When a loved one passes away, his or her estate must be settled. This process is called probate — the purpose of which has remained the same despite the fact that probate laws and customs have changed over the years. Here is a glimpse at how probate administration works in Florida.

A deceased person’s property must go through probate if it is not automatically transferred to surviving beneficiaries via ownership or designation. Such property includes, for example, a payable on death bank account or a life insurance policy. Those items would pass outside of probate.

The process of probate can be either uncontested or contested. A majority of contested issues arise because disgruntled heirs are seeking larger shares of the deceased person’s property than they actually received. A disgruntled heir may, for example, argue that someone else improperly influenced the decedent or that he or she lacked the mental capacity to execute the will when it was created.

Most probated estates are uncontested. As a general rule of thumb, the process of probate involves proving the validity of the will, collecting the decedent’s probate property and then paying all taxes, claims and debts that the estate owes. It also involves collecting rights to dividends and income, as well as settling all claims against the estate. Finally, all remaining property is distributed or transferred to the decedent’s heirs. An attorney can provide one with the guidance necessary to confidently navigate probate administration in a manner that protects one’s best interests following the death of a loved one in Florida.