Florida Probate Rules require a Florida licensed attorney to represent the personal representative of the estate in almost all instances. An estate is testate if there is a will or intestate if the decedent did not have a will. The will usually names the personal representative to administer the estate. A petition may be filed seeking the appointment of a qualified personal representative. There are three types of administration of a decedent’s estate.
1. FORMAL ADMINISTRATION is used when the assets include real estate or other assets that exceed $75,000.00 in value. It is necessary to appoint a personal representative to administer the estate.
2. SUMMARY ADMINISTRATION is used if the assets that are solely in the decedent’s name do not exceed $75,000.00. This procedure is also used if the decedent has been dead for more than two (2) years or there is a provision for payment of creditors’ claims.
3. DISPOSITION OF PERSONAL PROPERTY WITHOUT ADMINISTRATION is a non-administrative proceeding. This proceeding is available if estate assets consist solely of exempt property (as defined by law and the Florida Constitution) and non-exempt personal property, the value of which does not exceed the combined total of up to $6,000 in funeral expenses, plus the amount of all reasonable and necessary medical and hospital expenses incurred in the last 60 days of the last illness.
The probate process starts by gathering information, and what’s required will vary depending on the assets, and family situation of the Decedent.
The form that I use to start that information gathering process is here: Estate Intake Form.
Steps you should take immediately:
1. Safeguard the assets of the estate.
2. Locate all checking and saving account passbooks and notify all financial institutions of decedent’s death.
3. Locate all safe deposit boxes.
4. Notify appropriate organizations to prevent fraud (banks, social security administration).
5. Gather the documents necessary to proceed:
* the original will and any codicils (additions or changes to the will);
* any trust document pertaining to decedent;
* bank account statements;
* the deceased’s birth, marriage and death certificates, voter registration, drivers’ license or state issued identification and any military identification;
* any separation agreements, court orders or judgments; and financial papers;
* copies of all insurance policies for estate assets.