We understand that the loss of a loved one is a difficult part of the circle of life. Family members and loved ones should not have to worry about the intricacies of the probate process during their period of grief. At Khani & Auerbach we strive to provide competent and efficient services to both the Personal Representatives and Beneficiaries during this difficult time. Serving South Florida, attorney Jay Auerbach can assist you with all of your estate administration needs.
Probate is the legal process under which a person’s assets are distributed after his or her death. With the guidance of an attorney, the court oversees the distribution of the estate’s property, including the distribution of property to beneficiaries, and also ensures that the decedent’s debts and taxes are paid. The process involves gathering information of the deceased person’s assets, creating an inventory, paying funeral and burial expenses, paying creditors, distributing estate assets to the beneficiaries in accordance with the will (or in accordance with the Florida Statutes, in the event there is no will), preparing an accounting of the assets and expenditures, and closing the matter upon completion.
Florida has a probate process that allows for informal administration. This is referred to as Summary Administration. In order to utilize Summary Administration, the decedent must have been deceased for more than two years or the estate assets are less than $75,000. This process greatly reduces the time and expense required to administer and close the estate. Khani & Auerbach can assist you in determining if you are able to take advantage of Summary Administration and can help guide you through this process to manage the deceased’s estate as efficiently and painlessly as possible.
The most common form of probate in Florida is Formal Administration. An estate must be formally administered if it does not qualify for Summary Administration or one of the other alternatives to probate. In some situations it may still be the best choice of probating an estate even if it is not required.
Under Formal Administration, the Court supervises the collection and distribution of the decedent’s assets. This is handled in three stages: opening the estate, administering the estate, and closing the estate.
Opening the Probate Estate
Once all preliminary steps have been satisfied, a Petition for Administration and related documents are filed with the Florida probate court. The Judge will then review the file and issue Letters of Administration whereby the Personal Representative is appointed to act on behalf of the estate.
Florida Estate Administration
Once Letters of Administration are issued, the Personal Representative begins his or her task of administering the estate. During this process, the attorneys of Khani & Auerbach provide guidance on many issues, however, it is up to the Personal Representative to gather the information required to move the probate process along. Administration of an estate administration may involve the following steps:
Notifying Creditors of the Estate: The estate will publish a Notice to Creditors to inform potential creditors of their right to present claims in the probate proceeding. All ascertainable creditors must be provided with service of this notice. Creditors must be notified that failure to submit a claim within three months of the date of first publication will bar the claim.
Collection of assets: Once Letters of Administration are issued, the Personal Representative is authorized to take possession or control of the decedent’s assets, and is responsible for managing the assets before and during distribution.
Inventory assets: An inventory of the decedent’s assets is required to be filed within 60 days of the issuance of letters of administration. This inventory is a list of the estate property, including the fair market value of each asset.
Collect debts: The Personal Representative must collect all outstanding debts owed to the decedent, including lawsuits against debtors that refuse to pay.
Continue decedent’s business: The Personal Representative is authorized to continue the decedent’s business for up to four months after his or her appointment.
Invest assets: The Personal Representative may invest estate funds, but must consider the needs of the estate and act as a prudent investor.
Maintain assets: The Personal Representative may, if necessary, borrow money, pay taxes and expenses, employ professionals, and contract with third parties.
Identify rights of beneficiaries: The Personal Representative is required to identify any special rights to which the beneficiaries may be entitled, such as homestead rights.
Prepare objections to claims: Any interested party, including the Personal Representative may file an objection to a claim within four months of the publication of notice to creditors or within 30 days of the timely filing of a claim, whichever is later. The Personal Representative may take steps to resolve claims that have not become due before the time for distribution.
Closing the Florida Probate
The Florida probate estate can be closed as soon as the creditor’s period has expired, creditor claims and expenses of administration have been paid, tax returns have been filed, and all assets are ready for distribution.
In order to close the estate, the Florida probate attorney will file a Petition for Discharge. This Petition advises the Judge that all steps satisfied and that the estate is ready to be closed. The Judge then signs an Order of Discharge. This Order releases the personal representative from his or her duties as the Personal Representative and concludes the estate proceedings.
At Khani & Auerbach we assist with the collection of assets, provide notice to creditors, and distribute the decedent’s assets. Pursuant to Florida law, an attorney is required to probate an estate. We counsel fiduciaries in connection with carrying out their legal responsibilities, whether they are personal representatives, trustees or guardians. We can also help you understand your rights as an heir or beneficiary.
Representation of Out-of-State Personal Representatives
Are you the personal representative (executor) of a deceased loved one’s estate, but do not live in the State of Florida? Khani & Auerbach can assist you administer the estate and in most cases you will not need to come to Florida. We can efficiently administer the estate by communicating with you via e-mail, fax, and telephone. Most hearings can be conducted without your presence or with you present by telephone. Our mission is to assist you administer the estate effectively from a distance without the need to come to Florida.
We assist local and out-of-state clients with:
- Formal probate administration
- Summary Administration for estates less than $75,000 in value
- Ancillary Administration for estates administered by an executor in another state
- Trust Administration
- Probate and Trust Litigation
- Creditor Representation