After a loved one passes away, the probate process begins. This can be a highly complicated and emotionally-wrought experience, especially when people are still coping with grief and loss, so it is important to have a basic understanding of what to expect.
Understanding some of the terminology used during probate can help you get a better handle on the Florida probate process. Below, we explain some of the more common terms people encounter during probate.
Even the term probate can be enough to confuse people. Basically, probate is the legal process of verifying a person's will. However, even if a person does not have a will, the estate will likely still go through probate in order to determine how to distribute property and assets.
Formal vs. summary administration
These are the two types of probate in Florida. Summary administration is typically faster and an option for estates with fewer than $75,000 in assets. There is no personal representative appointed, and there is generally less work required of those involved.
Formal administration is the full probate process and often takes longer. A personal representative is appointed, giving that party more power and responsibility throughout the process, and there are more steps to complete in order to close an estate.
In formal administration, a personal representative will manage the details of settling an estate. This person can be named in a will or appointed by the courts. He or she will locate assets, notify heirs and creditors, pay taxes and other expenses, file legal paperwork and distribute property.
Family members are not the only people involved in probate. Other parties -- called interested parties -- may be involved if they could be affected by the outcome of probate proceedings. This could include beneficiaries, trustees and possibly creditors. Certain actions during probate can only be taken by interested parties.
Understanding these basic terms can be helpful if you have recently lost a loved one and expect to be part of the probate process.