Probate is the process by which the court validates the authenticity of a Will; appoints a Personal Representative; and supervises the settlement of an estate, including the payment of bills, filing of tax returns, and transfer of assets to beneficiaries.
In other words, when a person dies leaving assets behind, the court acts as the signer of those assets to the beneficiaries or heirs. First, the court determines who is legally entitled to receive those assets – determines who the rightful heirs or beneficiaries are. Before any asset is released, the court will supervise the payment of debts to creditors of the decedent or last expenses. Once creditors are paid and the right heirs or beneficiaries are determined, assets are distributed, and the probate case is closed.
A Probate is required when there is a Will or when there is no Will. When there is a Will, the beneficiaries and/or heirs will be named in the Will. When there is no Will, the beneficiaries or heirs will be determined as per Florida laws.
The Probate process can be lengthy and costly, and some people like to avoid probate by planning using Trusts. Assets held in Trusts do not have to go through Probate. Probate is not always a bad thing, especially when there are debts to be resolved. However, in many instances, it is a lot more convenient to transfer assets through a trust in the privacy of your attorney’s office. Probate processes are public, trust administration is not.