The procedure for probating a decedent’s estate in Florida is set forth in the Florida Statutes and Florida Probate Rules. Many estates proceed as “formal administrations,” which requires a minimum of approximately four months to complete; however, most formal administrations take longer, particularly where the estate is subject to taxation and a federal estate tax return (IRS Form 706) must be filed. Certain smaller estates may qualify for “summary administration,” which is an abbreviated administration process that can be completed within a relatively short period of time.
The complexity of the probate administration process depends on a number of variables, including the nature and extent of the decedent’s assets and debts, availability of information concerning assets, debts and beneficiaries, and issues concerning creditors’ claims, title to property and survivorship rights.
Generally, the probate process involves filing the decedent’s Will (if there is one) with the Probate Court and having it admitted to probate. The judge may then appoint a Personal Representative of the decedent’s estate, with the power to administer the estate according to law, marshal the decedent’s assets, pay the decedent’s debts as far as the assets of the estate permit, and make distribution of the estate. Certain notices must be published in the local paper and/or sent to beneficiaries, creditors and other interested persons. Creditors and other interested persons may file claims, objections or other pleadings in the decedent’s estate proceeding, which must be addressed and resolved by the Personal Representative. Once all creditors’ claims and other issues have been resolved, and any estate taxes and other expenses of administration have been paid, the Personal Representative can begin the process of closing the estate and making final distributions to the beneficiaries.
John Morrissey has probated numerous estates since he began his legal career in 1993. This has included the representation of Personal Representatives in connection with their administration of complicated taxable estates, as well as the simple nontaxable variety. In addition, Mr. Morrissey has been involved in numerous probate litigation matters, representing fiduciaries, beneficiaries, heirs at law, creditors and other interested persons in adversary proceedings, including the following:
- Disputes concerning the validity of Wills and Codicils.
- Disputes concerning the construction and meaning of Wills and Codicils.
- Disputes concerning the testamentary capacity of the decedent to execute a Will or Codicil.
- Disputes concerning alleged undue influence exerted upon the decedent to execute a Will or Codicil.
- Disputes concerning the return of assets that were improperly converted before the decedent’s death.
- Disputes over who the beneficiaries are of an estate.
- Disputes between beneficiaries.
- Disputes between beneficiaries and the Personal Representative.
- Disputes concerning the validity of creditors’ claims.
- Disputes concerning the sale or disposition of estate assets.
- Disputes over the continuation of the decedent’s business.
- Disputes over survivorship rights, including the right of a surviving spouse.