What is Probate?

The term, "probate," refers to the legal process of administering the estate of a person who has passed away.  During probate, all claims are resolved, a notice is sent to creditors and the assets are distributed per the deceased's will.  Probate is a court-supervised process.

Not all estates go through probate.  In Florida, if the deceased person's assets are worth less than $75,000, the estate does not have to go to probate court.  It is important to note that not all assets fall under the jurisdiction of the probate court.  For example, 401k plans, IRAs, annuities and life insurance that have a designated beneficiary will not be subject to probate court.

The will typically names a person as an executor, also known as a personal representative.  The personal representative is given the task of carrying out the instructions of the will.  If no will exists or if an executor is not named, the probate court has the authority to appoint one.  

The personal executive will be in charge of inventorying and collecting the assets.  During probate, the wishes of the deceased will be interpreted to determine how to distribute the assets.  Probate will also arbitrate the heirs' interests, as well as other parties who may have claims against the estate.  Any debts and taxes will be paid during this process.  The remaining property will then be distributed to the heirs.

Probate takes at least four months to be fully completed, but sometimes the process takes even longer when complications arise. 

If you have lost a loved one and are facing probate, you may want to seek the advice of an experienced probate attorney in Fort Myers who can help you avoid common mistakes.  The Cody & Linde, PLLC is experienced in handling probate cases in Fort Myers, Cape Coral, Bonita Springs, Punta Gorda, Port Charlotte, Naples, Immokalee, Lee County, Charlotte County, Collier County, Henry County and Highland County.  Contact us today at (239) 939-7100 for legal advice.