J. Kelly Kennedy, Attorney/CPA, PLLC

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How does estate administration work in Florida?

Estate administration refers to the process by which an individual's estate is settled after their death. Estate administration should be of interest both to people considering their own estate plans and people who are serving or may serve as a personal representative for another. Some people in Winter Haven may already be familiar with the estate administration process; others may benefit from a refresher on the subject.

If an individual's estate is valued at $75,000 or more - or if they have unresolved debts - it may be necessary to open a formal administration of the individual's estate. This kicks off the probate process in Florida. A petition of administration should be filed with the probate court, and the appointment of a personal representative should be requested of the court at the same time. The personal representative then publishes a notice of administration in order to put creditors on notice that they have three months to file claims against the estate.

Creditors should send their claims to the clerk of the circuit court. The clerk forwards these claims to the personal representative, who can decide either to pay the claim or file an objection. The personal representative also will obtain appraisals of assets if necessary, send an inventory of assets to heirs or beneficiaries and determine what tax returns will need to be prepared and filed.

After the end of the three month claims period, the personal representative may be able to close the estate. A final accounting and petition for discharge is to be prepared at this time. If there are no objections to these or to the proposed plan of distribution filed with the court, the personal representative can begin the distribution process. This should be done in accordance with the will if there is a will or with the rules of intestate succession if there is no will.

Some estates are fairly easy to probate; others may be problematic. Personal representatives are well-advised to seek legal assistance if they have any questions or concerns.

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