Probate: Frequently Asked Questions

Do I need to go through probate?

Probate is the legal court proceeding through which the affairs of a decedent are settled, and the property of the decedent is transferred to those who are entitled to it. If all of the decedent’s property has passed to others by the operation of law – – for example, by joint ownership or beneficiary designations – – there is usually no need for probate.

Why can’t I show the will to the bank and get access to the decedent’s accounts?

A will is not a self-executing legal document. To be given legal effect, a will must be admitted to probate by the court. To be admitted to probate, the original of the will must be shown to have been signed under the requirements of Florida law and be the decedent’s last will. With such proof, a bank would know whether the will presented was, in fact, the proper and last will of the decedent.

Does probate allow the government to keep part of the estate?

The only money the government receives in a probate proceeding is the filing fee of $400. Probate does not cause additional taxes or fees that would not otherwise be imposed on the estate.

What happens to the debts of the decedent in probate?

The debts of a decedent are not forgiven upon death. Any actual or potential creditor of the decedent is an interested person in the probate proceeding and entitled to receive a Notice to Creditors. This notice informs the creditor that he has a limited and fixed time to file a claim in the estate. The notice is also published in a newspaper to give notice to creditors who are not known.

When a creditor does not file their claim within the allotted time, the claim is forever barred. If a claim is filed, the claim can be contested, and the dispute will be resolved in a lawsuit. If the claim is not objected to, that creditor is entitled to be paid from non-exempt assets in the order of priority established by law.

Specific property of the decedent, such as the home, is exempt from the claims of creditors. Certain creditors, such as funeral bills, have a priority in payment. All of these matters are sorted out during the probate administration.

Does probate take years to complete and cost a fortune?

The administration of a decedent’s estate is only as complex, time-consuming, and as expensive as the affairs of the decedent at the time of death. For most estates, probate takes from as short as two weeks to eight months. The expense varies greatly but is modest for most estates. If a probate administration is extended or expensive, it is because some disputes or complications have risen, not due to the probate proceeding itself but other factors.

Florida Probate and Estate Administration Law Firm

A skilled law firm ensures a loved one’s estate is probated and settled as simply and efficiently as possible. At C.J. Hilliard Law, P.A., we represent personal representatives, beneficiaries, and debtors in simple and complex probate matters. We assist clients with all of their family law needs throughout Orlando and Central Florida.

Contact C.J. Hilliard Law, P.A., at 407-656-1576 to schedule an appointment at our Winter Garden, Florida location. We are ready to answer your questions and evaluate your probate matter

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