You may envision a scenario that you have seen on television or in a movie. After a character dies, the family members and friends convene at someone’s home. An important looking estate representative starts to direct certain people into a study, and there is a somber reading of the will. The suggestion is that inheritances will be distributed to the heirs on the next business day.
In reality, things do not work this way. When a will is used to direct the distribution of personally held property, there is an executor or personal representative who handles the estate administration tasks. However, the estate administrator cannot act independently.
Under Florida state laws, the executor would be required to admit the will to probate. The executor would directly conduct the business of the estate, but the court would provide supervision so that interested parties are protected.
Who are these interested parties? When someone dies, the person may have had debts. As a result, during probate, the executor is required to notify creditors so that they can come forward to seek satisfaction. When we talk about final debts, this would include final taxes.
There is a proving of the will during probate. The court examines the will to make sure that it is valid in the eyes of the law. In some cases, people who have an interest may contest the validity of the will. Any such arguments would be heard during the probate process.
If everything is in order, the executor will ultimately prepare the assets for distribution to the heirs in accordance with the wishes of the decedent. This can involve property appraisals and liquidation of property so that it can be distributed among multiple different inheritors.
When everything is done and the court closes the estate, the assets can be distributed to the heirs.
The probate process provides certain protections, but there are also some drawbacks that are not necessarily a positive for the rightful heirs to the estate. When you consider all of the things that must be done during probate, you can imagine that it takes some time to run its course. The heirs do not receive their inheritances while the estate is being probated, and even a simple case will take close to a year in most areas.
Time consumption is one drawback, but the expenses are another pitfall. During the probate process there will be court costs, and the executor is entitled to remuneration. There can also be legal fees, accounting expenses, appraisal charges, and liquidation fees. At the end of the day, a significant percentage of the estate can be consumed during probate.
There are things that can be done to facilitate transfers outside of probate. If you would like to learn about them, attend one of our upcoming seminars. The seminars are free to attend, and you can click this link to see the schedule: Fort Myers FL Estate Planning Seminars.