Once the shock and grief over the passing of a loved one begin to subside, questions naturally start to arise among family members as to what is going to happen concerning the deceased’s assets and debts.
While most people understand that it will likely prove necessary to go to probate court to resolve the matter, they may not comprehend what exactly this entails.
In general, the probate process, which is overseen by a circuit court judge, is designed to accomplish the following:
- Identify, locate and gather the assets of the decedent (i.e., the deceased)
- Pay off the outstanding debts of the decedent
- Distribute the remaining assets of the decedent
While this might seem straightforward, the reality is much different.
Regarding the first point, it must first be determined whether the assets of the deceased are even subject to the probate process.
In the eyes of the law, probate assets include 1) any assets the decedent owned in their name only, and 2) any assets the decedent owned along with one or more co-owners and which are not covered by any sort of provision providing for automatic succession in the event of the passing of any owner.
Some examples of probate assets could include bank accounts solely in the name of the decedent, real property titled in the name of the decedent and another individual as tenants in common, and an annuity contract payable to the estate of the decedent.
Conversely, some examples of non-probate assets could include an investment account owned solely by the decedent and with a payable on death provision, real property titled in the name of the decedent and another individual as joint tenants with rights of survivorship, and a life insurance policy payable to a designated beneficiary.
We will continue to examine the intricacies of Florida’s probate process in future posts.
In the meantime, consider speaking with an experienced legal professional if you have any questions or concerns relating to probate administration.