Many Florida residents might be aware that probate is a court process that identifies and gathers all assets of a deceased person, pays all creditors and distributes the remaining assets to the person’s beneficiaries. The entire probate process involves a number of people, such as the circuit court judge, the clerk of the circuit court, the executor of the estate, those parties who have claims on the estate, the Internal Revenue Services and attorneys, if hired by the respective parties.

In most cases, the entire estate administration process is supervised by a circuit court judge who also presides over all court procedures. Usually, the judge depends on the validity of the late person’s will to identify creditors and beneficiaries and to determine which course of action to take. However, if a decedent died without a will, the judge will consider evidence to identify the actual heirs.

If a judge sees that the deceased person has a will and that will mentions the name of the estate executor, the judge will first determine if that person qualifies to be the estate executor. If the judge determines that the executor meets all criteria as dictated by Florida law, the judge will issue a letter of administration. The letter is a crucial document for establishing an executor’s authority to administer a decedent’s probate estate.

There may be cases where certain parties may dispute the provisions of the will or some of the actions that are part of estate administration. In such cases, the judge will conduct hearings to resolve the dispute in question. The judge will consider all evidence presented in court and make a decision. That decision will be recorded in an official document by which all parties must abide.

Luis E. Barreto