The probate process sounds daunting, doesn’t it? It sounds like having to chase paper and mill through miles of red tape while in the process of mourning the passing of a loved one. Well, even though it may not occur under the happiest of circumstances, it doesn’t have to be the big, scary, document-monster of everyone’s nightmares. Let’s face the most common fears surrounding probate and clear up the misconceptions.

  1. Probate of estate is so expensive it is bound to devour the entire estate and then some.
    No, depending on the size of the estate, typically, probate legal fees are not excessive.
  2. The probate legal process takes forever!
    It doesn’t have to take a long time. This also depends on the size of the estate, the number of creditors, and whether family members get along with each other. In Florida, summary administration is an option for families when the decedent’s passing was more than two years ago, or when the decedent’s total assets didn’t exceed $75,000.00, not including homestead property or other exempt property. Summary administration may be done and over in four months or less. If a formal administration is necessary, again depending on the circumstances, the process is usually wrapped up before a full year has passed.
  3. The state will clean house on the estate if there is no will.
    When someone dies intestate, the state has no right to any of your assets unless there is absolutely no one to inherit from you. In fact, Florida Statutes will determine who inherits from you, considering the surviving spouse and children first. In Florida, that means the surviving spouse gets 100% if they didn’t have children or if all children belong to both the decedent and the surviving spouse. If either spouse has children who are not descendants of the other, then the surviving spouse gets 50% and the children get 50%. If there are children, but no surviving spouse, the children get the entire estate after creditors have been paid, which is divided equally among them, and the amount of each share depending on how many there are.
  4. If the decedent’s debts outweigh the estate, the Personal Representative/heirs/beneficiaries are held responsible for those remaining bills.
    No, all creditors are paid by the estate. If there aren’t enough assets to completely satisfy all debts, then the statutes determine who gets paid and who does not. Sometimes nothing is left behind for the heirs, but the estate doesn’t saddle them with debt either.

Is there anything else about probate that scares you that hasn’t been covered here? If so, please don’t hesitate to contact us. Our goal is to meet you with compassion, not intimidation!