The probate process can be complicated, but the attorneys at Lyons, Beaudry & Harrison, P.A. strive to simplify the process for our clients in Lakewood Ranch and the surrounding areas. We know you have questions about how the process works and what the role of executor entails. Our knowledgeable attorneys have provided answers for some of the most common questions we receive about Florida probate law.
To learn more about the probate process, we invite you to discuss your situation with an experienced estate administration attorney serving clients in Lakewood Ranch and the surrounding areas. For help from professionals with the knowledge and experience you need, contact Lyons, Beaudry & Harrison, P.A. by calling us at 941-444-6407 or contacting us online.
Depending on the complexity of an estate, establishing the value could be as simple as adding up the amount the decedent had in the bank and subtracting debts and taxes. Estates with real property often require appraisals. Other types of property may need to be evaluated by experts. Business interests often require valuation by financial professionals.
When referring to the court-appointed person in charge of administering a decedent’s probate estate, Florida courts use the term “personal representative” rather than “executor” or “administrator,” but those terms are also commonly used. There is no requirement that an executor be named in a will; however, when probate is required, there does need to be an executor to manage the process. Probate may not be required in certain situations, such as when the decedent leaves a very small estate with no real property. If the value of the estate is less than the cost of burial expenses, the person who paid these costs may be partially reimbursed by filing a form known as a Disposition of Personal Property Without Administration.
If a personal representative is not named in the decedent’s will, a court will appoint someone, typically a family member, to fill this role. This person may be chosen by a majority of beneficiaries under the will. If the decedent left no will at all, a court will appoint the surviving spouse, a person selected by the heirs, or the closest remaining heir. In special situations, guardians or others may be appointed.
While personal representatives have a fiduciary duty to settle an estate, they can voluntarily give up their role as executor. More commonly, other interested parties seek to have an executor removed from that role. Florida law allows for the removal of a qualified executor for a variety of reasons, including failing to comply with court orders or wasting the estate’s resources. After removal by a court, the former personal representative will have to provide an accounting of what was done during their time as executor.
An estate’s executor or administrator is responsible for tracking down the decedent’s assets and debts as well as locating beneficiaries and keeping them informed. During the probate process, an executor may sell property, pay taxes and debts, manage assets and distribute money and property to beneficiaries. The executor is often assisted by an experienced probate lawyer.
A deceased person’s federal income taxes for the last year of their life need to be filed with the IRS and any tax owed must be paid. Any future income earned by the estate may be also be taxed. Certain gift taxes may also need to be paid. Property taxes must be paid on real estate as long as it is still owned by the estate. If the decedent’s estate is worth more than a certain amount, a federal estate tax may apply. This amount changes, but is currently over $5 million. The state of Florida does not have a separate estate tax, but it is possible that assets located in other states may be subject to estate taxes.
Under Florida law, a form known as an Affidavit of Heirs must be completed if the decedent dies without a will. This form requires the listing of the decedent’s relatives, including, among others, the spouse, children, grandchildren, parents, siblings, and descendants of deceased siblings. In most cases, you will also need to include the address or date of death for each of these people. The form also requires you to indicate when someone is a half-sibling or when they are not biologically related to both the decedent and the decedent’s spouse.