Many in Miami have likely heard from countless people that they should do what they can to avoid having their estates go to probate. This is due to the fact that the probate process can be time-consuming (sometimes lasting longer than one year), and any expenses associated with it are drawn directly from estate assets. However, many estate cases are still heard in probate courses every year, and for those unfamiliar with the legal guidelines regarding estate administration, the assistance offered by the probate court may end up justifying the expense.
The Florida Bar Association describes the purpose of the probate process as being three-fold:
- Identifying and gathering all of a decedent’s assets.
- Paying any debts he or she may have incurred.
- Distributing assets to his or her beneficiaries.
Estates whose cumulative assets total less than $75,000 may qualify for an expedited probate process known as summary administration. All others are handled via formal administration.
A personal representative (also known as an executor) is either named in a decedent’s will or appointed by the court. It is his or her responsibility to administer the estate. He or she is entitled to enlist the services of an attorney to assist with the process. The court judge supervises all probate proceedings, imposing rulings and deadlines concerning the disposition of probate assets. The personal representative provides an accounting of his or her actions as the case progresses. Creditors who have claims against the estate may also participate in probate proceedings.
According to the Florida state statutes, jurisdiction of a probate case is given to the court of the county in which the decedent resided during his or her life. If he or she was an out-of-state resident, then jurisdiction lies with the county in which he or she held property.