Probate & Trust Attorney in Jacksonville
When a person dies, their will typically goes through probate. This is a process that is supervised by the court, and that allows for the gathering of assets, paying off debts, and distribution of assets to beneficiaries and heirs. Florida StatuteChapters 731 through 735 contains the entire probate code for the state. Our probate lawyers in Florida regularly handle disputes over the validity of wills. There are also Part I and Part II of the Florida Probate Rules, which govern the actual probate proceedings. Under Florida law there are two types of administration of probate, along with a way that assets can be distributed without probate in some cases. Not all property has to go through the process of probate. Some assets will transfer automatically from the deceased person to others. But for assets that do not transfer, probate is necessary.
How Does the Probate Process Work in Florida?
To begin the probate process the person handling the deceased’s affairs must file with the clerk of court. Generally this takes place in the county the person was living in when they passed away. There is a filing fee, and a file number and ongoing record will be maintained. Papers that indicate what was to be done with assets, such as a will, can then be filed and become part of that record. A good will can make probate administration much easier, because it is clear as to where the assets are to go. However, not everyone dies with a will, and some people have not updated theirs in a number of years of even decades.
If there is no will, or if the will is questionable or challenged by heirs or others, probate litigation may be necessary. For this it is best to hire an attorney who is very familiar with wills and trusts law, because challenging a will or defending a will from a challenge can be a difficult process. It can also be time consuming, and it will tie up the assets for months or even years in some cases. With this in mind, anyone who makes a will should take care to ensure its validity, provide power of attorney to anyone who may need it for health care and end of life decisions, and update their will as their life circumstances change and develop. That can make the probate process much easier for anyone who has to work their way through it after the death of a loved one.
What Transfers Without Probate?
Anything the deceased person owned jointly with another person, such as cars and bank accounts, will become the property of the other person. This makes it easier for spouses to move forward after a death, because they do not have to fight for assets. Essentially, upon the death of one spouse the other spouse automatically owns the asset, provided it belonged to them jointly. But not everything can be transferred so easily. If the deceased had something solely in their name, if they owned property as tenants in common that was not homestead property, or if they owned something that was payable to their estate, probate will likely be necessary.