The Fundamentals Of Estate Administration

When someone passes away without an estate plan, their assets are still in their name and are titled appropriately. Even more importantly, the court will determine who can become their guardian if minor children are involved. Whereas intestate laws dictate where the deceased’s assets will go, transferring those assets and paying any outstanding debts is necessary. Depending on the circumstances, the probate process could take several months to years; during that time, the beneficiaries will not have access to the assets. 


Probate administration is one of the most common things people can get pulled into while knowing little about it. Several problems can surface during this time, and family members often have disputes. The laws surrounding probate will differ by state, and it is essential to know that having an attorney during the probate process is required by law in Florida. When you understand the attorney’s role in this process, you will see the value in having one. 


An Attorney’s Role in Probate Administration

To continue with the concept of disagreements, we can dive into the various things that families disagree about—many of which will require the assistance of legal counsel. Remember, your assets will still pass through probate even if you draft a will. Although beneficiaries can’t directly challenge a will because they are dissatisfied with their inheritance, or lack thereof, they can do so in several other ways. For instance, they may contest the will’s validity, raise issues that the deceased was influenced, lacked the capacity, or was under duress when the will was created. 


Previously, we explained that creditors must be notified during the probate process, and the deceased’s debts must be settled. This will be sourced from the estate rather than the beneficiaries. Depending on how much debt the deceased left behind, assets may have to be sold to pay for them. There could be disputes on which assets get sold to satisfy these debts. The personal representative cannot distribute the assets until they have been resolved. 


An Enormous Responsibility 

Almost anyone can be asked to be an estate’s personal representative. (In Florida, to be a personal representative, you must be a state resident or a close relative of the deceased, assuming they are an adult who has never been convicted of a felony.) Don’t assume the role lightly if asked to be one. They are tasked with being in charge of the estate, settling debts, and distributing the assets per the will, assuming that one was left behind. Their responsibilities are significant:


  • Notifying all the heirs that the will is passing through probate 
  • Managing estate taxes
  • Overseeing any assets that need to be taken care of before being distributed to the beneficiaries (e.g., investments, real estate) 
  • Tracking and maintaining documents that account for the estate’s assets 


Having an attorney to assist you with this process is critical, and the cost comes from the estate. When a personal representative cannot fulfill their obligations, the process’s length can increase. Furthermore, people can have you removed. Florida statutes outline several reasons why. “Failure to account for the sale of the property or to produce and exhibit the assets of the estate when so required…Wasting or maladministration of the estate.” 


Choosing Efficiency 

Probate can be a complex matter, and highly experienced attorneys will guide and assist you throughout it. To learn more about our legal services regarding probate administration, contact ElDeiry & ElDeiry, P.A., to schedule your consultation.

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