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What to expect when probate administration falls to you

Being named the executor of a loved one's estate is a hefty responsibility that shouldn't be taken lightly. If you're responsible for the estate administration of your family member or close friend, there are a few steps you'll need to take in order to fulfill your loved one's final wishes, and to make sure the fair distribution of assets goes as planned. Florida estate planning laws are made to benefit heirs as much as possible, but they can be complicated and will sometimes need court help to sort out.

If the deceased's will wasn't solid and clear, the probate process can be lengthy. In fact, estate executors should prepare for the asset distribution to take a few months even when everything goes smoothly. It's important to gather together essential papers that will affect what's in an inheritance, like titles, deeds, and account paperwork for all assets. Liability paperwork for mortgages and other debts that must be paid will also need to be gathered.

Before distributing the inheritance to the heirs, funeral expenses, court costs, and other fees will need to be paid, or it can negatively affect the estate and you as the executor. And even though it's the last thing you want, in some cases a will contest will be unavoidable. If this is the case, the estate will most likely go to probate court, and an estate planning attorney may be needed.

It isn't easy to have the responsibility of executor on your shoulders, but most likely you were given this duty because the owner of the estate knew you could be trusted. Think of it as a privilege that shouldn't be abused, and keep in mind what your loved one wanted for all of his or her heirs when you were appointed estate administrator.

Source: Gulf News, "The responsibilities of being an executor," April 14, 2013

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