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Key elements of the probate process

You work hard throughout your life to secure and maintain your assets. Once you pass, it is only right that those you leave behind distribute your assets as you wish.

A proper estate plan is an important first step in making sure that happens. The probate process is also essential, and there are a few key elements you should be aware of.

Purpose

The purpose of the probate process is to ensure the proper distribution of an estate. This includes addressing the estate holder's financial affairs that may still be open, such as mortgage payments, personal loans and other debts, as well as fulfilling the wishes of a will. 

Probate assets

As the name indicates, probate assets are the assets of an estate that must undergo the probate process. These include a few different types of assets, such as:

  • Real estate
  • Bank accounts and investments
  • Retirement monies
  • Annuity contracts
  • Life insurance policy

It is important to note that these and other similar assets must be solely in the estate holder's name. If another party owns part of the asset, ownership diverts to that person. For example, if a couple owns a home together and one spouse passes, the other spouse maintains control of the home; it does not go into probate.

Process

The courts ensure the trustee of the estate completes the probate process in accordance with Florida's probate rules. The process begins with paying off any outstanding debt of the deceased party, then distributing the remaining assets in accordance to the will. In some cases, the distribution may be over a course of time or at an appointed time, and the trustee must ensure that the asset distribution occurs accordingly.

Though few parts make up the probate, it can be quite intricate. Having a proper estate plan in place is essential to ensuring a smooth probate process.

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