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What is Probate?

May 11th, 2018

Posted in Estate & Personal Planning

Many people have either a fear of probate or confusion about it.  However, probate generally does not deserve the bad feelings its name evokes.  On one hand, sometimes the probate process is beneficial, whereas on the other hand, sometimes it may be more efficient and cost-effective to create a plan to avoid probate.

Probate is simply the court process to formally transfer assets owned by the decedent, or the person who died, to his or her beneficiaries or heirs.  A formal probate in Florida also provides a straightforward process to address any creditor claims on the estate.  Creditor claims often consist of the last medical expenses of an individual but also include any outstanding creditors a person has at the time of his or her death.  After all creditors are properly notified and the creditor claims period has ended, any claims submitted thereafter by creditors are barred, or fail.  Furthermore, since a court oversees the probate process, the judge can resolve any disputes within a probate.

Not every estate requires a probate.  Some assets bypass probate because the decedent named a beneficiary, which is common with a bank account or an IRA. Or, an individual may have created a trust, and instead of a probate administration which requires court fees and supervision, a trust is administered privately by a trustee.

While some people may want to avoid probate because of the cost or perceived time it adds to administer an estate, the benefit of a streamlined process that allows for addressing creditor claims and resolving any disputes can be beneficial.  Of course, we recommend that you consult a qualified estate planning attorney to obtain advice personalized to your circumstances.

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