In Florida, if someone dies and has a will the estate will go through the probate process. The court certifies the validity of the will and approves the named personal representative (executor). Once the personal representative is approved, they have an obligation to gather any assets that are not jointly owned, or have named beneficiaries and obtain a valuation.
Beneficiaries and creditors of the decedent are then notified by the personal representative. Any heir who believes they should be entitled to an inheritance of an estate and was not named in the will may have a legal right to file a petition to determine beneficiaries.
While the purpose of a trust is generally to avoid probate, the trustee is still required to notify the probate court using a document called a Notice of Trust. This is to ensure that all beneficiaries, heirs, and creditors of the decedents are aware of the death and allow creditors to file claims against the trust for unpaid debts. The Notice of Trust should be filed as soon as possible after death of the trust creator.
Florida laws requires assets of a decedent who have no will to be distributed according to Florida’s intestacy laws. Inheritance rights are given to spouses, children, parents, or siblings of a decedent. There are slightly modified rules when someone has been married multiple times. Some of the common distributions are:
In the event a person dies and has no living relatives, however obscure, the state will claim the entire estate; this is very rare because the state will go to great lengths to identify a living heir.
Rather than take chances of your family members fighting over an inheritance, it is a good idea to have an estate plan in place. If you live anywhere in Florida, contact the Jacksonville office of Judy-Ann Smith Law Firm, P.A. for help with preparing an estate plan, or contesting a will, or trust if you believe you were entitled to an inheritance.
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