be closed once the time has elapsed for creditors to submit their claims, all expenses and valid claims have been paid, tax returns paid and filed, and the assets are prepped and ready for distribution. Once you’re ready to close probate, the probate attorney will file the petition with the probate court, advising them that all steps have been completed.