Formal probate determines the rightful heirs, designated by a deceased person's will or by the law. It is also intended to make sure the financial debts of the deceased are settled before transferring property to heirs. Probate courts administer probate proceedings. Florida courts require that the deceased be represented by a fiduciary and attorney.
A formal probate is one of the two main proceedings, the other one being summary probate. The difference is the value of estates involved. A formal probate is filed when estates are worth more than $75,000, as of October 2010. The representative of the deceased must make sure that the will presented to the court is original. The process starts with filing the will in a probate court. Liabilities such as credit cards, personal loans and mortgages are paid. Any creditors with claim on the estate must notify the probate court and are scrutinized by the personal representative to determine validity.
All assets must be identified, secured and insured by the personal representative. Personal income tax returns must be filed for the last year of the deceased's life if income was at least $600. The representative also must determine if the total value of the estates is taxable. An administrator must pay ongoing expenses such as utility bills and mortgages. The money used to pay is from the cash in the bank account of the deceased. If there is shortage of cash, the representative must sell some of the assets or borrow against the estate.
Distribution of the Estate
When all obligations are paid, the administrator and the probate court must determine the total value of the estate before distributing it to beneficiaries. The representative also must make sure it is the right time to distribute the assets. He cannot yield to pressure from the beneficiaries before all debts are paid. Being a fiduciary, the administrator will be held responsible if belatedly it is discovered that there were outstanding obligations. The attorney of the representative will have to close the case after an accounting of the estate distribution.