In Florida, probate is a court-supervised procedure for administering a deceased person’s estate. This procedure includes identifying and collecting the decedent’s assets, paying the decedent’s debts and funeral expenses, and distributing the decedent’s assets to his or her beneficiaries. The court generally must appoint a “Personal Representative” to manage the decedent’s estate in certain probate proceedings. (There are certain exceptions for estates of limited value.). The probate court will appoint the Personal Representative and issue letters of administration authorizing the Personal Representative to carry out all acts required throughout the probate process to manage and deal with the decedent’s estate.
A Personal Representative has extensive duties in administering a decedent’s estate. The general duties of the Personal Representative are to settle and distribute the estate according to the decedent’s will, or if there is no will, according to Florida law, and act in the best interests of the estate and the person’s interested in the estate.
In most cases, a Personal Representative must be represented by a Florida attorney.
The following is a checklist of important tasks a Personal Representative may need to complete when administering a decedent’s estate after letters of administration have been issued. Note, however, that not all of these activities will apply in each estate.
- Give formal written notice of administration to interested parties.
- Notify companies with open accounts in the decedent’s name, banks, credit card companies, and government agencies of the decedent’s death.
- Cancel subscriptions.
- Contact the post office to have mail forwarded to the Personal Representative.
- Collect and Secure Estate Assets
- Review the decedent’s records, including income tax returns, gift tax returns, life insurance policies, retirement benefit plans, bank statements, account statements, investment and financial account documents, checkbooks, business documents, and health insurance documents, etc.
- Take possession of all keys to real estate properties, vehicles, boats and safe deposit boxes.
- Change locks on the decedent’s real property, if necessary.
- Arrange for storage of the decedent’s personal property.
- Check for unclaimed property.
- Estate Inventory
- Prepare a list of the decedent’s assets (inventory) and estimate their value as of the decedent’s date of death, or obtain appraisals, if necessary.
- File this inventory of the decedent’s assets with the court within 60 days of the court’s issuance of letters of administration.
- Inventory of Safe Deposit Box
- Access and prepare an inventory of the items contained in the decedent’s safe deposit box.
- File this inventory within 10 days after opening the safe deposit box.
- Administering Estate Assets
- Obtain a tax identification number for the estate.
- Open a bank account in the estate’s name.
- Close the decedent’s individually owned accounts that do not have a pay-on-death designation and transfer the funds in these accounts to the estate account.
- Sell assets if needed to raise cash to pay debts and expenses if authorized or directed to do so in the decedent’s will or by the court.
- Creditor Claims
- Identify the decedent’s outstanding debts and potential creditors.
- Provide notice to the decedent’s creditors to file their claims against the estate.
- Publish notice in a newspaper published in the county where the estate is administered, or if there is no newspaper published in that county, in a newspaper of general circulation in that county.
- Review claims of creditors and pay valid claims.
- Prepare and file tax returns, including a decedent’s estate tax return (if necessary).
- Pay unpaid funeral expenses, debts, taxes, and expenses of administration.
- Prepare and maintain detailed financial and accounting records for the estate and obtain receipts.
- File all necessary documents and other paperwork with the court.
- Close the Estate
- Prepare and file a final account and petition for discharge with the court within 12 months from the issuance of letters of administration.
- If no objections are filed, distribute the remaining assets to the appropriate beneficiaries according to the decedent’s will, or if there is no will, according to Florida law
Please note that this blog is intended for informational purposes only. This checklist is not intended to be exhaustive and does not contain a complete list of tasks that a Personal Representative may be required to complete when administering an estate. Most Personal Representatives will work with an estate administration attorney to help them through the process and determine the duties of the Personal Representative that may apply with respect to a specific estate.
Whether you have been named as a Personal Representative or may be an heir to an estate, a Florida probate attorney at Comiter, Singer, Baseman & Braun, LLP can work with you to help you through the probate process. Contact us at 561-626-2101 or toll-free at 800-226-1484.