Probate attorney in Gainesville, FL explains.

1. Look for an original Last Will and Testament, and if one is found, put it on deposit with the Clerk of Court in the county where the loved one was a resident;

2. Record a short form (no cause) death certificate in each county in Florida where your loved one owned real estate. If your loved one died in another state but owned real estate in Florida, then the same information applies; however, the out of state death certificate will likely include cause of death. That is okay, because the recording clerk in Florida will redact (block out) the cause of death when recording the death certificate. This puts the death certificate into the “chain of title” and alerts the property appraiser and any potential buyers someday that the property may be “heirs property” waiting to be taken through the probate process to be transferred to the heirs or may be owned by the surviving spouse or other joint owner whose name appears on a deed with the loved one.

3. Identify whether the loved one had “POD” or “payable on death” beneficiary designations on bank accounts or investment accounts, and if so, present a death certificate to the bank or broker to take ownership of the account without a court proceeding.

4. Identify whether there is life insurance or a retirement account with a beneficiary designation, and if you are the beneficiary, then request the claim forms for claiming the death benefit or to receive the retirement account. You should seek the advice of an attorney or certified public accountant if you have any questions about how to best plan for receipt of an inherited retirement account, as there are different options all with different income tax consequences.

5. Make an appointment with a probate attorney to review the assets (property) and liabilities (debts and mortgages) of the loved one to determine whether a probate proceeding will be required to notify creditors and transfer property to the heirs (if there is no will) or to the devisees or named beneficiaries (if there is a will). Probate is required any time there is property in a deceased person’s individual name and there is no death beneficiary. Essentially the real property or bank account ($1,000.00 or less exception) or other account will be stuck or frozen until an estate is opened and court orders are entered by a judge to transfer the property to the heirs or devisees. There are several different types of probate depending on the size of the estate. Formal administration is for larger estates and involves appointment of a personal representative or executor. Summary administration is available for smaller estates and does not involve appointment of a personal representative. If you are named as Personal Representative of the estate, you must take immediate steps to protect known assets of the estate, even before you receive Court appointment.

The attorneys at Knellinger & Associates are available to talk with you about the death of your loved one and help determine if a probate estate is required. We can help you with any of the steps to take care of the loved one’s legal affairs whether a probate estate is required or not.

Knellinger & Associates | 2815 NW 13th Street #305 | Gainesville, FL 32609 | (352) 373-3334

About Richard Knellinger