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Decedents, beneficiaries and the administration

Details around death are often neglected because they are unpleasant or are not considered relevant yet. Unfortunately, death does not always give advance notice of its arrival. It's for this reason that many proactive people plan the details around their estate and the legacy they leave behind. However, many believe they have a will in place and never find out how much they have left open to dispute and how a loving gift could become an embroiled and costly court battle.

To prevent this from happening, it is important to understand the system and the role every party plays in the distribution of your estate. If you are the person who has passed and who is leaving your estate to others, you are called the decedent. Those who are the recipients of your estate are the beneficiaries.

After you pass away, there may be a summary administration or a formal administration that can be either testate or intestate. A summary administration applies to estates worth less than $75,000 or when two years have passed since the decedent passed. These are typically fast and easy once a petition has been filed with the court. Assets are then distributed according to the decedent's will or Florida law if a will is not in place. The formal administration process is more arduous, and after a petition is filed with the court, a personal representative is appointed. This process allows for creditors to first stake claim and during that three-month time span, the personal representative oversees the paying of debts, the collection of assets, the notification of beneficiaries and filing paperwork including tax filings.

Once the three months has passed, the personal representative can begin the task of closing the estate. This process can take anywhere from six months to two years to complete, depending on the level of IRS involvement. Notice is given to beneficiaries regarding how the assets will be dispersed, and as long as no one petitions otherwise, the assets are then dispersed.

Obviously, this process would be easier with the help of a Florida probate attorney. So much can lead to endless delays if you haven't taken everything into consideration when accounting for your assets and debts. Seeking help can make the difference between a lengthy and exhaustive process, and a seamless transpiring of your legacy to those you leave behind.

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