The Basics of Probate

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Probate is a court-supervised legal process that recognizes a will and appoints an executor or personal representative to administer the estate and distribute the assets to the specified beneficiaries.

Contrary to popular belief, the majority of probate proceedings are relatively smooth and timely, though their necessity depends on a range of factors. Probate laws vary by state; in Florida, probate is required in one of two situations:
1.   The deceased individual was a Florida resident with assets in Florida.
2.   The deceased individual was not a Florida resident but has assets in the state.
In any case, probate administration is only required in certain instances, namely with respect to assets owned solely by the deceased at the time of his or her death. Assets held in joint names with right of survivorship (typically real estate or bank accounts), or that have a designated pay on death beneficiary (such as life insurance and retirement plan proceeds) are not subject to probate.

Although formal administration is the typical route, Florida allows for Summary Administration, which is faster and often easier. This fast-track approach is available when the estate assets are less than $75,000 or when the deceased individual has passed away more than two years.

Moreover, a properly drafted will can help eliminate many of the steps often required in probate proceedings. While “living wills” are touted as a way to avoid probate, the probate process is neither onerous enough to be evaded, nor avoidable in the circumstances noted above. A professional and experienced probate attorney can help you determine when or if you need probate and how best to go about the process.

David Bauer of Bauer Brofsky Law Firm, one of the best South Florida Law Firms, is a leading specialist in South Florida Probate Administration. He has proven expertise in a range of tax matters, as well as asset protection, estate planning, custom wealth management solutions, and more. For more information, please contact us at (305) 712-7979 or info@thebblawfirm.com.

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