When an individual passes on in Florida, his or her estate may go through the probate process. Probate is essentially a court-supervised discovery process that takes into account the assets and liabilities of an estate. Although there are two forms of probate in Florida, most probate cases are of the formal administration variety. Costs related to probate are paid for using funds from the estate and are given top priority.

Only some assets may be classified as probate assets. Any assets that were owned solely by the deceased individual will typically qualify for probate. The same is true for any assets that had multiple owners but no clear way to transfer them to a surviving owner. If the deceased has a surviving spouse, there is no probate as the assets typically go automatically to the surviving spouse.

There are several reasons as to why the formal probate process is needed. One of the biggest reasons for probate is to submit any will that the deceased person may have created. If there is a valid will, assets will be transferred as per terms of the will. In the event that there is no will, assets will be transferred in accordance with Florida state law. The probate process is also necessary to ensure that creditors are paid any outstanding balances that may be owed.

Advance estate planning may make it unnecessary to go through the probate process. Designating a beneficiary of a bank account or a life insurance policy may turn a probate asset into a non-probate asset. This may make it possible to keep the process of distributing assets a private a less tense one. Those who are interested in minimizing the need for or avoiding probate may wish to talk to an estate administration attorney as soon as possible.

Luis E. Barreto