There are some basic Florida probate terms and terminology that you should probably familiarize yourself with before you start creating an estate plan. The probate process is the legal process that arises after a person has died leaving behind property in Florida. While you’ll need to talk to us about any specific questions you have about this process, here are several Florida probate terms you should know.
Florida Probate Terms
- Decedent. A decedent is simply a person who has died and whose possessions must now be distributed to new owners.
- Probate Estate. The property and interests a decedent leaves behind are all lumped together into something called an estate. A probate estate is often a smaller part of the decedent’s general estate, but could encompass the entire estate as well.
- Non-Probate Estate. Not all property a person leaves behind is covered under the probate process, and is therefore not a part of the probate estate. Property that has transfer-on-death beneficiaries, such as life insurance policies, or property owned by a revocable living trust is transferred outside of probate.
- Estate Administration. The process of taking a decedent’s property, determining who should inherit it, and transferring it to new owners. Estate administration can last months if everything goes right, but can be much longer if there are problems or conflicts.
- Executor. The person appointed by a decedent responsible for administering the estate. If a decedent leaves behind a will, the will typically states who the executor is. If there is no will, the will is silent, or the will is not legally valid, the court will appoint the executor. Executors are commonly known as personal representatives or estate administrators.
- Letters of Administration. The legal documents a court gives the estate administrator. The letters of administration give the administrator the legal authority to take possession of estate property, use estate funds to pay for expenses, and transfer estate property to new owners. Letters of administration are sometimes known as letters testamentary.
- Formal Administration. The primary form of probate that applies to probate estates in Florida. Formal administration is supervised by a Florida circuit court judge. The judge will determine, for example, if any last will and testament meets legal standards, determine if the would-be personal representative is capable, and issue letters of administration.
- Summary Administration. A type of probate that involves very minimal court involvement. In summary administration in Florida the personal representative can distribute estate administration much more easily than in formal probate. This type of probate process is only available in limited situations.
- Intestate Estates. A decedent who dies without leaving behind a valid last will and testament leaves behind an intestate estate. In this situation the estate administrator must distribute estate property in accordance with pre-existing inheritance laws.