How probate works

After you die, your estate may need to go through probate. If you lived in Florida at the time of your death, this process would likely occur in that state. During a probate proceeding, a judge will oversee the process of distributing your assets and ensure that all creditor claims are handled in a timely manner.

Do you have a will?

If you died before creating a will, state intestacy laws will likely come into play. This means that your assets will be divided according to state law and that the court will appoint someone to represent your estate during the probate process. It is important that your will be easy to locate as intestacy laws may also be invoked if the document cannot be found.

Your representative will inventory and appraise your assets

The person who serves as your estate representative will be tasked with gathering your assets and financial documents in an effort to find out how much your estate is worth. In some cases, it will be necessary to have assets appraised for tax purposes. Once these actions have been taken, the executor can begin the process of filing tax returns and paying any balances owed. This person will also be responsible for making sure that mortgage, credit card or other debts are paid before assets can be distributed.

Court approval is needed to distribute assets

Distributing assets to beneficiaries is the final step in a probate proceeding. Typically, assets won’t be transferred to their rightful new owners until a judge has signed off on a full accounting of the estate. It is important to note that property held outside of your estate may be passed to a beneficiary immediately after you pass.

Creating a will or trust may make it easier to settle your affairs after you pass on. An estate planning attorney may help you devise strategies to avoid probate, such as creating a trust or gifting property to your children or grandchildren while you’re still alive.